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.

3 Reasons Why I’m Not Self Publishing

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.

Why I Have Never Bought a Self Published Book

I’ve been busy with the revision, but a discussion on a forum I watch has brought up some thoughts.

I have never been able to bring myself to buy a self published book. It’s not because I don’t think that there are good books out there – I’m sure there are. I’m sure there are authors out there who are just too adventurous or unorthodox for traditional publishers to take a chance on them, or some other reason they’ve chosen to self publish rather than go the traditional route.

Self publishing doesn’t mean someone’s a bad writer, but it does mean that there’s been no quality control involved in the publication of the book aside from what is under the author’s control. There’s been no one read over it and decide that yes, this is good enough that it won’t ruin our reputation if we publish it, aside from the author. The reader has no guarantee that the author can string two sentences together. Or for that matter, that it’s not a recipe for chili copied and pasted three hundred times.

Again, a self-pubbed book might be a great book, and I think the odds have been getting a little better, that it will be decent, in light of the fact that more authors are getting frustrated with the traditional publishing world, and self-pubbing rather that waste their time with trying to sell to the traditional publishers. The bigger publishers have become less and less willing to take a chance on something (which is why they ended up going wtf when small press book “The Windup Girl” won the Hugo and the Nebula a few years ago.) But it’s that lack of some minimal quality assurance that is the reason I have yet to purchase a self published book.

Apparently there seems to be some people who think that books that are only available in e-book format, are the same thing as self published books. E-pubbed books may be self published, but not necessarily – there’s lots of small presses out there that are taking advantage of the e-book to get books out there. As far as I’m aware, self-pubbed books are not eligible to even be nominated for the hugo awards, but e-pubbed books are. In my mind, that’s a huge jump, but the main thing is that there’s been an editor who’s agreed to put their reputation on the line by putting their brand on that book.

This is the value of brand, in my opinion. Not just the money put into formatting the book and finding an artist to do cover art, and whatever else goes into a book. It’s the same as I tell my customers at work at the day job (internet tech support) – buy Toshiba or Asus if possible, if you’re looking for a good machine that will last, but whatever you do, dear lord, don’t buy a Dell, you’ll be sending it back for repairs before the warranty is out. What a publisher, even a small press offers me, as a reader, is that guarantee of quality, and if I read one book by them and like it, then there’s the promise of similar quality in other books by the same press. That’s valuable, and as a reader, I’m willing to pay more for that, or, for that matter, willing to pay at all.

See, as a reader, that editor is doing me a service aside from the formatting and commissioning a cover artist, and whatever else is involved in putting out an e-book, and that’s possibly more valuable to me than any of the rest. That editor is going through hundreds of manuscripts and picking out the ones that he or she thinks are worth anyone’s time. My time is valuable to me; with the writing I do, most of the time I spend reading is time I could be spending writing, so I’m loathe to waste it on a book that’s not worth reading. And I don’t want to spend hours and hours reading to find out that the ending sucks. I don’t care if it’s free, if I’ve wasted my time not enjoying a book, I’m pissed. It’s not even about the money, it’s about my time. I’ll do that for another writer, if I’m critiquing their work, but the point of that is to get it ready for publication, I’m not reading for enjoyment then. And sure, I’m willing to pay more for that service – for an editor to read sluch for me so I don’t have to sift through hundreds of self published books and go over reviews hoping that the reviews aren’t just posts from the author’s friends and family patting them on the head.

So that’s my reservations as a reader. Next week I’ll do up a post on my reservations as a writer.