There is still a bit of stigma around self-publishing but it is absolutely the best path to tread for a first-time novelist. Here are five reasons why.
1. Control - self-publishing allows you total control over your novel. You can publish whatever you want, regardless of whether it has a target market or sales potential. If you want to write a Doctor Who/Pokemon crossover then go for it! And if you do, please let me know because I would totally buy it. You have the final say regarding artwork, the title and the length, all of which would be dictated if you are lucky enough to land a traditional publishing deal.
Length is an important area in which to have free reign. My novel, The Sheriff, is around 50,000 words and would be unlikely to appeal to a publisher because most novels are between 80,000 and 120,000 words. However, with self-publishing, you can finish your story whenever you want. If all plot threads are wrapped up after 50,000 words then you can end it there.
Equally, if you want to ramble on and on then you can. There is no pressure to streamline your novel with self-publishing, nor will there be an editor chopping paragraphs on your behalf. Self-publishing allows you to produce the novel that you set out to write.
2. Speed - I finished the first draft of The Sheriff on the 30th November 2013 and it was available on Amazon on the 5th March 2014. If I had sought an agent and a traditional publisher then I am confident my novel would have sat in my Dropbox for years without ever being read.
However, thanks to self-publishing, my novel is live on Amazon, Kobo, Apple and Barnes & Noble, and people are actually starting to read it. This means I am gaining reviews, feedback and a following, none of which would be happening if my manuscript was sat in an agent's overflowing in-tray.
3. Money! - one of the beauties of self-publishing is the profit share. You will typically get 75% of the profits from a Kindle sale on Amazon, whereas a traditional publishing contract would only give you 5% or less for each book sold.
Obviously, you would sell a lot more with a big publisher, at least in theory, because they would boost your sales through their marketing department. However, this is not a guarantee - plenty of big publishers fail to sell books and pulp their leftover stock - and it would still require you to land a publishing contract in the first place which is no small challenge.
At least with self-publishing you would stand to make some small income, which is better than no income. Better yet, it would be paid directly into your account the following month. Plus, all of your earnings would be profit because there are no overheads: publishing on Amazon is free, publishing on Kobo is free, publishing on CreateSpace is free, you can start a free author platform on Weebly, you can start a free mailing list on Mail Chimp, you can then promote your book via a free Facebook page and a free Twitter account.
Being an author is certainly no route to earning millions - you would have better odds of winning the lottery - but a couple of dollars here and there is a welcome bonus when doing what you love. Self-publishing will make that happen.
4. Increase Your Chances of Landing a Traditional Publisher - admittedly, despite all of my above comments, the ultimate goal for a writer is to land a traditional publishing contract with a big publisher. They will put a marketing machine behind you, get you in Waterstone's and bag you reviews in national magazines.
However, you have a limited chance of landing a publisher nowadays unless you already have a readership. After all, why should a publisher invest in your book if you cannot sell a few copies yourself on Amazon? Self-publishing allows you to provide evidence that people want to read your book and will give publishers more confidence in green-lighting your novel.
Publishers were once picky about 'first publishing rights' which meant they would not consider endorsing a manuscript that had already appeared online. That philosophy went out the window thanks to Fifty Shades of Grey, which began life as self-published fan fiction, only to be picked up by a publisher at a later date and consequently make billions of dollars.
Publishers will also like you better if you have a fan base, whether it be the beginnings of a mailing list or a handful of Amazon reviews. It all helps. After all, the publishers are investing in the writer as much as the novel.
And, of course, it is highly unlikely that your first novel is going to be your best novel. Therefore, why not self-publish for a few years? Hone your craft, learn from your reviews, then write your masterpiece. Don't bother with agents and publishers until you are writing at the top of your game.
5. Joy! - the primary reason for self-publishing is the sheer joy of getting your novel out there in the world. It is no fun holding your novel back whilst you search for agents and publishers and that elusive million-dollar book deal. Get your novel out there and into readers' hands! Don't waste a second.
Believe me, there is no greater feeling than seeing your book on Amazon. I search for it every day and beam with pride. Equally great is that moment when a work colleague tells you they enjoyed reading your book. Hearing friends argue about the fate of your characters is a wonderful experience. It means that you made them care about figments of your imagination! There is no firmer proof that you have made it as a writer!
Of course, none of this would be possible if your work was not out there and available to buy. Self-publishing will kick-start your writing career. Don't delay. Self-publish today!