People write books for many reasons, but most have a common goal: to one day see their work in print. The traditional method is to shop the manuscript around in the hope that an agent and/or publisher will offer a contract. And traditionally, most agents and publishers send manuscripts back with a 'no thank you'.
After a few weeks/months/years of that, many people start to look at the alternatives. Self-publishing is one of them.
First, let's clarify exactly what self-publishing is. A few years back it meant employing an editor, a book designer and a cover artist to get the work into shape and ready for press, and then employing a printer for the books, another for the covers and a binder to put it all together. Print runs were usually in the hundreds, or even thousands, and the finished article looked pretty much like ordinary books in the stores. To get a book into print, self-published authors were pretty much setting up their own mini publishing houses.
These days self-publishing involves uploading a word or PDF file to a company who then makes the subsequent book available through their website. E.g. Lulu. Authors rarely employ professionals to help with editing, proofing and layout, and unfortunately a gigantic avalanche of such books has made self-publishing a less attractive option
So who does self-publishing work best for?
Non-fiction writers with a well-defined, captive audience. For example, someone who holds seminars on particular topics ... such as chicken-farming. There are plenty of opportunities to tell your guests that copies of your book are available at the back of the room, and you have no competition. In this case, 250-500 copies of a self-published book could be a wise investment.
Self-publishing also works for fiction writers who just want a handful of copies for family and friends.
So, who should consider self-publishing only as a last resort?
Fiction writers. Unknown writers. Anyone who thinks they can walk into a bookstore at random and walk out with a firm order for a dozen copies. Let's break those down:
Fiction writers. You'd have to be mad to self-publish fiction. (Yes, I once did it myself. Nowhere on this web site do I declare myself totally sane.) First, agents and publishers will sign you up if your book is good enough, and if you're writing in a genre which has a book-buying audience. 'If the book is good' is subjective - you may think it's terrific, but the professionals will know by page three if you really can write... and they'll often have a good idea by the end of the first paragraph. Even if you write well, the technical details (character, plot, dialogue and so on) all have to fall into line. And if it's not good enough to interest an agent or a publisher, do you really think it's a good idea to slap covers on it and sell it direct to the public?
What do I mean by 'Having a book buying audience'? Well, even if you write a good book which is technically competent, it could be rejected simply because the publisher doesn't believe enough people will want to buy a copy. It may be that your novel is a science fictional thriller and a romance all rolled into one. How do they sell that? Who do they sell it to? This is where self publishing can work, because you can survive on a small number of sales to people who have little choice of alternatives.
For more information please visit: http://www.selfhelppublishers.com/