2) Your other options are small presses with low sales (i.e. you’ve decided against traditional publishing, or you’ve exhausted all other venues). Personally, I’d go through a publisher at least once before self publishing, just so you can get a grip on the numerous processes involved.
3) You can’t find a suitable publisher/your book doesn’t fit neatly into one “box” (you still need to know how to market it, mind). E.g. I’m self publishing OLLY HARRIS: WEDDING WRECKER because it’s a 40k chick lit book with a male narrator, and no primary romantic storyline. Show me a publisher with good sales who would have taken that on? I don’t know any who specialise in that kind of book, but since I have a few titles under my belt now, I have a little freedom to experiment.
4) You write romance, erotica, women’s fiction or young adult fiction. These genres are the easiest to market online by FAR. Thrillers/mysteries are probably next on the list.
5) You’re writing a specific book for a specific market, which you have access to. E.g. if you’re a plumber, and you want to write a non-fiction book about a plumbing issue. Or you are a meerkat and want to write a manifesto for the Small Mammals’ Working Conditions Union.
6) You’re prepared to sink. This does happen for a good number of self publishers, and even if you do all of the above, it could still happen (though the probability is lower). This is the reality of publishing, sadly, but you’ll have no publisher to organise extra publicity, and no advance to sustain you while you write the next book.
1) You think it’s the best way to make money. It might be, it might not: Nathan Brandsford explains this better than me.
2) You’re impatient to get your work out there. Time constraints should not be the sole reason for picking a publishing method; for all you know, your book could do better with a traditional publisher, if you can stand the wait.
3) You think you can “do things better” than people who have trained for years in the industry. Chances are, you probably can’t, and there will be a stiff learning curve involved or a fair amount of cash to pay out to professionals.
4) You think it’s the gateway to traditional publishing. Occasionally, a really successful self published book gets picked up by an agent and traditional publisher, but we’re talking sales of tens of thousands. If you self publish badly, it will certainly affect an agent’s decision to take you on in the future.
5) You have little knowledge of the genre you’re writing in, and don’t know how to market and package your book. This is more common than people think. Research! Read! Read some more! Do not decide to write YA just because everyone else is doing it! The meerkats will KNOW.
6) You want to walk into a book store and see your book. It’s probably not going to happen with self publishing. (Cue wail of detractors: “Soon, there will be no more book stores left anyway!”)
Lucy V. Morgan writes contemporary fiction. She has two novels with a publisher, and has self published two others. She’s also lucky enough to be developing her first television script with producers. Lucy spent 2011 in a haze of caffeine as a publishing intern and has since surfaced as an editor of young adult fiction for Etopia Press. You can find her at her website and on Twitter, where she is mostly very professional. Mostly.