I have a few strong opinions about the self-publishing vs. traditional publishing thing going on right now since I’ve traveled a little bit down both roads. I usually try to avoid hot posts like this that are following a trend. I hate following trends. Still, I get sucked in sometimes, and since I have heard many writers – in person – admit they are considering self-publishing, I’ve got to say some things here that weigh heavily on my little heart. So here are my two cents.
Also, none of this is aimed at anybody. It’s just my opinion, pure and simple.
(1) self-publishing as a last resort isn’t smart
You’ll end up sorely disappointed in everything. Your book. Your sales. Yourself. LAST RESORT means it was a LAST RESORT. Think about that. You’ll always have that other resort – the BIG dream you had hanging over your head. Those big dreams don’t just vanish when you click the “publish now” button in CreateSpace or wherever you decide to take your book. Go read this post and decide if you still want to publish as a last resort. In it I give my one main piece of advice to anyone considering self-publishing.
addendum: I just want to say here that some writers do publish their work as a last resort, and that it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Why? Because some work simply doesn’t fit into the market, and querying or going on submission made that very clear for that piece of work. Period. Still, I think an author should be certain about this before they make their decision.
(2) you will not end up with a two-million dollar contract
Repeat that to yourself. Over. And over. Your chances at ending up in the same boat as Amanda Hocking? Yeah, close to nil. That’s like you ending up like J.K. Rowling with traditional publishing. Shooting for the stars is great, but stay realistic or you’re never going to be happy with where you end up.
(3) you will probably not end up with any contract
It could happen, yes. It’s true. I ended up with a contract for Cinders (to be published as part of an omnibus), but that was after I secured a contract with my other novel through the traditional route of submitting a manuscript and having it accepted. Yes, your amazing under-appreciated novel could catch the eye of a publisher, but considering how often this happens compared to the percentage of those who self-publish, it’s unlikely. I’m just saying don’t count on it.
(4) self-publishing – to do it professionally – costs money
That’s right. MONEY. The grand total I have spent on Cinders: $1,400. Yep. You got that right. I didn’t have to spend that much. I didn’t plan on spending that much, but between giving away free print books, book tour gifts, printing bookmarks, business cards, postage (postage is ridiculous), cover art expenses, release party expenses, etc., it adds up. You might think you can do it for free, and maybe you’re smarter than me and you can, but publishing is a business. Businesses cost money to start. Why people think self-publishing (and being professional about it ) should be any different is beyond me.
Even if you stick with e-book only, you’ll still have costs. I highly suggest hiring a professional editor. I also highly suggest paying for a service to convert your book to digital format if you’re not familiar with such things. Plus, you’ll still need a cover, and most writers I know are not artistically inclined enough to design their own professional cover. I did all these things myself, but if I was going to self-publish as a career, you bet I’d be paying for these services.
(5) self-publishing because you’re angry or because it’s a hot trend, isn’t the wisest course of action
If you’re deciding to self-publish your book because deep down you want to stick it to the traditional publishing industry, or because you’re upset that nobody gets you or your writing, or because you see everyone else doing it (mainly huge traditionally-published authors who already have a following and back list), you’re doing it all for the wrong reasons.
Why did I self-publish Cinders? Because I knew it was right for that book. Period. I wrote it to self-publish it. I had no idea I’d write two more novellas at the time. I hadn’t ever tried to traditionally publish or query or seriously get an agent at the time, either. I did it for the pure love of the craft.
I think I’ve said all this stuff before. I loved self-publishing my novella, but it was a lot of freaking hard work. Notice I’m not self-publishing my other two novellas now that I have a traditional publisher. This is not because I don’t like self-publishing, nor because I think traditionally publishing is inherently better than self-publishing. It’s simply because I could not do both without going crazy and killing myself with the stress and work. If that doesn’t tell you something, I’m not sure what will.
I feel like it’s important that writers don’t delude themselves about why they would pick self-publishing over traditional publishing. Both are something to take seriously, and both are something you can’t do well without a lot of hard work and talent and sacrifice.
How do you feel about all this recent squabbling back and forth between which is better? Do you think it’s purely a personal decision? Are you considering the self-publishing route?