Self Publishing As A Religion

And a missionary religion at that.

There’s a phenomenon that I’ve observed. Or maybe I should say “had shoved down my throat.” This is definitely not true of, or directed at *all* self published authors, but there is a subsection of them that are…annoying.

They are the ones that find some way of getting your attention, either by compliment, or otherwise expressing interest in your writing, and then the second thing they say is “Have you considered self publishing?”

Do you have a moment to talk about our Lord and Savior, Amazon, and their Great Plan for us, Kindle Direct?

Because if you’re not self publishing, you are obviously unaware of the glorious benefits of being in complete control of the publishing process. Because if you knew, you’d agree with them, right? And no matter how you explain that yes, you’ve considered all your options, and after careful deliberation decided that self publishing was not the best option for you, they  will conclude that you be misinformed in some way – you must be, otherwise you’d agree with them. No other possible explanation.

They will remind you that traditional publishing doesn’t guarantee quality, no matter how many sub-par self published books you tell them you’ve read. They’ll tell you the publishers are just out to screw you out of your money. They’ll explain that a good editor will make sure the book is ready for publication and that it’s just as well edited as any traditionally published books. And publishers don’t even market books these days you know.

And when you tell them, thank-you, but not interested, they get that tone like the Jehova’s Witnesses telling you that they’ll be sad to see you go to hell, and say, too bad, sad to see a book like yours that will be years before it gets into the hands of readers. If it ever gets published at all.

Why do they do this? Is there some pyramid scheme where Amazon gives them a commission for suckering people into KDP? They’re not even trying to sell you *their* book – they’re trying to convince you to self-publish *yours*. They don’t benefit from it at all. There’s only one explanation that I’ve been able to come up with.

They’re insecure. They’re worried they’ve made the wrong decision, so they try to convince others to join them to reassure themselves that they’re okay.

Don’t be that author.

And by “don’t be that author” I don’t mean don’t self publish. I mean, don’t treat it like a religion that you need to convert people to your way of doing things. Don’t self publish your book until you’re so confident that it’s ready for the public that you won’t need validation from fellow authors of your decision.

I’ve put a lot of work into my writing. When I talk to some writers, they’ll say oh, I’ve been working at this so long – it’s been like three years I’ve been writing. Or a year, or five years. So they know they’re ready to be published. They’ve put in their time. I’ve been writing since I was fourteen. That’s about sixteen years of developing my craft. And maybe a year or three years is enough for some people to hone their craft to the equivalent of traditionally published authors. But looking at most of the self published novels I’ve read at this point, more often that they think, it’s not. And people like the aforementioned make me think they know it, and they just desperately don’t want to admit it.

I know self published authors who were ready, and who self published for the right reasons. I’m not going to go into what the right reasons to self publish are – there’s tons of that on other blogs. But look at your work and take a step back and really ask yourself, are you doing it because you’re impatient? Are you doing it because you know it’s not good enough for an agent to say yes, but you’re tired of developing your craft and just want to get to the part where people pat you on the head and tell you it’s wonderful? Make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons, and you won’t sound to others like you regret it.


10 responses to “Self Publishing As A Religion

  1. It’s a fair point. Personally, I’d like to be able to have a mix of commercial and self published work, and for the distinction to be a bit of a non-issue.

    I’ve just come back from a writers week where I spoke on the subject of ‘how to self-publish your ebook’. My presentation would not be complete without a nod to commercial publishing – and by nod I mean emphasising the fac that commercial publishing is still the best option for most people, for most of their work, if they can find a publisher.

    • And most people who self publish are fine, it’s just almost creepy when someone starts pounding their print-on-demand bible and disregards or denies any reference to the downsides of self-publishing. And acts like you clearly know nothing about it, or you’d agree with them, and just won’t give it up, and you just wonder “Why? What are they getting from this other than chasing the impossibility of proving that traditional publishing is a bad deal?”

