When should a person self-publish their work?
Anytime they want to, of course.
Here are some specific situations when self-publishing might be the best option for a writer:
- When the writer wants complete control over the title, content, layout, and cover. (Most pay-to-publish companies do not waver from their process and allow customization, so this may not be the best route for someone who MUST have total control over the production of their ms into a book.)
- When the work is to be used for seminars on a topic that the writer is deemed an 'expert' in the field. These books are usually non-fiction and the price is higher than fiction because the value added by the author's expertise.
- When the work is to be used to accompany another product, similar to a manual for the user of the product. Have fun with this if there are lots of schematics to add to the text.
- When the writer can afford to hire experts to create an industry quality book or is competent in the required skills and doesn't care whether it bears the stamp of approval that comes with being vetted and published by a traditional publisher.
Before submitting a query to a publisher or literary agent, a writer should be able to affirm within their heart that they have done the best they could and they are now willing to let it go and let someone else take it to the next level.
For some people, letting go of their work is difficult. If that is the case, the writer should consider self-publishing the work or simply remain a writer and never become a published author. I'm not sure that this is a bad thing. It depends on each person's goal or vision of the future for their works.