For now, though, it's not for everyone. It is a lot of work. We are still finding our way, learning the ropes, creating and re-creating the best paths to take to success. To go this route, you must have a sense of adventure because the map is still being developed. For each one of us who achieves success, a different road has been taken. Some are close and parallel but no highway yet exists.
But (some may say) maybe I don't care if I'm successful. I just want to get my book out there and see what happens. It's written, it's good and since the publishers (or agents) didn't want it, I don't want it just sitting in the drawer or on my hard drive. I may as well give it a chance.
I can totally understand this perspective. And I'm all behind you if this is you. But the key phrase in this situation is, "I don't care if I'm successful." See, this is where my big "However" comes in.
At one point, not only did I agree with that philosophy, I was completely behind it. Self-pubbing is so easy and relatively cheap. What do you have to lose by putting something out there instead of letting it sit on your hard drive? By watching others with this mentality go for it, though, I've changed my opinion on this. You have a lot to lose.
There are many writers who have queried the hell out of their books, never to get an agent. Or perhaps they did get an agent but the book didn't sell to a publisher. They've given up on that particular book, but not on the thought of traditional publishing. Rather than leave that book to collect dust, they decide to throw it out there as self-published, while they continue to pursue traditional publishing for their next piece.
But here's what happens...
I've seen more than one author fall into a pit of depression, thinking they've failed and only went this way as a last resort. If they feel so negative about their decision and about their book, how on earth are they going to promote with passion? You need passion to market! You have to believe in your book and in yourself to get others to do the same.
I've seen other authors throw their book out there and then basically forget about it as they continue querying and submitting their next book for traditional publishing. There's nothing wrong with still pursuing that dream, however, when do these authors have the time to promote their self-pubbed baby? They don't! But it's not just time.
More importantly, it's focus. It's the mentality of, "Okay, it's out there. Now I really need to focus on getting an agent for this next one." Our minds (and time) are already split in so many ways - writing, revising, blogging and social networking, learning, improving and, oh yeah, those people called family, those dirty things called dishes and clothes, etc. It's inefficient and ineffective to split it even more to try to market your self-pubbed title AND query.
Then there's the whole bit that the more titles you self-publish, the faster and bigger your success. That is a proven point on the map. So if you only have one out and you're not even considering putting the next one out because you're querying it, you're losing your big chance. A single title by an unknown author just doesn't get noticed.
It all comes down to the fact that you can't be successful with self-publishing if you're not 100% into it. And if you're not successful, not only are you losing opportunity for sales, but you're also really messing with your career. Because the whole idea is to attract readers and build a following so you can become a full-time author. You gain attention to your books and your writing...and, very possibly, land a deal with a Big 6 publisher. Or, at least, get offered a deal. Then the decision is in your court whether you still want that deal or not. If you flop at self-publishing, you just might gain that black mark against you and the chances for that deal are virtually eliminated.
So that's my big "however": If you're going to choose this path, choose this path. Make it a real decision, not a throw-it-out-there-and-see-what-happens, half-ass gesture. Approach it as a business or career - this is how you'll publish your books, all of them, at least until a traditional publisher picks you up (after picking you out).
Either go all in or don't take the risk. Not now, anyway.