Article & Artwork by Katie King, Age 16, Australia
After long, cruel hours of slaving away at the computer, fingers numb and mind drained of creativity, you finally finish that one story you’re happy with. What comes next? Every aspiring writer eventually gets to the point where they have to make a crucial decision: to self-publish or embrace the more traditional way of publishing.
When you’re a young writer like myself, stepping out for the first time to brave the world of publishing can be challenging and confusing. After completing the manuscript of my first novel I was keen to reveal my talents to the world and get it published. But of course, being only 16, I quickly came to the daunting realization that the chances of finding a literary agent were slim. So I looked into further options and discovered the world of self-publishing.
If you’re not already aware, self-publishing is a publication process of which the author dictates every aspect themselves. It puts the author in total control of design, marketing, prices, and distribution and the books are privately printed, usually to be sold online. Self-publishing is rapidly becoming more common among writers with the aid of popular self-publishing websites such as Lulu.com or Amazon.
What do book-buyers think?
Everyone has their own individual preferences when it comes to buying a book. Today’s digital age has made it much easier for independent authors to make sales. Nowadays teen readers are turning to eBooks, using a Kindle or E-Reader for their daily dose of literature. So does it make a difference whether the book they purchase has been self-published or published the more traditional way? For me personally, I would much rather purchase a book published by a renowned company, as I know there is a higher chance I will enjoy it. After conducting interviews with my more literature-orientated friends, I found the majority agree.
Generally, teen readers tend to purchase their books from the more well-known retail companies, rather than independent authors. This is primarily due to the fact that it’s simply easier, and books written by independent authors tend to get very little publicity. Self-published works tend to get modest reviews which in turn leave teens uninterested and off on their way to the local bookstore.
How should you publish?
If you have a novel that you want to sell, despite the enticing appearance self-publishing websites present, I do not suggest self-publication. More than likely, you will make very little profit (if any at all) and your audience will be miniscule. In addition, self publishing is hard and/or expensive. If you self-publish without paying a company to help you, you will need to market yourself, which involves time, energy, expense, and skills that get beyond the ability to write. You either churn out a lousy book cover; you’re learning cover design or paying someone else to do it. You’re spending time to network to get folks to edit it for free, or you’re paying an editor, or you’re pushing out a book that hasn’t been edited (which is a bad idea) and so much more.
To lay it out straight, traditional publishing is no picnic either. But when it comes down to it, in my opinion traditional publishing is the way to go. The key to traditional publication lies in getting an agent interested in your novel. In order to do this, you must send them a query letter highlighting your story, your writing skills, and your credentials. It may take time- but it will prove to be the better choice in the long run.
Every writer is vastly different in terms of talent, dreams and aspirations. By analyzing your own skills and writing preferences the decision will be so much easier.
Reasons to Self-Publish:
- You really just want to see your book in print.
- You only want to give copies to friends and family.
- You have no interest in having a long term career as a writer.
- You have already been unsuccessful at traditional publishing.
Reasons to publish traditionally:
- You feel there is a real market for your book.
- You want to (or already do) have a career as a writer.
- You want your book to be widely available in bookstores.
- You want to make money from your book.
Ultimately, at the end of the day the decision is yours and only yours to make. Consider your amount of patience, marketing skills, and perseverance. Think through your options carefully and take your time. Try out both if you really want to.
My name is Katie King, I am 16 years of age and I live on the Gold Coast, in Australia. I am currently still attending high school and working on developing my career as a young writer. At present I have two short stories published but plan to strive for bigger and one day get my novels published. Check out my works online at http://www.wattpad.com/user/KatieLizKing