Monday, July 25, 2011


By Isabo Kelly

This is such a timely question I was actually asked this by a non-writer at a family function recently. This person didn’t know a thing about the industry, but she’d heard about the upswing in electronic self-publishing, heard my upcoming book would be available electronically, and innocently asked if I intended to self-publish.

Naturally, with all the stories of huge successes, successful authors choosing to self-publish over taking a large advance from traditional publishers, and the plethora of tablets and e-readers flooding the market, even the average reader has heard of self-publishing ebooks.

Not so many years ago, this question carried negative connotations. Even when the self-published book was brilliant and successful, the common wisdom held that if your book had to be self-published, it wasn’t good enough. Not true then any more than it is now. Unfortunately, there are still some of those assumptions floating around.

But the revolution made possible by ebook self-publishing has made this avenue of getting books to readers not only a viable option but also considered by some to be a “better” and “more profitable” way to publish.

So what’s an author to do when asked this question? Especially by people who don’t actually understand what the question really means?

It’s a complicated issue. There is a financial investment involved if you want to self-publish well. There’s a lot of marketing involved with making sure people know your book is out there. There’s a lot of time and energy that goes into the process. There’s a lot of freedom and control over the final book. The percentage earned per book is a lot higher than via traditional publishers, but the market share for ebooks versus mass market paperback is still smaller. Not everyone who throws an ebook up on Kindle is an instant success, this isn’t a get rich quick scheme, and if the book isn’t well edited, readers will let everyone who sees the book know in their reviews.

But do you go into detail explaining this to the strangers who asked if you’re going this route? With all the sensational stories, how do you tell people the process isn’t quite right for you? Or you haven’t decided if you will try it yet? Or you’ve already self-published and the book is only doing okay? Or you’ve done it already and you’ve been wildly successful? All these things are possible. And there’s a lot of discussion about the details among writers—we care about all these things.

Does the average reader? Not in near as much depth of detail as the average writer. Giving a non-writer the basic answer—“I have”; “I’m gonna try it at some point”; “It’s not really for me and I’ll stick to more traditional routes”—will probably suffice to get them to leave you alone on the subject.

Still, being asked this question makes you think. If you’re answer is, “No, I don’t think it’s for me,” are you missing out on something? If you’re answer is, “Actually, I have self-published” but you can’t say “And it’s made me rich!”, have you done something wrong? Is your book that bad?

I’ve met several very successful self-published authors (as I’m sure a lot of you have), and I’ve talked to authors who haven’t done particularly well self-publishing and are keen to return to more traditional routes. I’ve also talked with many authors who just don’t want to self-publish, and yet others who want their feet in both doors—self-publishing and traditional. Only an individual author will ever be able to say if the process is right for them or not. Fortunately, there are a lot of resources out there to understand what goes into self-publishing a book and what you can reasonably expect, allowing you to say with a comfortable level of knowledge that the process is for you or is not.

In the end, all the sensational stories won’t make self-publishing the path for you if it’s not. If it is, knowing the nuts and bolts can only aid you in your journey. And when someone asks you this question, be honest. It’s a wonderful opportunity for writers. It can only be a good thing that we now have all these options. But self-publishing isn’t for everyone. And forcing yourself to try it or feeling like you might be missing out if you don’t want to try it, is a waste of energy. If it makes your pulse race and you love having that kind of control over your book, go for it!

It’s a whole new world, the industry is changing, we’re going to get this question a lot from people who don’t realize it’s not a get rich quick scheme or even as easy as it sounds. Stay calm when they press you on the issue. Your truth is the only one that counts for your career.♥

Isabo Kelly hasn’t self-published yet but she is one of those authors “considering” the option. In the meantime, she’s happy to let her publishers do all the business work while she writes books. Her newest fantasy romance, BRIGHTARROW BURNING, will be released from Samhain Publishing on October 4, 2011. For more on Isabo and her books (and if she ever decides to self-publish!) visit her at

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