I had a family member ask me recently whether I had considered self publishing my novel, instead of going to all the trouble of finding a traditional publisher. I have thought a lot about this – and I have a number of reasons, even aside from the reasons I have never bought a self published book. This isn’t about which is better, it’s about what I want and what’s best for me.
I do better being managed.
I’m not a terribly self motivated person, but I work well under pressure. Give me a deadline, and I can make that deadline. Just tell me what you need me to do.
Self publishing, I’d have to manage myself, and I suck at that. As John Scalzi mentioned in his article on Amanda Palmer and her indie Kickstarter project, “This is particularly the case when it comes to writers, artists and musicians, who are famously complete shit at working through their finances anyway, but who are also, through Kickstarter tiers and through encountering production costs that were previously handled by other people, wading into financial waters they often know next to nothing about.” The same thing goes for self publishing. Traditional publishing has a system all worked out for pumping out books – they know how it works and how to usher an author through the process.
I don’t, and if I self publish, then I have to learn a huge ton of crap that I’m really not good at handling.
Self publishing is a lot of work that takes away from writing time.
Why go to the trouble of finding a traditional publisher, when I can just self publish?
Even I know self publishing is not the easy way. Self publishing means doing one hundred percent of the manuscript preparation, distribution, and marketing for my books. That’s a frelling ton of time that I could be spending writing. That’s why traditional publishers existed – because it frees up writers to do what they do best – write.
I know that self publishers who have been successful have had to put massive amounts of time and effort into getting their books out there, and getting the word out. I know I’ll still have to put a decent amount of effort into the marketing side of things myself, but to be completely responsible for everything, my productivity would suffer.
I wan the legitimacy that traditional publishing gives.
Adam Heine made a clever analogy on his blog today, about wanting to finish the game on the hardest setting. There’s definitely that for me. I want to be able to say that someone besides myself was willing to put their reputation on the line and say that I wrote a book that’s worth paying money for. That I was ready to be published, not an author with potential, putting their book out there too early because when I’m self publishing, no one can tell me it’s not ready.
But honestly, even more than that, I don’t want the responsibility of trying to convince readers that I’ve written a book good enough to pay money for, despite the lack of legitimacy that the traditional publisher provides. I don’t want the responsibility of convincing potential readers that my self published book isn’t like the others that they’ve heard about, the nightmares of grammar that should never have seen the light of day. People have tried to convince me. If I haven’t been convinced, how can I convince anyone else to give me a chance?
I know traditional publishing is on uneasy ground right now. With people predicting big three will to put the big six out of business, sure, that scares me. I think self publishing, or some form of it, will eventually find a way to gain more legitimacy via some way of filtering out the books that are of poor quality. There isn’t one yet, but I really think someone will come up with something eventually. But I think when the dust settles, there will also still be a system that allows writers to just write, without having to manage the publishing end of things, and that’s really what I want for myself.
I’m glad you posted this, Lindsay. Wow… I don’t know where to begin. I just feel compelled to comment, which is a good thing!
I agree with your decision to try to get a traditional book deal–but not for the reasons you listed. I think that if you are capable of getting a book deal (meaning that you have access to an agent or publisher, your book is marketable, etc.) then you should certainly try to get a book deal. You just might be one of the lucky ones who can get a big advance, press coverage, etc. I personally know an author who, with his FIRST novel, got a high six-figure book deal, a great review in The New York Times, and has his book prominently displayed in bookstores. It happens! So, you should definitely try to get a book deal. HOWEVER…
If you cannot get a book deal because agents/publishers feel it isn’t marketable and you KNOW that your book does have a market, then after getting AT LEAST
Sorry- I accidentally hit “reply.” As I was saying, after you get at LEAST 30 rejections, you should seriously consider self-publishing your book. Why? You wrote your book so that it could be read. Don’t let it sit on your computer and die. Self-published is better than not published. This brings me to a few more things…
First, getting a book deal doesn’t validate you as a writer. I used to think this, too. For many years. And the silly thing is that I am a highly experienced writer with bylines in leading publications, from The New York Times to The Writer and Writer’s Digest. Yet, I still thought that a book deal would somehow validate me. Then, one day I happened to look at all the crappy books that actually get published. Please, go to your local bookstore and just look at the crap that gets published. Getting a book deal only means that the writer got a book deal. Think of all the great books that were self-published. Think of all the great books and classics that were rejected by publishers. Forget about the great books, even Harry Potter was rejected by 13 publishers– or more! (This is why I said that you should get at least 30 rejections before self-publishing.) A book deal does NOT validate you.
