Seriously. I've got a great platform, lots of potential readers. Self-publishing (at the very least e-publishing) seems like a potential fit.
But for me, right now, it's not.
Long-time MSFV readers probably already know that, long ago and far away, I did self-publish a book. Not full-blown "self", mind you--I used a reputable POD publisher who gave all rights to the authors (which is what I wanted). It was heady at first, because this particular publisher rejected over 90 percent of the manuscripts sent to them for consideration. (This was their way of elevating themselves above the dime-a-dozen vanity presses out there. It worked.)
My book was non-fiction for a strong niche market. At the time, I ran an online community for this particular niche (surprise, surprise), so I had a very-small-but-loyal base for book sales. It could have been a great launchpad for a successful sales run.
It wasn't. Because I knew absolutely nothing about marketing, and I didn't have the time (or money) necessary to peddle my wares the way I really needed to. The book piddled along and, despite its glowing Amazon reviews, faded into the nether regions.
(One day, when I reveal myself, you can all skip over and look at it. I let my POD contract expire several years ago, so it's no longer available to purchase new, but it's still sitting on its Amazon page, smiling sadly.)
Aside from the marketing difficulty, though, I've got other reasons for choosing to stick with traditional publishing right now. (And anyway, all authors need to market their books, so that's a moot point.) Namely:
Lack of distribution. When my little book finally flew into the world, my poor dad could not understand why he couldn't walk into the local bookstore and find it on the shelves. My book was distributed by Ingram, so it was actually available in any bookstore across the nation--but you had to order it. Because, yanno, I didn't have the means to whip up a regional bus tour (a la Patrick Carman) or hard sell my itty-bitty-book-among-millions to all the big scary booksellers out there. And this is important to me.
Inability to produce the book RIGHT. If one wants to truly self-publish, that means doing everything...well, yourself. Page formatting, cover art, sales, everything. And I don't have the money to do that sort of thing right. Good cover art is expensive. Bookbinding is expensive. And even from an e-book standpoint, the thing needs to LOOK GOOD and BE DONE RIGHT. And, frankly, I don't want to spend my time formatting a document for a Kindle, and I don't want to spend my money paying someone else to do it.
When I self-pubbed my non-fiction, I hired a graphic artist to produce the cover (it was whimsical and quite perfect for the book, but it wasn't the sort of thing I'd use now), and I paid an English major friend $500 to copyedit for me. So, yes, I took the whole thing seriously. But my standards have evolved, and it would take a lot more money (a lot) to produce a book the way I'd like to produce it today. And I'm simply don't have the means to do it. Not even close.
I write fiction now. This isn't to say you can't self-publish fiction--you absolutely can. I have colleagues who have successfully done so. But my personal take on self-publishing is that it's an especially effective way to get a non-fiction book out there. Especially when you've got a strong niche audience. If I were to write another non-fiction (and I've actually got one up my sleeve), I would absolutely consider self-publishing over traditional. Especially today, with the exponential growth of e-books and e-readers and e-everything. I wouldn't hesitate to self-publish another non-fiction.
But for me, fiction is a different animal. (I've written both, so, yeah, I can say this.) I don't want to spend 50 or 75 percent of my work time on all the non-writing aspects of getting (and keeping) a book out there. I want to write. And while going with a traditional publisher means I don't own the rights to my book, and I don't have final say over the cover, and a dozen other "I don'ts", to me it's worth it because I will be able to spend my time writing while someone else does all that stuff. Someone qualified.
Marketing, of course, is still my responsibility. Any author, whether self- or traditionally-published, is going to have to also become a marketer. That's just the way the game goes. And I'm okay with that.
I love my agent. This goes without saying. And it's not actually a reason for choosing traditional publishing. But Josh makes it possible for me to concentrate on my writing while he does other hard stuff (because writing is hard, too). He's actually quite progressive, and we've discussed less-than-traditional approaches to publishing as well as the Big Six route. It's one of the things I like about him--he's growing and changing along with the industry. Always open to new possibilities.
But ultimately, my relationship with him allows me to be the writer I want to be, working hard to break into the traditional market without having to worry about the how. That's Josh's job. My job is to write good stories.
In a way, it's dichotomous; I'm a fiercely independent person who likes to do things her own way. Self-publishing, in this light, seems like a perfect fit. But it's not. Not for me, not for now.
That's just me. You may be different. Or you may be the same, but change your mind six months or a year from now. Really, it's all good. The most important thing is for each of us to understand what we want and why we want it. And then to grab it with both hands and hang on for dear life.
Good dreams die hard. So keep dreaming, and keep working hard. Really, really hard. Because that's what it will take, regardless of what your path to publication ultimately looks like.
We're all in this together.