In a FB group where I am a member, lots of questions get asked about whether to self-publish, spend time on an agent, obtain an MFA, or what is the best Return on Investment for a writer with stories to share.
I speak a lot about the importance of privilege and various meanings of success in any career or lifestyle. And when I wrote a reply to one person in particular, I knew I had a blog post I wanted to share with MY audience.
So here it goes:
Privilege is definitely an issue, and a lot depends on how much you can bring to the table. If you can get the funding for an MFA -- and there are some scholarships and awards for older women, POC, single-parent (if that applies to your situation). I don't know if enough of them can be stacked to get your MFA for free or at an affordable rate, but an MFA might be cheaper than the full price of a number of writer conferences. And if you approach the MFA like an extended conference -- getting the work done, but really using the time back in school to network, network, network -- you might be able to create the platform(s) and do the other things that will help you publish successfully, whether through the University Press, with an agent-in-training, or some other connection any professor you have might be willing to help you establish.
These are the reasons to do the MFA. I still haven't done it. I went the self-pub on a SHOESTRING route.
Unlike other self pubs who pay (who afford) editors, publicists, cover artists, formatters, and Lightning Source ISBNs, I belong to a few writing groups and have some BETA readers. I use free ISBNs and modify Create Space templates. I don't market the way I should or the way I hope I would if my bills depended on it. I'm a teacher by trade and used my published works as a portfolio to show I know what I'm doing and can teach others through camps and workshops. Nearly all my students outsell me.
Other writers self-pub and make more money. Many spend more money to publish. If they have the money to spend, and they are happy with the result, more power to them.
If you are able to market your own books, if you have friends and family who sell 31 and jamberry nails and all those other products, then you might find it in your best interest to publish for yourself, market yourself, or partner with someone who sells their widgets well.
In this business, like any other, it takes money to make money, so to make money, you will have to be making an investment of some kind beyond writing the manuscript. Then you have to decide what your budget (time, effort, money) is and what you can afford, what ROI you want and the path you are going to take to get there.
I can't tell you what to do, but I can hope that you find all the success you seek. What does success mean to you? What advice would you give someone in your field?
Phyl Campbell is the author of I'm Not Writing a Book Today, the so-called procrastination guide for writers and other dreamers. Her books are available on Amazon. She lives and teaches in York County, PA.