Earlier this week, the library was fortunate enough to have Billy Huckaby, owner of the Fort Worth-based Wild Horse Media Group, speak about publishing at our writing critique group meeting. While Billy himself is in the business of “traditional” publishing (his companies take on authors, foot the bill for publishing their books, and handle distribution and exposure), he didn’t hesitate to extol the virtues of self-publishing and champion it as a legitimate, realistic option for aspiring authors striving to see their works in print. With quality, affordable companies like Amazon’s CreateSpace and Ingrams’s Lightning Source available to authors, publishing a book is within reach for almost anyone. In some ways, it’s really easy.
It’s also really hard.
Despite the accessibility of self-publishing to every Tommy and Tammy Authormeister, Billy hit us with the cold reality that the average self-published book only sells 100 to 200 copies, and also shared several horror stories of do-it-yourself publishing gone horrendously wrong. Sure, you can get your book published quickly and with relative ease, but to make your publishing venture a success, you have to do it smartly, and most importantly, you have to work ridiculously hard (like, in the complete opposite way of this guy). To make it as an author, good marketing is just as important as good writing. You don’t get to write a work of staggering genius, publish 100,000 copies, and watch the acclaim and profits roll in; you have to promote, push, peddle, and repeat, because nobody’s gonna do it for you. It’s not fun, I know. I wrestled with the unpleasant necessity of self-promotion during my brief adventures with music. I initially thought that if I could just write awesome songs, the market would come to me and there wouldn’t be much need for heavy promotion. Whether or not I ever wrote awesome songs is highly questionable, but I quickly found that gaining a following and experiencing success by any other metric required almost full-time promotional efforts, and even then, tangible signs of progress could often be modest at best. Making waves in any creative field is not for the easily discouraged or dog-danglingly lazy.
So, by all means, self-publish your book, but be ready to, as the kids these days like to say, “grind” in a big way. Or, if you’re prepared to work hard but would like more support with the non-writing aspects of authorship, you can take a crack at the tough-to-crack world of traditional publishing. If you’re unsure which path is right for you, take a look at this helpful infographic-y flowchart by Henry Herz of The Write Life: