you want to be a professional writer, should you consider self-publishing?
The advantages of self-publishing
Low barrier to entryThe key advantage of self-publishing is that nobody can stop you, or say your work isn't up to standard or 'what the market wants right now'. In the past, most people were limited by budget, as self-publishing would have required a significant investment, but with modern e-publishing and on-demand print publishing, the costs of self-publishing have plummetted.
Fast resultsTraditional publishing is notoriously slow, with years passing between books being written and finally making it to the shelves. If you're self-publishing, you could have something out there within week, possibly even days.
Route to traditional publishingIf your novel is a success in the self-publishing world, there's a very good chance it will get picked up by a traditional publisher anyway, so self-publishing can offer and alternative route if you're not having any luck with submissions.
The disadvantages of self-publishing
LegitimacyThe main reason self-publishing has got a bad rap in the past is that the majority of people who went for it were so called 'vanity publishers'. That is, they were people that could not get published by traditional means because their work simply wasn't good enough - and unfortunately, in the vast majority of cases, this is still true.
For every genuine gem that's self-published, there are probably thousands of books that barely deserve the name 'novel'. If your novel is lined up next to books with appaling grammar, punctuation and spelling, let alone plot or character, why would people assume yours is any different?
Access to Publicity - Time spent promotingThe literary agents and publishing houses have large networks in place that allow them to carry out hefty publicity drives for the books that they publish. When pitted against these giants, you may have trouble getting your work of genius noticed. In order to get anywhere, you may find yourself spending more time promoting your book than writing.
Low returnsNot that traditional publishing makes more than a handful of people rich, but self-publishing is even worse. Unless your book goes viral, the returns are so low that you may only ever make pennies. The ebook stores sell digital books for less than a pound or a dollar and most of that money goes to the bookstore.
So is self-publishing for vanity freaks or clever geeks?If you've already exhausted yourself submitting to agencies without any luck, and you feel like you have the energy and inclination to do a lot of grunt work and self-promotion, then self-publishing is probably a viable option.
However, if you just want to be a writer, and all you want to do is write, it's probably worth pursuing the traditional publishing route for as long as you can.