Fred over at “The Truth About Writing”: has written his opinion on the merits of self-publishing – and he raises a good point. Here’s my take on the subject:

The biggest detractor I’ve heard about self-publishing is the fact that 90% of self-published authors are hacks – folks who really don’t know how to write to save their lives. The rubber really meets the road when a lot of these authors are some of the most arrogant folks you’ll ever meet who think their novel is the best thing since sliced bread – and who will ridicule and berate you for not agreeing.

Personally, I’ve always been pretty split on self-publishing. On the one hand, it’s true that a lot of folks who probably shouldn’t be published because they actually can’t write go this route, making for a lot of terrible books to weed through. But on the other hand, I don’t see why self-publishing can’t be used as a viable alternative to getting books published, if you can write something that’s quality and that readers will actually enjoy. In those cases, the biggest advantage to going through a “traditional” publishing house is that they do all the publishing and promotion legwork for you. But if you don’t mind do a lot of your own sweat-work, then self-publishing certainly seems like a viable alternative.

What are your thoughts on the topic?

9 thoughts on “Self-Publishing”

  1. Thanks for linking to my article.

    True, a lot of self-published authors are hacks…but then again, a lot, and I mean a lot, of published authors are hacks. I can’t tell you how many poorly edited, contrived novels, I’ve slogged through.

  2. A fair point, Fred. In theory, the editors are supposed to weed out the hacks, but that obviously doesn’t always happen.

    If you get a chance, Fred, would you ming looking in your moderation or spam folder for a trackback? I was hoping that linking to your article would leave one in lieu of a full comment, but that doesn’t seem to have happened for some reason.

  3. Does your definition of self-publishing include things like podcasting a novel, serialized audiobooks (, or Cory Doctorow like authors who routinely “publish” their work online?

    What about LuLu – I have no direct exp with them myself but their business model is a good one, I think they split 80/20 with authors (80 going to the author) with no upfront costs.

    These days I think the world of podcasts, podiobooks and POD houses like LuLu are better alternatives than “traditional” brick & mortar Vanity Presses.

  4. But podcasts and podiobooks don’t make the author money. That’s the only drawback to that. I appreciate guys like Doctorow who make their work freely available, but they also do that with the expectation that folks will then _buy_ their books. Like I said, though, I don’t necessarily think that there’s anything wrong with self-publishing, but there are huge advantages to traditional presses.

  5. @Jim

    I guess podcasts and podiobooks don’t give a big payday upfront, but there are donation mechanisms in place. I for one always donate when I grab content that is freely available and like it. Nothing is more infuriating when I go pay $8 for a paperback and end up tossing it after 50 pages.

    Also I think alot of the authors taking advantage of online avenues to get their work out there do so with an expectation that (a) folks will buy their books as you point out, but only if there is a book out there to buy, and/or (b) if they are an unpublished author, that someone will notice them.

    Take Scott Lynch for example, and the Lies of Locke Lamora. That started out as something that was put online a little at a time until someone read it, liked it and offered him a book deal.

    I think I may be dragging my comments off in a different direction than your original post though, so off I go…


  6. I plan to self-publish, because I can’t fathom giving up 75% to someone who contracts out the book cover, sends my manuscript to the printing press, and maybe lists the book in a few catalogues. At best they’ll get my book into the major bookstore chains, where it will likely collect dust until they decide to stop printing it, and since they hold the rights to printing it then the fruits of my labor will be null and void.

    I don’t think sweating a little to put the book out yourself is too great of a tradeoff, considering you do it right and get an ISBN, get listed in Books In Print so that you can at least create the opportunity to be carried in major chains — which is difficult to do if you don’t have a UPC, barcode, or ISBN.

    The biggest problem with most self-published books is that they don’t have these things, they’re seldom better than a book you printed and bound yourself in your own home. While a product is a product, I think if you plan to self-publish you have to be willing to do everything a real publisher would do, if not more because it’s your book and in your interests to promote it. That said, it’s in your interest to promote it whether you self-publish or are published by a publishing house.

    That brings me to my final point, which is this; If you’re going to have to bust your butt, hit the pavement and promote your book either way, then what are you paying the publisher 75% for? Hiring a printer?

    Traditional publishers are for the people who want to use the existing infrastructure, and not have to deal with the hassle of doing things themselves. I think the only real question in deciding to self-publish or not is to ask yourself whether you’d enjoy doing the work or not?

    It’s my product, literally a piece of me — so I don’t mind doing the work.

  7. I should add that… with self-publishing you can always bring it to a big name publisher at some point in the future if you want to… so self-publishing keeps your options open.

    It’s not so certain that the reverse is true… once a publisher holds the rights to your book, you no longer have control unless there’s some kind of expiration date on the contract and the rights revert back to you. I’d say if you do go the traditional publishing route, make sure you aggressively negotiate your contract so that if the publisher loses interest in keeping your book in print, or loses interest in keeping it in stores, that you can cut your losses with them, get your book back and shop it elsewhere or publish it yourself.

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