by Vinnie Kinsella, Publication Consultant, Indigo

When I talk about independent publishing (aka self-publishing) with authors, I ask what’s motivating them to strike out on their own. I have found that an honest assessment of motives is crucial to an independent author’s success. Below is a look at the four most common reasons I’ve found that authors choose independent publishing. Is one of them yours?

1. You don’t want to make money; you just want to get your message out.
If all you want is for people to hear what you have to say, then independent publishing can be a great option for you. Without the need to generate profits, you are free to give your book away or price it low to encourage mass sales. Your main limitation is the amount of capital you can sink into producing a book you may never financially profit from. But where there’s a will, there’s a way. If you’re really motivated to get the word out there, consider looking into grants for your project.

2. You like doing things for yourself.
This motive propels a lot of independent authors, especially those with either strong business skills or a high sense of artistic integrity. The biggest piece of advice I can offer to you true do-it-yourselfers is to spend considerable time educating yourself on how bookselling is different from all other forms of retail sales. Because bookselling is the commodification of art and knowledge, you can’t approach it the same way as you would selling sweaters.

3. You’re tired of rejection from agents and publishers.
There are far more people wanting to publish traditionally than there are companies to publish them. If you are one of those authors who keeps receiving “no, thanks” rejection letters, thumbing your nose at the traditional model might seem like a viable way to end the pain. But don’t be rash. Before you set out on your own, find out why the rejection letters keep coming. If numerous agents or publishers are offering you the same criticism, it’s worth listening to them. Before striking out on your own, I suggest hiring an editor (like one of the talented ones here at Indigo) to write a comprehensive critique of your entire manuscript. Once you know what’s been holding you back, you can move forward.

4. You hope publishing your own book will help it be discovered by a publisher.
Agents and publishers notice when readers respond positively to a self-published title. If this is your goal, it’s important that you don’t lose sight of the key phrase in that last sentence: when readers respond positively. In order to succeed in getting a publisher’s attention, your primary goal must become your secondary goal. Focus first on publishing a book so good that readers will flock to it. (At the very least, this means working with a professional editor.) Once you’ve made your splash, you can work toward attracting a publisher’s attention.

Vinnie Kinsella’s varied career as a publishing professional includes work as a writer, editor, document designer, journal publisher, and college instructor. He has used his broad knowledge of the publishing industry to help numerous book publishers, independent authors, small businesses, and nonprofit organizations produce high quality print and online publications.