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Is D.I.Y. or Self-Publishing Best Suited to Energetic Extroverts?

By Edward Nawotka

Over the past few months we’ve featured stories on several self-published authors, including today’s profile of  Steve Almond, last month’s feature by Alisa Valdes, and our earlier piece on Seth Godin. In each of these cases, the authors are self-motivated, high-energy, charismatic individuals. The came to D.I.Y. publishing after establishing their reputations by working with traditional publishers. And they have strong personal motives for striking out on their own.

Self-published authors are self-starters, high-energy, charismatic individuals. They have strong motives for striking out on their own. It’s not for everyone.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zXGAAvGoXMc

Increasingly there is a growing drumbeat in the book business suggesting that self-publishing is a good, viable option for many writers. While this can be true, I wonder if most writers have the requisite qualities outlined above that will enable them to succeed as self-publishers. Writing is a quiet, largely introverted occupation — that is, until the moment when it requires you to be able to go out into the world and sell, sell, sell. Anyone who has dealt with sales before knows just how rare good salespeople are, so I have to wonder just how rare good self-publishers are? One advantage of going the traditional route is that you don’t have to take on all the financial and emotional responsibility of closing the deal with your reader.

Let us know what you think in the comments.

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15 Comments

  1. Posted March 4, 2011 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    You’ve hit the nail on the head. Too many authors (and wannabes) think that just because they’ve written a book and put it on sale, they don’t have to promote their work AND themselves. Even those people with a “name” can fall into this category if they’re not careful. If an author is contracted with major publishing houses, they better produce sales if they expect to stay at that house for long. If a publisher pays you an advance and you don’t earn it back, they are less keen to take a chance on your next work.

    It doesn’t matter where or how you publish. It takes time, energy–and yes, money–to sell books. What you don’t have in money, you have to make up for it with your time and energy. If you’re self publishing, you should be motivated to earn back the money you’ve spent in producing your book and that means going out there and selling yourself. Being extroverted helps, but thanks to the Internet, if you’re shy, you can hide behind your computer, but you HAVE to put yourself out there.

  2. Posted March 4, 2011 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    The simplicity of the physical act of self-publishing may give authors a skewed perspective, that the entire process is that simple. Formatting, distribution, marketing, accounting…it starts to pile up.

    I think it’s a viable option for those who have the proper background/skill set or are willing to further their education to gain that skill set, and are not afraid to put themselves out there. By out there, I mean whatever it takes to get attention…which can be extreme. Sitting behind a table and smiling won’t cut it.

    Otherwise, it might be a better idea to leave it to the professionals. There is an abundance of publishers out there…a little shopping should find something suitable.

  3. Posted March 4, 2011 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    The thing I really cannot stand is that most self published authors seem to believe that it’s perfectly acceptable to foist badly written rubbish, improperly typeset, with a template cover, on the reading public. It’s the equivalent of any trades person or professional selling shoddy services or goods because they can’t be bothered to either get properly trained/educated or employ someone who does have the right training.
    Many say “Oh I can’t afford to employ an editor”
    - That is no more justification than a dentist for instance saying, “oh I can’t afford proper equipment so I’ll use this Black and Decker here to drill . . . “

  4. Posted March 4, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Almond and I did chat about this for a while. Below is his main thrust:

    “There are people who don’t send any work out but are really ready to be published; they’re making great decisions and they deserve readers. My advice to them would be, if you’ve got a manuscript and it’s really that good, then find a community of writers, find an agent or a bunch of agents, and send your work out to them. I think that self-publishing before you have some kind of profile is–I don’t want to say outright that it won’t work, but it feels to me like an invitation to a certain kind of sorrow and frustration.”

  5. Posted March 4, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    @David – and that can be a drawback to self publishing if you’re not careful. As Clive mentions, if you self publish a book that is a shoddy product to begin with, don’t expect it to sell.

