While many people choose to self-publish nowadays, authors are well advised to give it some thought before they choose this path to get themselves published. As an author, you should not self-publish if:
a. You aren’t in it for the long haul: Authors who’d rather write about the book and not bother about the rest of the process are better off working with a mainstream, established publisher. Think about self-publishing as an entrepreneurial process. Like it makes no sense to open a store and leave it unattended, it makes even little sense to write a book and care little about the remaining stages that the manuscript must go through before it becomes a book that customers will buy. Every stage of the process is important: the editing process where the author must approve of or reject the changes made by the editor, the cover design process where care must be taken to ensure than an appropriate yet attractive cover is designed, the typesetting process where attention must be made to the most minute of details including the fonts used, the imprint page and other aspects like widows and orphans and the pricing which will ultimately determine whether the book sells in adequate numbers. Most importantly, you should be willing to market the book, something we discuss in the next point.
b. You cannot be bothered with marketing the book: No one, not even the publisher, knows the book better than the author does. The author knows the circumstances that triggered the book, each character depicted in the book and the intended audience for the book and is best suited to “explain the book”. It thus follows that the author can market the book best. However many authors feel that marketing is something they’d rather stay away from, sometimes even feeling that it is beneath them to market their own book. Since many buyers will search for the antecedents of the author, either by reading about it in the book itself or by researching it, before buying a book, it follows that when the book is spoken about by the author herself, it helps the marketing process.
c. You seek to recoup investments in a hurry: If you have calculated your costs and are now planning to price your book so that you can recover your costs within a few months, nothing will discourage you more. Self-publishing requires a great deal of fortitude and you must be there for the long haul. Like we mentioned before, self-publishing must be thought of as an entrepreneurial venture, doing what it takes to ensure that sales are sustained and costs are recouped over long periods of time. Instant gratification just won’t happen and must not be expected either.
d. You wish to quit your day job: This follows from the earlier point we made. While much has been made of success stories such as Amanda Hocking, it remains a fact that book sales by self-publishers are, at best, modest. That said, with enough marketing effort by the author, sales can matter, often enough to recoup costs. However, to expect book sales to replace your other sources of income might be stretching it a bit too much. We suggest you’d rather keep your expectations low and be pleasantly surprised.
e. You are doing it for the recognition: Again a bad reason to want to self-publish. Authors usually wish to self-publish because a)they have heard of the lengthy process it takes to get published and wish to circumvent that process, b) they wish to exercise total control over every aspect of the publishing process or c) they have approached publishers before and have been told to go fly a kite, although the book and the plot do make sense. It is never a good reason to wish to self-publish simply to see your name on the book. Or to aspire for a Chetan Bhagat-like moment. Or to hope someday that you will be approached by a Bollywood producer for movie rights. These things do not happen often and if that’s the reason you are writing a book, that book might not be worth reading and might not be worth spending a publishing effort on. You must want to self-publish because you have a good story to tell and because this seems like a good way of doing it. Note that ultimately content is king and if your book is short on good doses of that, chances are someone, everyone, will recognize it for what it is.