As I move forward with my plans for my writing, I continue to contemplate about the virtues of self-publishing and what it means to me. In the past, self-publshing has always been looked at with negativity, as if those who self-publish are impatient and unwilling to follow through with the prescribed process. I challenge this position and give the following thoughts:
Self-Publishing is Lazy!
It has been said on many occasions that self-publishing is for those who are too lazy to go through the process of querying, that they somehow lack the drive and ambition required to go through the vetting process of traditional publishing. In my experience, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Not only have I engaged in the querying process for nearly 6 years, I have been told by numerous agents and publishing professionals that my work is noteworthy, but they are increasingly limiting their selections due to market response. So to say that I chose Self-Publishing because I was lazy is both wrong and offensive. In fact, I find that self-publishing requires a new level of discipline that I had not experienced previously. I have had to go through the process of finding an editor, cover designer, beta readers, and other supports to ensure that the product I am putting out would appeal to readers. These are all services offered through traditional publishing and are generally included when you are contracted. In addition to this, however, is the much more difficult task of marketing, social networking, building a platform, and gaining an audience. This is the core issue that I would like to expand on in a moment. It is also something that authors are finding that they are responsible more and more even if they follow the traditional path.
The purpose of this post isn’t to argue that one path is better than the other, only to point out the misleading fallacies that some would have you believe.
Self-Published Authors are Impatient!
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Granted, some self-published authors are impatient and have released inferior products that are not fit for the paper they are printed on (assuming they are actually printed at all). Ebooks have created a unique market where anyone can publish a book. The unfortunate side-effect of this is that literally anyone can and will publish something into ebook format. Is this to say that every book released by the big publishers are pillars of perfection? Far from it. I can’t tell you how many published books that I’ve read were far worse than the random John Smith novel on Amazon. The point is that a book is a book. It’s only as good as the amount of time the author puts into it, and even then audiences will choose what they like to read. What may be a treasure trove of literary goodness to one person, may be a litany of tragic musings to another. People will judge your work based on what they like to read and their own opinions before they will care who published it. It takes an enormous amount of time to build a following whether you’re traditionally published or not. The difference is that you don’t have the resources of a big publisher to help you. You’re on your own, which means it will take longer for you to see success with your work. So to say self-publishers are impatient is an unfortunate untruth that many believe.
Self-Published Books are Crap!
I will refer to my previous statements on this one. A book is only as good as the amount of time put into it. If an author rushes a manuscript to print days after it’s been written, chances are it’s not going to be a very good novel. I’ve been working on my books for 10 years, honing my writing skills, researching my audience, finding the right fit for releases, and making sure that what I’ve written is what people want. All of this takes time. If you’re unwilling to put the time into it, then perhaps self-publishing is not the right path for you. Putting out works that are rushed and incomplete only hurts the community as a whole. Put your book aside, write another one, talk to some people, find an editor, find some beta readers who are not friends, find a cover artist, take the time necessary to make sure your book is as good as it can be before making the decision to publish.
Self-Published Authors are Defiant!
This statement amuses me the most, as though the decision to self-publish is somehow driven in vanity, that authors just simply would rather shut down the big publishers and take over the industry. Are there some who believe this? Sure. There are also people who believed that the world would end last December. Personally, my decision to self-publish was rooted in much research. The publishing industry is changing. Accept this or don’t. But if you choose to ignore the inevitable, you’re likely to get left behind. Publishers are hesitant to buy books from unknown authors because they want to hold onto as much of their profits as they can. Some would say this is unethical or an excuse for them to control the industry. They might be right, but it’s what businesses do. They’re entire purpose for being is to make money, so of course they are going to do whatever it takes to ensure their bottom line. Over and over I hear that publishers are looking for authors with a platform, writers with a following, a reason to invest in new talent. How can you prove that you have these things if you have nothing out there with which to accomplish these things. Amanda Hocking didn’t write a book and the next day became famous. She put a lot of time into her work and even then was criticized for not putting in enough. But the outcome was clear. She wasn’t chosen because she was an amazing writer, or because she had more talent than anyone else; she was chosen because she had a product that came with a following. She used her resources to prove to a publisher that she was worth the risk (even if this wasn’t a conscious decision at the time).
If you’re even considering becoming a true writer, you have to understand this new market. Publishers don’t want the next J.K. Rowling; they don’t want an unknown author whose books no one cared for, at first. Her story was a fluke and one not likely to be repeated in today’s market. If you want publishers to pay attention, you’ve got to prove that you’re worth the risk. Sure, some people will still get lucky because of who they know or who reads their work. But it still boils down to the same thing it always has, you won’t get noticed if you have nothing for people to read.
That’s the bottom line of why I chose self-publishing. How can I prove to publishers and agents that I’m worth a damn if I have nothing to show for it? I need to build an audience, find a following, foster some fans; but I can’t do that if I have nothing with which to fan the flames.