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When I read about self publishing, I notice that it’s often being lumped together (ie all self publishing is the same). But of course, the truth of the situation is much more complicated. I decided to make a list (I love lists!) of some less obvious, more creative ways that a writer can use self publishing to further a career.
  1. Out-of-print back list: okay, this isn’t particularly creative, but it’s the most obvious no-drawbacks use of self publishing today.
  2. Short story anthology, using (mostly) previously published works: I think this would be especially good to do if you have a novel coming out soon (or that has recently come out). Numbers show that short stories and their anthologies don’t sell as well as novels, but fans of a novel already out might very well be interested. Of course, even without a novel out, this could still be useful. (A few writers I love are talking about doing this, and I can’t wait to have all their stories in the same place.)
  3. Short stories (previously published or NOT) that tie into the world of a novel you have out (or that is about to come out): Novelettes and novellas that tie in would also fall into this category. Of course, it may be better to offer some of this content for free on your website to draw readers in. The question is, are you using the stories to draw readers in, or to profit from your already-established reader base? Doing both is probably the best of all.
  4. Continuing a series that has been cancelled by its publisher: This is a win for a writer who wants to finish their larger-scope project and the readers who want to find out what happens. One thing to consider, however, is how available the first book(s) of the series are. Are they still in print? Is the publisher offering them as e-books? At a non-prohibitive price?
  5. Writing for a niche or non-obvious market: Some books cannot be sold to big publishing because they simply don’t have a big enough proven audience. This has more to do with business than with quality (although obviously it’s possible that it’s about both). My favorite example is novels set in college. These are often a hard sell because current YA is not set in college, period (with a few exceptions). Sometimes these college books can be sold as mainstream lit or chick lit, but often not. It’s hard to know where to shelve them in a bookstore, and it’s hard to find them. Yet there is obviously an audience for books set in college (I know this because I love them myself and am always on the lookout for more. Diana Peterfreund’s Secret Society books, anyone?) There are other examples of niches like this in fiction, and even more in nonfiction.
  6. Having novels come out both from big houses AND self-publishing: This is an interesting strategy for faster writers, which potentially allows the writer to profit from the upsides of both traditional and self-pub at the same time. It also solves the problem of prolific writers. Honestly, when I read this article, I cringed, because it feels like writers who happen to be fast and have a good work ethic are being penalized. (Note: not all writers, or even first timers, have the long wait discussed in this article.) Of course, this is only an option if the writer doesn’t have a non-compete clause with the big house or is willing to use a pen name (if it’s a secret pen name, several of the advantages of this set-up will be wasted; an “open secret” pen name may or may not go against contract. I have no idea what most contracts specify in this regard).

Have any other creative ideas about how to use self publishing? Thoughts about the pros and cons of the ones I’ve listed above? Let me know!

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