The Case for Self Publishing Fiction

When I read different books on publishing, I think it is implied that publishing your own informational, inspirational or self-help books are the only works one can self-publish successfully. Granted, this is the Information Age and people buy information. But all due respect to how-to books, there is still a market for self-published fiction. I have found that self-publishing is just as viable an avenue for fiction, if not more.

One only has to look at the many fictional books that are circulating on the Internet (and off) which are doing well financially and which were self-published. Some have even been picked up by mainstream. One only has to go to Mosaic and Cush and even my column, On The Same Page, to see this is true. Many of the authors I interview on my Internet radi shows are self-published authors of fiction.

To begin with, self-publishing is not only becoming more acceptable, it can be a lucrative venture. A few years ago, I read about a novel in the Publisher’s Weekly’s newsletter. Although this book was a self-published fictional book (it sounded like a roman a clef of Monica Lewinsky), it was chosen by the Double Day Book Club! This was a first. Now to me, that meant this was a door opener. For other examples, in mainstream America we can look to Grisham and James Redfield, the author of The Celestine Prophecy. What would have happened had these writers not self-published their fiction?

In African American literature, we know what happened with Michelle McGriff and many others who have ‘blown up.’

In addition, it is not unusual for authors who have been published by mainstream to turn around and self-publish their subsequent works. Why?

Factor in the recent explosion of print-on-demand companies and ebook companies or writers selling books directly from their website, and fiction is a great way to get your name out to the public.

Let’s look at what you gain when you publish your own non-fiction, then what you gain when you publish fiction. Neither one is better than the other. This is just to encourage writers of fiction to consider publishing their own works.
When you self-publish non-fiction, these are the things you gain:

· Speed. Most publishers work on an 18th month production cycle. Will you miss your market?

· Authority. The word ‘author’ is the root word in authority. People listen to you when you are an author. You become an ‘expert’ or ‘authority’ on a subject. From here you can do seminars, tapes, speaking engagements, and consultations.

· Control. Twenty-three per cent of publishers do not give the author the right to select the title, 26% do not consult the author on the jacket cover’s design, 36% rarely involve the author on the book’s promotion.

· A profit center. You make more money. The profit margin is 40% on a self-published book. After the advance, you only get 6 % to 15% of the sales on a traditionally published book.

· A reading audience. Many publishers receive more than 100 unsolicited manuscripts for consideration each day. As a result, no one will ever read your manuscript.

· A tax-write off. You get more write-offs as the publisher/author, than just the author.

When you self-publish fiction, in addition to all of the above, these are your gains:·

– Posterity. Your deciphering of mankind’s trials and tribulations in the twentieth century are recorded for future generations.

· Fame. If you build a reading audience, you may become famous. Even if you don’t become famous, you have a sense of satisfaction. A sense of testifying, a way of saying, ‘I lived. I was here. I made a difference.’ ·

– A possible movie deal. Movie companies, television and independent filmmakers are always looking for good stories. Many movies, such as Waiting to Exhale or How Stella Got Her Groove Back are made from books. My favorite book, Beloved, has been made into a movie. Although the movie can not touch the art of literature, Oprah has tried to capture its essence on film for future generations.

· A reading audience who loves stories. From the time man sat around the first cave fires, they loved to hear stories. When one hears a story, this can resonate in their mind long after the story is over. In essence, you are renting space in your reader’s imagination, which they will carry around with them for years.

Also take this fact into consideration. Many books which we have studied in our classrooms, such as Lady Chatterly’s Lover, (D.H. Lawrence), Leaves of Grass, (Walt Whitman) and Ullyses (James Joyce) would never have become classics if the writers hadn’t self-published. These books were ahead of their times and considered too risque to be published by mainstream publishers. So for writers of fiction, don’t wait for years and years to be discovered!

Life is a smorgasbord! Go out there and help yourself!

Dr. Maxine Thompson is the owner of Black Butterfly Press, Maxine Thompson’s Literary Agency, Maxine Thompson’s Literary Services. She is the author of six self-published titles. Her most recent novella, (Second Chances), included in anthology, Secret Lovers, made the Black Expressions’ Book Club Bestseller’s list. She is the author of upcoming novella, Summer of Salvation, which is included in Anthology, All in the Family. She is the owner of She is a host on

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Author: Maxine Thompson
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