Second, if a self-published book is crappy, don’t blame self-publishing–blame the author. I self published my first nonfiction book and I paid someone to edit it. The editor I used, Melanie Rigney, was the Editor in Chief of Writer’s Digest magazine. (I chose her because she accepted the first article I pitched to WD magazine and I liked the way she edited my piece.) Just because a book is self-published, doesn’t mean that it has to be full of errors and flaws. Again, many classics were self-published including Ulysses. Modern books like Grisham’s A Time to Kill and the nonfiction bestseller In Search of Excellence were first self-published.
Finally, I hate to break this to you, but if you are fortunate enough to get a book deal, you will have to do the bulk of the marketing and publicity work yourself. I’m not saying this-this comes from the mouths of agents, publishers, etc. (Please visit my site, http://www.boscafelife.com and read some of my interviews. Search on “Janet Reid” and “Lynn Price.”) Even if you get a big book deal, do you realize how many radio shows, TV talk shows, in person book signings, and readings you will have to do? My apologies… I made one big assumption: I’m assuming that you want to be full-time author. If you don’t want to be a full-time author, then you don’t have to bust your butt marketing and selling your books. BUT… if you do want to try to be a bestselling author or just a full-time author, you will have to spend a lot of time and energy on publicity and marketing. You must convince people that your book is different and worth spending money on. This is just the reality of being a full-time author.
I could go on, but I’ll stop here. Let me end by saying, again, that I am truly glad that you posted this. You made me stop, think, and write — which is always a sign that a blog post is good.
Good luck with your writing, and remember: don’t stop until you get at least 30 rejections from agents/publishers!!
Thanks for your thoughts, I definitely do want to be a full time writer, and I actually don’t think that 30 rejections is really that many, when it comes to searching for an agent. Many very good books, and very successful books were rejected more than that.
I’m completely aware of the fact that authors do need to put a lot of work into publicity, and honestly, nothing you’ve said here is new information to me – I hadn’t mentioned most of it because I had thought it common knowledge. But there’s more to marketing that publicity – there’s connections with booksellers and distribution systems that traditional publishing opens the doors to, rather than the self-published authors who have to fight or cajole their way into getting their books on bookstore shelves. That’s not something I would cope with well, and I would never be successful at it.
You’re right that self-publishing doesn’t make a book bad – I went over this in the previous post I linked to – here it is again: https://lindsaykitson.com/2012/02/15/why-i-have-never-bought-a-self-published-book/
Also, I’m a little confused at your comment that traditional publishing not validating one as a writer. I’m curious, what definition of validation are you working with here? The point I was trying to make, if it wasn’t clear, was not that traditional publishing means that I’m a good writer, but that traditional publishing will make it easier to convince my intended audience that I’m a good writer.
Self publishing is in its infancy, traditional publishing is in transition.
Until the dust settles, I’m heading for traditional publishing for many of the reasons you shared with us.
Thanks for your consice observations!
Good luck with your own writing too 🙂
Brilliant post. In my experience, one of the dangers of self-publishing, for a writer, is that the focus shifts from the act of writing to the activities involved with being published. Even worse, writers stop writing altogether while they are marketing a self-published book. There are no shortcuts. Writing takes a lot of time. I’ve been writing for 20 years, with a long gap in the noughties when my kids were tiny, and I’m happy that my publications in anthologies, radio broadcasts and performances of work have all been chosen (and paid for) by somebody else. I’m not rich (if I wanted to be rich I wouldn’t choose writing as a profession). I’m not famous. And I’m not kidding myself. Thanks for a terrific topic and some great contributions on here.
Thanks for your comments, it’s nice to see I’m not the only one thinking about this. I can see that it would be a lot of work – I have a day job already – I’ll hold onto it until I can live off writing, if that ever happens, but self publishing would take up so much of my writing time – as it is, I’ve given up pretty much all of my hobbies to focus on writing.
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Reblogged this on A Belated Existence and commented:
Been quiet of late, I know, preoccupied with the novel I have just finished and cannot decide what (if anything) to do with. This post, however, eloquently explains why I have ruled out one seemingly obvious option… Point three particularly chimes with my own thoughts:
“I want to be able to say that someone besides myself was willing to put their reputation on the line and say that I wrote a book that’s worth paying money for. That I was ready to be published, not an author with potential, putting their book out there too early because when I’m self publishing, no one can tell me it’s not ready.”