Is a Book You Publish Yourself "Real"?

by Vicki Watson

The first book in the Sonrise Stable series

The first book in the Sonrise Stable series

"Self-publishers don't write real books." Do you buy that?

I'm always on the lookout for books to help improve my writing. I recently read Writing for the Soul by Jerry B. Jenkins. Much of the information was typical of the many books on writing I've already read. I saw that he had a brief section on self publishing, so I was interested to see what he had to say about it.

Jenkins advised aspiring authors not to self publish, but to continue working on your writing skills until you are picked up by a "legitimate" publisher and could produce a "real" book. (Legitimate and real were his words)

Are The Christmas Box and The Shack any less "real" than any other book? The Christmas Box was later picked up by Simon & Schuster, but The Shack continues to be self published. The success of both was due to self publishing, since both books were repeatedly rejected by traditional publishers.

For every Shack and Christmas Box, there are thousands of self published books that sell only a few copies to family and friends, but those two books alone prove the legitimacy of self publishing.

Both books had a mass market appeal; however I think self publishing really shines in niche markets where traditional publishers may never accept a manuscript because of its limited market.

I've also heard from several sources that you need to sell about 10,000 copies of a self-published book before a traditional publisher will be interested in picking it up. Even then they will still expect you as the author to promote your own book.

At that point, I'd probably choose the route taken by The Shack's author and continue to self publish. Royalties on a traditionally published book are much lower than the profit margin possible with a self published book. If I was successful at selling 10,000 copies, I think I'd continue with whatever I had done to reach that point.

As self-published authors, it's our responsibility to produce high quality products. The writing must be interesting and free of grammatical and punctuation errors. The interior formatting needs to be indistinguishable from a traditionally published book. Interior illustrations and cover design need to be professional quality.

There are many resources available to self-published authors for accomplishing these things. If you neglect these areas, you're only reinforcing the stereotype many hold that self-published books are amateurish.

I totally disagree with Jenkins' comments about self publishing. His opinion consigns many authors, like myself, to years of frustration and the reality that we will most likely never be published, if we sit around and wait for a traditional publisher to discover us.

I am self publishing a series of horse books for children - Sonrise Stable. I have a narrow target audience, but I believe I have a valuable message to deliver to them. When the young girls who read my books can't wait for the next one to come out, that is enough evidence to me that I'm writing "real" books.

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Mar 26, 2012
Defining what's "real"
by: Steve B. (webmaster)

Vicki, thanks for another great post.

I'll second your call for self-publishers taking the quality of their writing and presentation seriously. (And, on this site, we offer some help in that regard.)

Of course, there are always going to be authors who don't heed the call. It's hard for a beginning writer to know (or even fathom) how their work is lacking. That's why I urge writers to go out in search of legitimate (i.e. knowledgeable and impartial) feedback. A good way to start is to find yourself a writers' group.

Your point about niche marketing is right on. The profile of the typical successful self published author is one who's writing for an underserved market. People with shared interests are easier to reach as a group, and also more apt to buy something that was written specifically for them. Girls who love horses are a perfect example. Thanks for setting it!

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