Ask The Editor

November 25, 2008

Is it ever wise to self-publish a novel?

Filed under: Advice for fiction writers,Commentary — editorialconsultant @ 1:21 pm

Every few months, you’ll read that a novel, originally published by the author, has been picked up by a major publishing house. And, if you have a novel sitting in your desk drawer for which you haven’t been able to attract a publisher, you may be tempted to give self-publishing a try.

Should you? Maybe. But be prepared to do more work promoting it than you ever imagined.

And before you can begin promoting your book, you’ll have to spend time developing a publicity pitch with an intriguing story-behind-the-story. Several originally self-published authors who have gone on to major publishing successes first gained readers and media attention with a tale of how their real lives and the stories they told intersected. Add in an appealing plot, well-crafted characters, exceptional writing, and a bit of luck and — who knows?

Brunonia Barry first published THE LACE READER, a story that came to her in a dream, on her own. The tale she told was about her own home town, Salem, Massachusetts, known for its spooky past. So, she was able to focus her marketing efforts in a small, manageable geographic area, at first, and then grow her audience from there. But, before Barry went on to attract an agent and a seven-figure deal, she and her husband traipsed from local bookstore to local bookstore, book club to book club, offering the manuscript to readers and asking for feedback. The book was just nominated for Borders’ 2008 Original Voices Awards.

So, yes, it’s possible to self-publish a novel and gain an audience and even, on rare occasion, a major publishing contract. But, be prepared to devote yourself almost full-time to promotion. And to succeed at promotion, first develop an intriguing angle that has local appeal. Also, be realistic about your chances. Most self-published novelists sell very few books and even books that are published by major houses sometimes just don’t catch on.

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1 Comment »

  1. […] with book sales dollars). And if you can’t get a contract in this brutally difficult market, take a tip from Brunonia Barry and consider becoming your own […]

    Pingback by Bestseller or bust? « Ask The Editor — November 26, 2008 @ 11:40 am | Reply


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