I recently encountered two writer-friends who had finished their first novels and were interested in self-publishing. These friends were savvy, not (necessarily) jumping right into self-publishing, but they were also curious, wanting to know the facts and weigh their choices.
Fact #1: Self-publishing is now a viable career option for authors.
I’ve known this for a couple years now, not just personally through my own career, but also through watching the careers of dozens of other writers launch with self-publishing alone. Through these anecdotes, I knew it was possible, and not just for outlier mega-successes like Hugh Howey. But one of the things I love about Hugh-the-person (separate from Hugh-the-writer, whose works I also adore… currently reading his newest Sand… go get it!), is that Hugh has been a consistent advocate for writers, from the first-novel newbies to veterans who have 20 years of publishing under their belts. Hugh’s recent Author Earnings data-scoop from Amazon (he’s made the data publicly available for anyone who wishes to download) is just one more example of that. The money-shot graph from that first report (he has a second and third out, and more on the way) shows self-publishing isn’t just a possible option, it’s taken over a substantial part of the market:
This also means your books are forever.
Which brings me to…
My Advice to First-Novel Authors: Don’t self-publish (yet).
Bravo for finishing your first novel! Even better if you’ve polished, edited, and feel like it’s ready for publication! Can you self-publish? Absolutely! And maybe that’s the right choice for you – I certainly don’t know everyone’s situation, and they are all different. But for most first-time novelists, that first novel is a huge growing experience. The second one will be as well. Even the third.
My best advice: write two or three novels before you decide to self-publish.
I understand completely the urge to get your works out in the world, and now with self-publishing a viable option, I understand the desire to get started in your career. But publishing is a lot of work. And you’re still finding your groove as a writer. Give yourself the gift of time to finish that second or third novel, to feel more confident in your craft, to mature as a writer. Because once you publish, it’s a constant battle to find time for the writing (on top of life, the universe, and marketing your book).
And here’s the thing: your stories don’t expire.
That first novel you’re dying to kick out into the marketplace? It will still be here in a year, after you’ve written another novel (or two). And you’ll have a much better perspective on whether that novel is the one you want to start your career with. (Also: check out my Seven Questions to Ask Before Self-Publishing.)
And if you decide to publish that first novel anyway, please remember to keep writing.
It’s why you’re in this in the first place, right?