Self Publishing: Do You Have What It Takes

I suspect most of us have considered it – self publishing and selling our own work.  With dozens of articles ripe for reprinting, it would be very do-able for me to publish several volumes on horses and how-to books for writers.  I’ve got the material.  I’d just have to put together the actual books.  But would it be worth my while?

Last week, Sneed Collard III authored a guest post on Melissa Stewart’s blog, Celebrate Science.  In his post, Sneed confirmed many things I have long suspected about self-publishing.

To sell, you have to get a glowing review in a big name publication.  Sneed has noted that to sell well, a volume has to be reviewed.  And not just any review will do. It has to come from a big name journal. What does Sneed mean when he says big name? School Library JournalBooklist, or Publisher’s Weekly. Can you get these kinds of reviews?  If not, self-publishing may not be a money-maker for you. Me? My work has been reviewed but not in these journals.

Name recognition.  To get these kinds of reviews, you need name recognition.  Sneed has that at least when it comes to science and nature.  When he branches out and publishes fiction, the book doesn’t sell as well.   He’s self-published four novels.  Only two earned modest profits.  When Children’s Writer was a thriving newsletter, I had name recognition as a how-to writer.  But the newsletters been gone for a while now.

Invest in a team.  To earn money self-publishing, you have to be willing to spend money.  Many self-published books look self-published.  The designs are clunky and amateurish.  And that isn’t just Sneed’s opinion.  Hand me a stack of books and I can generally tell you which are published by traditional publishers and which are self-published.  Book design is tough! Sneed hires not only editors but also a book designer.  His self-published books come in a professional package.

So would self-publishing work for me?  Collard started self-publishing during a recession when book contracts were few and far between. As it is, I make a living writing.  I turn out a book.  I get a check.  If this was to change, it might become more appealing.  Until then, I’ll most likely keep my focus where it is, on educational nonfiction published through established publishers.