    In order to make self publishing work, you need to produce the best book you can–and that means investing in it (editing, artwork, typesetting, etc)–AND you need to self PROMOTE.

    But another message that is getting lost in all of these “overnight success” stories is that if an author tries to self publish a book–and fails–don’t expect to find a publisher willing to take it on. Not every publisher is willing to accept something that’s been previously published, and they are less inclined if the book didn’t sell and the author has no fan base to bring.

    I can’t tell you how many publishers get submissions from disgruntled self-published authors who tried and failed only to have their book rejected because it’s already been published. Or they have their entire work posted on their blog or website (or a 3rd party site) for free and don’t understand that a publisher doesn’t want to spend their time and money producing something that’s already making the rounds for free.

  6. Posted March 4, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    True, self-publishing isn’t for everyone, and to be fair, I haven’t tried it yet; I do agree that the quality of the product should be top notch. It isn’t hard to find help for that. Graphic designers and writing majors at universities really can do a great job for layout and editing – or friends? – for reasonable costs. It would be easy to contact the department or post a job listing on the school’s job board.

    I also agree that serious marketing effort needs to be put into selling the book, BUT I don’t necessarily believe that you have to be a sales person. I don’t believe that you have to have a certain type of charisma. This is how I see it: say you’re lucky enough to get published with a traditional publisher, let’s say it’s a big one, but they don’t suspect that your book is going to do awesome (awesome being Stephen King, awesome), so they don’t put much money into marketing you. Say it’s a small publisher, they do what they can, but they don’t have the money to REALLY market you. Both of these scenarios mean you do a lot of the marketing yourself.

    I don’t believe in ‘overnight’ success in publishing. It seems it, but most of the authors have been doing A LOT of work to promote themselves prior to actually publishing their book. Maybe that’s something some people need to recognize. However, there are many ways to self-promote, and often a combination of things is necessary, but unless you have severe social anxiety, a writer should be able to slowly slip into honking the hell out of their work and themselves. Some things will be harder than others, but if you really want to sell the book, you’ll do what you have to do, and you don’t have to push the book. I personally believe that introverts are better ‘sales’ people because they get to know their ‘customers’, they don’t particularly like having small talk and they don’t come off as superficial or fake. Networking is the most important thing in sales. If people know you, and like you, they are more likely to be interested in your work. No one wants a product pushed on them and the internet is amazing for introverts.

    So – networking and selling yourself: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, MySpace, blogging, guest blogging, write for the local independent weekly, publish a zine, do readings, basically – tour like a rockstar. Get your name out there in any way you can muster, but show what you’ve got – make connections- and THEN sell the book.

    I also don’t believe, that in this social networking climate, you have to have published first via traditional publishing in order to get a following. Two things happen, don’t they? Either you publish traditionally and then self-publish, or you build a following, self-publish and then a publisher picks you up. But the most important thing is that the writing is good. So – take classes, workshops, get feedback, and read, read, read. But don’t let rejections from traditional publishers determine your future as a writer.

  7. Posted March 4, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    It is nearly impossible to interest publishers in regional ‘niche’ books -non fiction, history guide how-to books etc. these days. But such titles can do reasonably well as self published works. I have sold a bit over 6000 copies of my various titles on Lake Ontario and boating how-to’s and know other niche publishers who have done considerably better than that.
    So should you self publish?

    It may depend on what you want to write-

  8. Posted March 4, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    After struggling for years to be published by a professional publishing house and being summarily rejected, I finally found a site through a friend, to publish my book. So I am self-published and it took a lot of work. I have a sort of a confined market here, since my book is basically about homesteading in Alaska. I did the work and now have two books to sell. Mostly it is people who pass by my homestead on the train who buy my books on the train, or they buy them in Denali National Park at the big bookstore there, or from the Princess Hotels. I spend at least a week a month doing book signings and talks at those places with very good results, from May through September. But it is a lot of work and I am getting old. Someday perhaps, someone will make a movie out of one or both books,(I have had dozens of fans e-mail me that the books would make a great movie) and then I can retire. I do advise you that self publishing is very good, and you can make more money per book if you are willing to work for it. I recommend a printer close to where you live, also. Good luck!

