You've written a book. It's a good book. Some might say (and your friends and family have said) it's a GREAT book. Perhaps you've sent it to every agent you could find and every publishing company that would accept unrepresented works because none of the agents you contacted were willing to take you on as a client.
Or maybe, you decided to go straight to self-publishing because, quite frankly, it's easy. All you have to do is upload your file to a platform like Createspace (our favorite) and voila - you're published.
What's so bad about that?
The answer isn't as simple as one might think given the changing attitudes about self publishing these days. It's not the same as the old "vanity press" model of earlier generations. The answer is, "Nothing." There is nothing "so bad" about that. But you must be willing to take on the stigma and be prepared to fight an uphill battle.
If you can upload your works, so can every one else. It's free. It's easy, on the surface, and it's fun. Lots of people do it. Lots. I mean, LOTS of people do it.
Some of those lots of people haven't got enough talent in their entire bodies to fill a miniature thimble. Some of them have more talent in their little finger than fifteen of the others have in their entire bodies. The spectrum of talent in the self-publishing world runs from the sublime to the ridiculous and you need to be able to separate yourself from the pack.
Here are a couple tips to help you do this:
1. Hire an editor. I can't stress this enough. Your great Aunt Sarah may have majored in English at Vassar, but she's your aunt. She loves you. Even if she tells you something honestly, you may or may not believe her. It doesn't matter what she says, the words will be clouded by the fact that she probably changed your diaper. Hire an editor who has never seen you naked. It's a good thing.
2. Hire a cover artist. We judge books by their covers all the time. Everyone does. If you design your own cover, there is a very good chance that you will focus on a part of your book's message that may or may not actually sell the book well. It came from your brain, and you know it better than anyone, so absolutely be hands-on during this process, but hiring a cover artist will place the book into another realm: that of a potential reader.
3. Proof, proof and re-proof. If you sign a contract with a royalty-paying, rights-buying publisher, your book will go through several proof processes, culminating in the "blue line" proof. This is the very last time there will be eyes-(usually yours)-on prior to printing. Just because you're self-publishing and you can "always go back and correct the file," doesn't mean you shouldn't hold yourself to this same standard. And make sure someone else (preferably someone who has NEVER read the book before) proofs that final blue-line as well. Their eyes will find things you miss. I promise.
4. Do not advertise that you've self-published your book by using Createspace Links to sell your book. Createspace offers your book for sale directly from their website and you may receive a higher royalty percentage with direct sales, but you're also telling potential readers that you "uploaded a file." If they have ever experienced an unedited, un-proofed purchase in the past, simply landing on a Createspace page may deter them from giving your masterpiece even a passing glance. They may run screaming for the hills.
Createspace is an Amazon company. Therefore, there is nothing disloyal in sending your potential reader directly to Amazon (you know, that online bookstore where every major publisher in the world lists their book?) to buy either a print or ebook version of your work.
5. List your book with a publisher's name by investing in an ISBN that does not list any self-publishing "platform" as your publisher. For example, using an IAP ISBN lists IAP as your publisher, and while we make NO SECRET about the fact that our clients have chosen to self-publish (in fact, we brag about it), we also publish only quality works.
If your ISBN is registered to a publishing house that is obviously owned by you, and represents only you, (a fact that is fairly easily discovered when readers try to find other house authors because they loved your book so much), the same stigma of "vanity press" may apply. If you use an ISBN for free from a publishing platform, that platform is listed as your publisher.
At IAP, we only charge for the services you should be hiring out anyway, and we never take a dime in royalties after-the-fact unless you CHOOSE to pay for your services later, rather than up-front. And the choice IS yours because we only accept work that we think makes the cut. If we don't have faith in your product, we won't offer you a contract under any conditions, paid up front or otherwise. You don't have to hire us to edit or develop your work, either. You can simply submit your work, completed through the use of your own editors and artists, and if it's good enough, we'll take it on for the discounted price of on ISBN.
In the end, there is nothing wrong with choosing to self-publish. We encourage it! Write a great book and stand out in your field with an imprint that says, "I am in control of my literary destiny. Wanna come along for the ride?"