  2. I have to admit I have had these same thoughts many times. I’m from the Caribbean–I can’t afford to self-publish. There’s no traditional publishing for commercial fiction here either. So I made the decision to go with a small press. And I get those same looks although my terms are much better than with a traditional publisher. Look, I’m sorry but I’m not a cover artist, copy-editor or marketing person. I’m a writer. I’m willing to part-time some of the above, but don’t try to tell me I’ll do just as good a job as someone who gets paid for it. I know my limits and I operate within them, so I made the best decision for me. No idea why some zealots don’t accept that.

    I think self-publishing is a valid and wonderful choice. But it IS a choice. Not a default position everyone would take if they just knew all the facts. I know all the facts. It’s not for me. Feel free to carry on in a way that’s best for you. I’ll be sure to buy your book if it’s up my alley, regardless.

    • Yeah, there’s some significant startup costs to self publishing, and I can’t afford that either, and I’m not going to beg editors and artists to give me services for free – anyone who would do a good enough job deserves better than that. I wish these pontificators would quote me their sales profits (minus startup costs, of course) instead – it would be so much more convincing.

  3. But Lindsay! Don’t you want to bask in the Glory of the divine self published light?

    I have heard that it works for some, but it’s not an end all. However, and I have heard this echoed by local, self-published writers, it does not excuse you from mediocre writing. The fact that they’re not trying to sell their book – I don’t know how it works in Canada, though I’m positive it’s the same in the US – but every writer I’ve spoken with continue to say you market your book. Even if it’s a conference on how to sew dieselpunk attire for the squirrels at the park, you plug your novel.

    Based off some of the self-published stuff I’ve attempted to read, I would say you nailed it with not wanting to further develop their crafts.

    • And I’m not even complaining about the quality – the quality is what it is. What drives me nuts is the authors who are in abject denial of the average quality of a self published novel, and try and convince me otherwise. It’s an uphill battle, and as long as there are no gatekeepers, and authors are responsible for their own quality control, it will continue to be an uphill battle, convincing readers your book is different from all the other self pubbed train wrecks they’ve seen or heard about.

      Traditionally published novels get more reviews, and the reviews are more likely to be written by someone who doesn’t feel bad for the writer and obligated to write a glowing 5-star review for something that doesn’t deserve it. I’ve looked at self pubbed authors reviews on good reads, and observed an author rating many books 3-4 stars, but anything that looked self published was rated 5 stars. That makes me distrust reviews of self published books, and makes it even harder to sift out the good ones from the sub-par.

  4. I don’t give a rat’s ass whether someone is self-published or not, but I’ve yet to have a traditionally published writer try to convert me.

    I can’t help but wonder, though, how many of the self-publishing proselytizers are technophobes.

    “OMG there’s this thing called the Internet and if you bother to figure out how to use computers you can do STUFF! I had no idea until I tried it! Did you know you can read books on your PHONE?! I never even thought of doing things on the Internet till someone told me about it so now I have to tell everyone else about it in case they don’t know! No really, you don’t understand how cool this is!”

    It’s possible that the reason they’re so zealous is that they’re stupid. 😛

    • Yeah, but that’s just more “You obviously didn’t know about this or you’d be doing the same thing I am.” Which is terribly arrogant, to assume that everyone around you is less informed and intelligent than you are. Or maybe it’s a man thing – women usually approach things with feeling out how much the other person knows about the topic because they don’t get away with acting as arrogant as men often do.

  5. It’s an intersting take. I’ve often wondered about this attitude from self-published authors myself, because it’s really quite apparent.

    A friend of mine, who means to self-publish and knows I’m not going to – at least at the moment – told me there is a different way for everyone. It doesn’t mean one way is right and the other is wrong, it’s just that something is good for me and something isn’t. No big deal.
    I agree with her.

    But sometimes self-published authors press the point so hard it’s creepy. And they seem to think no other way is the right way to publish, because trad pub is so old-fashioned, you know, and one should enter the XXI century.
    Maybe self-publishing it’s the future of publishing for real, maybe it isn’t. I don’t know. And honestly, I don’t think self-publsihed authors know either, whatever they might say.

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