Here we go, Part 2 of cutting down the common reasons why I hear people self-publish and why I think they’re bad reasons. And then I’ll tell you why I decided to go the self-publishing route myself.
“I just want my story out there”
Why? If your reason is so that other people can enjoy it as much as you do- then wouldn’t you want to go the route that has guaranteed distribution and you can just send it away into the world for hundreds or thousands or millions of people to enjoy? Is it so that a select group of people can read it and enjoy it or learn from it, like a memoir. Not everyone can relate to your life story- maybe you just want the few people who do can know that they aren’t alone. Maybe you want only your family to be able to purchase it, or people who are in your industry. Why do you want it “out there”? Where IS “out there”? I can’t answer that for you, and I don’t pretend to know if self-publishing is the best way to get it there.
“I’m a control freak”
Well, let’s hope that you are naturally THE single most talented writer ever and also that you have the magical ability to make everything perfect on the first try. Maybe you’ve heard horror stories about publisher who want to change EVERY aspect of a story and demand a rewrite from the author. In the traditional publishing world, there’s not actually anyone holding a gun to your head telling you that you MUST make these changes or they’ll pull the trigger. You ARE allowed to negotiate or say no to a contract. If you’re really a control freak, these are skills you’ve likely already developed anyway. In self publishing, you’ll also need to be a whiz with text formatting and Photoshop and know the legalities of using images, lyrics, templates, etc. You need to know everything about everything to be a control freak, or put out a really sad product.
“I’m bad at writing outlines/synopses/queries”
just cut out the specifics and you’re saying “I’m bad at writing”. If you can’t be bothered to figure out what the agent or publisher is looking for, then you aren’t putting in part of the work required to get there. If you’re bad at these things, how are you going to write your back cover copy and your “product description”? Or do you think that people will buy your book based on title alone? This is another way of saying “I’m lazy!” and no one wants to read a lazy book. Besides, there are people you can pay to do these things for you anyway.
“I’m a writer, I’m shy, I don’t want to deal with people.”
You need to market yourself or you’ll never surpass 50 sales. if you don’t market yourself you couldn’t GIVE away 50 copies unless you are the single most talented writer on the planet AND the single biggest public figure happens across it and loves it SO much that they shout your books praises from the highest rooftops. And by rooftops I mean social media. I’ve seen the social media of some writers who MUST be SO painfully shy and human-averse that they haven’t even asked anyone they know to follow them. This is actually a really good reason NOT to self-publish as the number of people you absolutely MUST deal with in the traditional publishing model is pretty small, while the number of people you really ought to be dealing with as a self-publisher is… all of them.
I didn’t choose self-pub life, self-pub life chose me.
I’ve pretty heartily shot down every excuse I’ve mentioned- in addition to calling them out AS excuses, but I still chose self publishing, without even landing in someone’s slush pile just to wait for a rejection. I haven’t been traditionally published, and I’m okay with the possibility that I may never be. Why?
1. You have to market yourself and write all your own copy ANYWAY. Traditional publishers aren’t paying to have your headshots done, or your business cards made up. They may or may not get some free copies into the hands of some people who may or may not actually leave a review. They probably aren’t booking you on radio shows or blog hops or getting you in the paper. They aren’t throwing you a launch party and creating a special hashtag just for you. They aren’t creating your presence and managing it so that people want to read your NEXT book. Once upon a time, the publishing house would manage all of these things, but that’s not the case anymore. If your book gets the publicity, that doesn’t mean there is any additional support for the author. If you want someone to create a custom prize for a great big new-release giveaway you’d better hunt them down yourself. If you want to do a reading at your local bookstore- you’d better call them yourself. You’re putting out the money and the effort for marketing yourself no mater which way you go.
I want to remain in control
This is far from being a control freak. I want to approve the cover art and any editing that is done. I want it to be MY vision that shines through, but I AM having a graphic design artist come up with the cover and execute it (with my approval and input) and I AM having it edited (but I will accept or reject each change). I’m not a control freak, I want the people helping me to know “me” and to let that come across. I want what lands in YOUR hand to be the best possible incarnation of MY book. Not something that started out as my story with some cookie cutter cover and edited to an inch of it’s life.
There’s no security in it anyway
I noticed something on my bookshelf this morning. I had “Your Baby’s First Year” (non fiction about a babies first year and how to handle it) sitting next to one of the “Odd Thomas” books (urban fantasy about a guy who sees dead people) next to Game of Thrones (the kind of fantasy with kings and magic and lots and lots of torture and death). These books seem to have almost nothing in common but they share a publisher. On the other hand, We’ve got a shelf of Stephen King books, and there is a spectrum of publishers represented. No one but the publisher (and Stephen King, I’m sure) cares who is publishing the newest Stephen King book. The reader is going for the WRITER, not the publisher. The publisher, on the other hand, might throw your second novel on the slush pile (or under it) if they haven’t seen a HUGE success with your first. Even if it has been successful, they can toss it out because it doesn’t happen in the same world- or because it DOES happen in the same world, or because it isn’t the “paranormal military motorcycle thriller tragedy romance featuring an alligator and a donut shop” that they’re looking for.
My opinion is that the traditional publishing model is becoming the new vanity publishing. You’re asking someone who isn’t your readers to validate your writing and tell you it’s “good enough”. With sites like Goodreads, and ratings on the distributor websites (like Amazon), the readers, once you attract them, will let you know very quickly and efficiently if you’re good enough. Your writing group, critique partner/s and editor/s should let you know before that if your book is “good enough”. I wouldn’t have felt this way a few years ago, but times they are a’changing.
What do you think? Am I too harsh? Are my excuses to…. excuse-ey? Did you self-publish, or not self publish? Is this a whole new world for you? And if you wrote something you’d like to plug- leave it in the comments!