My advice is, if you ever might maybe-perhaps-one-day want to be traditionally published, query exhaustively before going to self-pub. Self-publishing can really complicate getting an agent (see why here). If you're sticking it to the man by self-publishing, that's cool. Don't query, too, though. They're separate paths; until you sell a million copies you've got to step on to one or the other.
But saying "suck it" to traditional publishing (or agents) might not be why one self-publishes. You might be *fine* with traditional publishing. You might be torn, feeling discouraged after a bunch of form rejections from a book that, by many unbiased accounts is PRETTY DARN GOOD. So when do you take the plunge, call it quits, and go self-publish?
Actually, wait. there's one caveat first: No one should self-publish without expecting it to be a lot of work. Without having an active online presence, a slammin' cover (peer edit, just like with your writing), and a marketing plan of your own design or someone else's. Books don't just sell. Ever.
If you fall into one of the following categories, self-pub might just be the best route for you:
- You're writing what's in bookstores right now and you're getting form rejections. If you're seeing books that are suspiciously like yours come out right now, it means that they were being bought a year ago. Unless you think you've got a pretty substantial twist or a really new take (be real) you might be better off self-publishing it.***
- You're writing significantly shorter or longer than traditional wordcounts.
- You're writing poetry without the platform of some amazing prizes and journal publications.
- You're writing a memoir with neither a strong platform nor a "third act"--something that happens as a result of what happened to you that makes yours a more universal story: legislation that was enacted or overturned, for instance. This does not go, however, for other types of nonfiction (in my opinion).
- You're writing extremely graphic violence or sex. Or both.
*** The relates the most to young adult fiction. People seem to be jumping on that bandwagon with stuff that's past its prime: dystopians, vampires, werewolves, angels.
The reasoning here is that there may very well be an audience for your book, but that might also be a very small audience or one that's not easily reached by the typical event-oriented marketing that publishers do. Therefore, an agent might also have a hard time finding an editor to buy it. If you sell a billion copies, you'll be laughing all the way to the bank because you found the audience no one else was willing to.
However. This does not give you license to not edit. You still should have a writing group or beta readers of people who write and read in your genre. You should still listen to them. They ARE your audience. Let them judge your cover, too (PLEASE).
Anything else that's prompted anyone to self-publish?