[Barry] Eisler defines self-publishing: ‘it means you keep the rights to your book and publish it yourself using distributor/retailers like Amazon, Apple, B&N, Kobo, Smashwords, and Sony, typically retaining 70% of the cover price instead of the 17.5% offered by legacy publishers (for digital editions). This isn’t what “most people” mean when they say self-publishing; it’s what everybody means when they say self-publishing.
Why would anyone want to self publish or indie publish their work? Did they have a choice? Didn't want to waste their time doing the slush pile thing in searching for an agent? They did the agent search and couldn't find representation? The reasons are limitless?
It was the subject recently in Compuserve Books & Writers Forum in this regard. There were several good responses for both from an author's perspective. Now I usually don't blow smoke up your rear end on this blog. I just tell it like it is. The decision to self-publish is a personal one.
My answer to the question was this...
I'm going to chime in here. I am what they now call a hybrid author. I do both traditional publishing and self-publishing although for the past two years it has been mostly indie or self publishing. I walk both sides of the street as it were. I have two agents. One didn't handle one type of nonfiction I wrote.I'm not going to sugar coat this response. The main question is how much time do you have? How much experience do you have? How much do you know about the publishing industry?
For both you need a good book. That's first. Next you need a platform. To me this means a following and marketing. How sellable is your genre? Narrow market like specialty book or broad like romance. I know there is a huge market there and several distinctive qualities in various forms within romance. This applies to both and you have to have an understanding of both.
I usually tell people who want to indie publish to know what sells, gather a like minded group of folks, and start networking before you finish the rough draft. It will be hard work and long hours. You will wear a wide variety of hats. If you are up for and long battle to get your books read for never-ending period and pulling out the rest of you hair, that you haven't pulled out writing your book in the first place, you might want to consider indie publishing. I'm not trying to deter you just stating facts. But all the control of your material is yours and so is the lion share of the profits because you earn them. You may be successful enough to get monthly or quarterly checks. It's quick and not so easy, and a never ending shelf life.
With traditional publishing, you write, edit, and then find an agent.This may take years and then even with an agent your book might not sell. This process could take years. Not very often but it happens. Agents don't represent you if they can't sell your books. It wastes their time and time is money. Or you could have a lightning strike, like our beloved Diana, and get an offer before you've ever had a chance to do the Snoopy dance of happiness over finding an agent. It could and has happened.
With traditional publishing, it takes a long time between acceptance of your manuscript by an agent and seeing your book on the shelves of bookstores. The agent may suggest rewrites to attract a publisher, the publisher may have suggestions for edits through the various hands your manuscript passes through, cover artists work diligently on your cover during the final stage. On average from accepted manuscript to bookstores is an average between 18 months to two ears. At anytime the publisher can decide not to continue with the prospect of publishing your manuscript.
Once released there is a flurry of activity for three months.Why three months? Bookstores like to keep their stock rotating so you have.that long to make a sizable splash in revenue for your book to earn back royalties and before bookstores start returning. These sales figures determine whether or not your next book to be contracted.
What the other traditionally published authors in here say is true. Traditional publishing is far from dead. You have the right to withhold or negotiate some publishing rights. Even with my self published works when it comes to international distribution and some others, I prefer to leave it in the capable hands of my agents. A good agent is worth ten times their weight in gold.
For me, I couldn't do the travel needed in the traditionally publishing world. I searched, but couldn't find an agent to handle my type of fiction, and I'm a writer with a publishing background. I decided to self publish because I could do it on my terms and my time schedule. That's it-plain and simple. Yes it would be much easier on me to traditionally publish, but the concessions and trade offs are the hiccup.
With a husband who is terminally ill, I just can't drop his care and traipse off to this writer's conference, book signing, or interview. I just couldn't do the three month big promo push anymore. I had to limit my traveling to day trips instead of weeks or months. But I wanted to publish again, and there was no wiggle room in my schedule for anything more than him. There still isn't. It's made even worse since my stroke.
The stigma of self-publishing today is gone, for the most part. In reality that's part of the problem. So much so that separating the wheat from the chaff is difficult. Everyone is becoming an author and not everyone should. The market is flooded with e-books. It's the new "in" thing. Eventually all the hub-bub will die down, if it isn't starting to already. This is made even more difficult with traditional publishers, better late than never, jumping on board the digital marketplace.