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Yesterday on Twitter I noted that I finally made a decision regarding the book I'm working on -- The Query-Free Freelancer -- and whether I would pursue a traditional publisher or opt to self-publish the book.

I've chosen the latter.

I put a lot of thought into this over the last few months, and was already leaning towards the self-publishing route. But recent events in the publishing world solidified that decision. Today I'd like to talk about why.

Why I'm Choosing to Self-Publish

  • I can afford to. While this isn't a reason on its own to self-publish, if you really can't afford to go this route and stick it out, then it's a good reason not to. Remember that just because I made this decision for myself, I'm not saying it's right for you or any other aspiring authors.
  • I have a strong platform and large reach in the niche. In other words, the fact that I have what publishers are looking for (a large audience in the book's niche who would be waiting to buy, and sales of other previous products to back it up -- e-books in my case) is actually a perfect reason to go it alone.
  • I have the marketing and PR background. Most authors don't come from the background of having run a PR firm. Not only that, but I specialized early on in working for independent artists -- including authors -- so the world of book marketing / promotion is nothing new to me.  I've always intended to bypass the author / agent relationship because of this actually. I don't need someone else with the skills to sell my manuscript. There's no one better to sell it than me -- I have those same skills, a solid history, the contacts, and more knowledge and passion around the project than anyone else ever would. And I'm in a place where if I need to take more time away from clients to sink into promoting the book, I can do that without it upsetting my earnings (one of many reasons I've actually cut back on my work schedule already).
  • I have an amazing network. -- I know plenty of agents, authors, and editors who I can bring in to help with the project if needed, on a contract basis. I also know amazing designers (for cover art), and other marketers and PR folks if I ever do need a hand on the promotion front.
  • I'm not just an author, I'm an entrepreneur. -- I don't just want to write. I know how to take something to market. I've done it successfully in the past numerous times, and I believe that in this day and age it's important for writers to embrace the business side of things more than ever before. To me that means doing my market research, creating a product people will want, and then bringing in a team of people who can make the launch a success. And when it comes to this book, I plan to be at the helm; not having a publisher make those decisions for me. Again, if this were fiction I'd probably put it in their hands... just not when I know my own market quite this well.
  • I'm stubborn about my rights. -- Here's what it really came down to. There are certain rights I just wouldn't give a publisher, no matter how big of a name they are. That includes any rights related to merchandising or film (which I'd put to use with ancillary products, video teaching series, etc. in this book's case). More importantly, I would not, under any circumstances, sign away electronic publishing rights. And I know that's pretty much a no-go with publishers these days. Frankly I'm disgusted by Amazon's posting of misleading stats to hype up the Kindle recently, and I'm not willing to allow any print publisher to negotiate policies I find unacceptable regarding e-book sales with them or anyone else. I've been in the e-book game for a long time, and not just in this niche. I know how to make those products very profitable, and I know how to do it without bowing down to Amazon. I won't let a traditional publisher step in and screw that up (although I know a few probably have more sense). If I were selling a mass market work of fiction, that might be another story. But I know my niche. I know its size. I know its sales potential. I know my reach. And I know that you can't treat all books as similarly as they are in the current e-book frenzy (which I'm betting will settle in the next few years just as the previous wave most consumers don't even know about did before it... at least when it comes to this type of book). In a niche like this, it's not about massive sales numbers. It's a relatively small niche compared to others I work in. And you have to target that market differently. Fortunately I know enough from my years of experience doing just that (and well) to know how I want to go about it. And that's precisely what I plan to do.

So that's the gist of my decision. And in my personal case, with this specific book, it makes a great deal of sense. I might choose a different approach in the future with other books, especially fiction or some children's book ideas I have in the works. We'll see.

Have you had to make this decision? What did you choose, and why? Is it a comprehensive decision you made about your writing career, or was it project-specific where you might choose something else down the road?

EDIT: There are actually two fairly big reasons for making this choice that I forgot to mention before, so I wanted to go back and add them now.

  • Pitching this book to publishers would make me a hypocrite. -- And we all know how I feel about that. Why? Because this book is all about getting to a point where you can be a truly query-free freelance writer -- one where clients come to you instead of you having to pitch or query them to land new gigs. What kind of example would I set if I then turned around to pitch this book to publishers? Not a very good one. My other options (which was seriously considered) was to put the book proposal here on the website in short-form and make it available to publishers on request -- then turning my attention to making even more of those contacts and spreading the word within my existing network. It might have worked. But it's not the option I settled on, and it would take a very convincing offer to make me even consider changing my mind.
  • I have a lot of ties within the indie community. -- Keep in mind that I used to work with indie artists predominantly. I've also been involved with independent authors (self-published). It's a huge passion of mine. Hell, the freelance lifestyle itself is about as "indie" as you can get. And I'm launching a big project along those lines later this year at IndieLounge.com. It will cover indie music, indie film, indie publishing, and independent workers (like us). So I feel taking this route keeps me grounded within my target audience as a whole more than traditional publishing for this particular title could.
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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. She runs numerous websites & blogs including All Freelance Writing, NakedPR.com, and BizAmmo.com.

Jenn has 18 years experience writing for others, around 13 years experience in blogging, and over 10 years experience in indie e-book publishing. She is also an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

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