We’re often taught that, if you complete a written work of anything at all, you have exactly two choices ahead of you. Do everything yourself and self-publish, or go big and aim to impress the big names. But you have more options than that in reality! And which option you should take should naturally follow from why you’re aiming to be published in the first place. What do you need to get out of this?
Naturally, the publishing industry as a whole is more complicated than a little article like this can do justice to, but hopefully this list can give uncertain authors some food for thought as to how they want to proceed with their finished story.
So here are some reasons why you might be writing your story — and some publishing paths that may best align with what you want out of the process.
Reason One — You are writing purely for the joy of it. You have a strong desire to get other people to read your work, but for one reason or another, no particular need to make money off of it. Marketability? What’s that?
Congratulations! It sounds like writing is a happy, healthy hobby for you.
Don’t feel pressured to get your story formally published just because that’s what you’re taught you must do with a finished story. If you just want to write for writing’s sake, there are plenty of places you can post your work for free. Make a blog, check out a hosting site like Wattpad or AO3, and keep doing your thing.
Reason Two — You just want a book to hold at the end of the day. All you want is to display it on your shelves, so that you can look to it with pride and read it whenever you want.
Like with the first example, you sound like someone who thoroughly enjoys your craft, whether its a hobby or a career, and is more interested in creating something beautiful for yourself than in making it marketable.
Art comes in many forms, and sometimes that form is a crisp paperback.
Learn a little book design, figure out how you want to do your cover, and grab a printing service like bookbub. You can make your dream come true.
Reason Three — You love the whole art of making books and want to hone your skill at it — and not just your writing skills. Book design? Sure, that looks like fun! Cover design? I’ll pony up the art skills right now! Marketing and stocking? Sounds like a challenge!
I say this from experience — self publishing is the path of the jack-of-all-trades. If you want to explore every aspect of publishing intimately with your own two hands, this is the way to go.
Whether or not you’ll make much money out of it is iffy, but if you’re here to build skills, there’s a chance you’ll get there someday after a lot of screwing around.
And in that same vein, this can also be a good way to get scrappy and gain some hands-on experience before you aim for a career in book design or marketing (if that’s your thing). If that’s your goal, then I recommend getting started as soon as possible and focusing on making a portfolio of your work.
Reason Four — You have a specific niche that you wish there were more books for. Is it so unfair to want more queer books in the world? More pirate fiction? More polyamorous romances? You’ll write it all yourself if you have to!
Indie publishing companies can be a good place to look if you’re writing for a niche. You have the fresh content, they have the eager audience for that content — it can be a match made in heaven.
And successfully publishing once with an indie company can help you get a foot in the door to enable you to publish again.
It’s true that smaller publishing isn’t as profitable as the big names are — money buys marketing power, which earns more money, which buys more marketing power, after all. And sometimes, an indie company will fold. But that’s a risk you’ll just have to take. If you’re a writer, chances are good that money isn’t your entire motivation.
Reason Five — You know it’s a long shot, but you genuinely want to be a respected author, and you want to see if you can make this your living. You’d rather just focus on the writing, and the portion of the marketing that an author is expected to do, and have a team to do the rest for you.
Ambitious! I think you already know what you want to do.
Traditional publishing is incredibly difficult to get into. There’s lots of competition, you can easily be pushed out of the game if someone else on a publisher’s list has already written something in your niche, and you will have to figure out how that whole “agenting” thing works if you want to be considered at all.
But it might be worth it if you’re aiming for mass-market appeal and don’t have the specific, non-writing skillset to do everything that a self-published or even indie author does. If writing a query letter sounds more appealing than formatting your manuscript for publishing yourself, then you should definitely look into traditional publishing. Don’t bank on making it, because very few people do, but do put yourself out there with all the confidence you can muster.
And that’s it for publishing advice for today. If you find this helpful, then you can support me as a creator by taking a look at Shadow Herald, my debut dark fantasy novel! Thank you, and have a lovely day.