One of the things I’ve been thinking about a bit lately is if it’s more important to build a solid reader base or if it’s more important that I make money off a book that really isn’t ready to be sold yet. Let me build an example for you. You’re stuck someplace that has limited access to everything. There’s no giant super-stores where you can randomly enter and decide to buy whatever you wish. You’re lucky most of the time to just have food to eat and water to drink. You share your room with a bunch of other people, just like you. Internet is supremely limited and there are no cell phone towers and the landlines are really difficult to use. Most people that are with you on this trip brought electronic devices to use for morale purposes, such as eReaders, laptops, and MP3 players. One of you is an aspiring writer who just happened to have a PDF version of the only real novel they’ve ever written. What do you do?
One of the choices in this situation is to share your book with as many people as possible, letting it go from person to person for free without any ability to control who might copy it and send it to someone else or who is even reading it. You won’t make any money doing this, but it might be possible to build up a reader base, since there are definitely some very extended periods of down time.
Another choice would be to “self-publish” your work. Perhaps set up an account and have people give a dollar or two every time they read or shared the book. You can’t prove to anyone that your book is “making money” because you’re not really published and no one even knows anything about how to create an actual money system for this type of book sharing.
So my question is this: Is it more important to have people reading your work or is it more important to go through the proper channels and work towards making money off your novel?