  9. Posted March 4, 2011 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    It’s funny that this landed in my mailbox today of all days. I am self-publishing a book (my first) which will be ready to ship next week. It has been a roller-coaster of a process, and there are times that I have wondered what on earth I have gotten myself into. Susan P. Gately is spot-on when she points out that a niche book is almost impossible to get published by the majors now, and self-publishing is no doubt the way to go. My book is a memoir/biography and cookbook with my mother as the subject, and I like to think that what sets mine apart from many books of this type is that it is well-written and entertaining. I guess book sales will prove me right or wrong!

  10. Posted March 4, 2011 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    So true. self-publishing means that once the wonderful publishing process is finished, the author must become a shrewd business person. Not all writers are cut for the job and neither is the job attractive.
    To sell the author must pay for advertisement, space, reviews and you name it. The author must have a large group of friends helpers.
    In short money spent on advertisement and profit just does not make sense unless the book becomes a best seller.
    The competition is fierce, over 700.000 titles are available on the amazons.
    It is an expensive process with 24/7 hours blogging on social sites and so on. As a self-published author myself, I feel it.
    It is a good way to be published but it is not a way to make money. Traditional publishing is much better but to find one is a frustrating process.
    In short, writers who are not sales people do not make it.

  11. Posted March 4, 2011 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think you have to actually be an extrovert, but you do have to be able to seem to be extroverted to sell yourself and your book. If you’re a good enough writer, even if salesmanship doesn’t come naturally, the selling part should be something you can learn. Interesting hypothesis you have, however.

  12. Posted March 8, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    Whether you’re traditionally published or self-published, unless you’re already famous, you have to do a ton of marketing on your own. I know that’s a foreign language to a lot of writers, but I don’t agree with the posts here that say it is expensive. (And btw you should NEVER pay for a review.) Putting together a good marketing campaign takes is a lot of TIME, not necessarily a lot of money. I’ve put together a webinar on grassroots book marketing to explain what I did to get a publishing contract with AmazonEncore. A free intro video is on youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GNObpqI3Mg if you’d like to watch it.

  13. Posted March 8, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    Whether you’re traditionally published or self-published, unless you’re already famous, you have to do a ton of marketing on your own. I know that’s a foreign language to a lot of writers, but I don’t agree with the posts here that say it is expensive. (And btw you should NEVER pay for a review.) Putting together a good marketing campaign takes a lot of TIME, not necessarily a lot of money. I’ve created a webinar on grassroots book marketing to explain what I did to get a publishing contract with AmazonEncore. A free intro video is on youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GNObpqI3Mg if you’d like to watch it.

  14. Posted March 10, 2011 at 12:43 am | Permalink

    Great article mate.

    I think for any method of self-promotion to be successful, it has to start with the basics of Good Marketing: Know Your Audience.

    If you know who you want to read your self-published book, then all you have to do is find a few of them, get them to read it and (if they liked it) tell other like-minded folks about it.

    Then they tell their friends, and they tell their friends, and BOOM, you’re a hit.

  15. Posted March 17, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    How timely…. I’m just putting finishing touches to a comprehensive marketing guide for authors. As someone on the receiving end of dozens of manuscripts from authors hoping to be published, I’ve come to realise many new authors don’t have a clue about what it takes to sell *their* book. I’ve included the words “shameless self-promotion” in the title of my guide because, well, self-published authors who wish to prosper must be ready to self-promote for a few years… or for the life of their book stock at least… I don’t think every author has to be an extrovert – in fact there are dozens of ways an author can market themselves without being an extrovert. But if they wish to make money then they do need to be prepared for bouts of self-promotion. The two terms – self-publish/self-promotion – go hand in hand :-)

    Anita

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