During the 19th Century, here in the United States, we saw a huge movement of people heading west. They knew life was not quite what they wanted in the East, the crowds were getting too large for what they had desired, and certainly there was a lure of open expanses of land. This would be a place that they were free to do what they wanted, and do as much as they wanted. The confines of the city life in the East wouldn't be there.
So they sold everything they had, except for their essentials, climbed into their wagons and started off. There was a thrill early on of all the "exciting" and "wonderful" things they would see and do. And, for the most part, those early days probably went really well. If they forgot something, they were often still close enough to a city to run back in and pick up that one essential. But, as they moved further west, things changed. For many of these travelers, it wasn't until they got to a point of "no return" when they realized they might be in over their head. Suddenly they found themselves in situations without the essential skills necessary to get them out of the mess.
And they died.
I know, not a great way to start the morning, but you probably all remember those stories. If anything, we all played Oregon Trail on our computers. But what does this have to do with publishing?
I honestly believe there are a lot of similarities with those first travelers in the 19th Century and those writers that are now looking at self-publishing options. And like those early travelers, I do think there are a lot of writers that are dying a long the way for the simple fact that they might not have the education necessary to get them to their final destination.
Like any thing we do, we need to have the necessary education and experience before we go jumping into things. That is why we have K-12 education. That's why we go to college, attend technical colleges and get that advanced knowledge. We do so to insure that when we move into the professional working world, we can survives. And yet, I do believe a lot of writers out there are forgetting this and just running toward those wonderful things we all hear about self-publishing - complete control, great money, no pressure, 100% what you want to do!
But before you do this, the question I ask you is Do you know enough to do it on your own?
Take this quick quiz and see what you know?
For each question answer it with how much knowledge you have? I am not talking about people around you that have this knowledge. We are just talking about your own knowledge. Potential answers are:
- No Experience
- Enough to Define it
- Knowledge of grammar and punctuation following the guidelines of, let say, The Chicago Manual of Style,
- Successful marketing approaches and knowledge of sales
- How to promote through publicity your project
- Art work and design
- Appropriate book layout and formatting
- Contract negotiations and laws surrounding book publishing
- Copyright laws and regulations including obtaining legal binding contracts, ISBN numbers and so forth
- Book distribution to get your project to the readers
- An accurate sense of the trends
- Foreign, digital and movie rights
And yes, there are indeed authors out there that have this knowledge. What I have noted here frequently is that, for the most part, the people who are finding that success are the established authors from the traditional print population who are making the moves to self-publishing. They have been working with all of these areas as they worked with their editors. In many ways, as they were writing, they were also working as interns or apprentices in the editorial departments, the art departments and the business and contract departments.
I think the biggest thing I want you to leave with today is to ask yourself how much knowledge do you have. I want you also to remember that even in traditional publishing, you have to have experience and training if you want to be successful.