Should You Self-Publish?

You have a great idea for a book—or a book you and rewritten/polished by a ghostwriter. You have the visions of touching people’s lives, of being mobbed with adoring fans (or people who care passionately enough about your book to argue the inconsistencies endlessly in online forums), of being on “Oprah”.

However, the idea of dealing with submissions, agents and publishers may make you think twice. You don’t want a cast of thousands involved with your book. You want the final say, you want the control over marketing, publicity, book covers and, of course, profits. Yet self-publishing has a stigma attached to it, based on the faulty thought, “Well, if a book is any good, surely a publisher will buy it.”

The stigma persists and ignores the story of a man who wrote a book for his daughters, submitted it to agents and publishers, got the brush-off and self-published it. When he persuaded local bookstores to take the book, the booksellers found that the book became a local bestseller. Simon and Schuster snapped up the book we now know as The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans. The book is good, and a publisher did buy it—but only because Richard Paul Evans persisted and believed in his book.

You might want to self-publish your book for a variety of reasons, even though you’ve hired a ghostwriter to make the book perfect. As good as the best ghostwriter is, the publishers, even the small presses, and the market dictate what gets bought. It’s selelection, not rejection.

The ghostwriter’s job is to make sure people want to read your book once it’s in their hands and they’ve opened the cover to look at Page One. The ghostwriter may or may not, depending on your contract and the agreement you’ve reached, help you with publishing or self-publishing advice. As a ghostwriter, however, my potential reasons for self-publishing are:

  1.  You want a greater share of the profits, bearing in mind that you’ll also assume all the costs (including the ghostwriter fees).
  2. You only want to pay for the books you plan to print.
  3. You want to “test the waters” and see how much demand there is for your book—a limited-release rollout beta-test, as it were.
  4. You want total control over which groups you speak to and what publicity you do (bear in mind that if you want to sell books, 100 percent of the responsibility for publicity is on you, as it usually is for everyone but the big-name authors).
  5. You want total control over the content of the book, right down to whatever proofreader you hire (a proofreader is different than a ghostwriter or editor, and is essential to the finished product). You also assume the risks there, even if you publish under a pseudonym.
  6. It’s your family history or other material so niche-oriented that a publisher wouldn’t accept it.
  7. You can’t wait for a publisher because the material is time-sensitive. For example, if you or someone you love have a life-threatening condition and you want to tell your story to ask for help or to help someone else, you might not want to go through the delays of submitting the book to a publisher or agent. Or the material is about some personal nightmare you’re suffering—for example, medical malpractice (documented) and you want to win public sympathy. (Be certain to check with an attorney.)
  8. You intend to start your own publishing company.

You are probably asking yourself, will a ghostwriter take me on if I announce firmly and decidedly that I want to self-publish? That depends on the ghostwriter. In my case, it’s a firm yes. Other than the satisfaction of completing a job that you’re happy with, I have no ego stake in your book.

In fact, a ghostwriter will probably be pleased to help you prove that old chestnut about self-publishing somehow being inferior wrong, wrong, wrong. To quote screenwriter William Goldman on the movie industry, “Nobody knows anything.” Today’s self-published book may well be tomorrow’s hit or life-changing vehicle.

Don’t assume that a ghostwriter won’t work just as hard to get your book right if you’re self-publishing as if you’re submitting to the William Morris Agency or HarperCollins. Ghostwriters will ask the same of you in return. If you’re determined enough to publish your book yourself, to get an ISBN number, to obtain distribution, to file for copyright and to incorporate your own publishing company, the odds are good that you’re determined to make your book the best it can be by working with us and getting at least three separate people to proofread it. You can be a success.

 And we’ll even coach you the night before you appear on “Oprah”.

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