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Friday, 4 March 2011

Pros and Cons of self-publishing

Self-Publishing Snobbery

 
There's a lot of snobbery in the air when someone mentions self-publishing. A lot of pursed lips and tut-tutting. It's the last resort of a poor writer having been rejected by countless agents and publishers, isn't it?

 
Many think so, sadly.

 
I've read a few SP books and loads of traditionally placed books and have found errors in both. Funny, they are called spelling errors in SP books, but printing errors in books with a publishing house behind them.

 
I suppose I'm biased having written and POD-published my last two books. I regret not finding a decent designer for the Eden but I discovered Jane Dixon for A Proper Charlie who supplies fantastic covers to your design at a great price.

 
Self-publishing, POD, vanity, Indie, whatever you call it is second best but only because you are editor, promoter, and writer all rolled into one neat ball, and being all of those is a lonely and time-consuming business (especially when all you want to do is write!).

 
The real downside is the confidence thing. You always wonder if, because you're ON YOUR OWN, you're good enough. It's always there at the back of your mind.

 
I have made a list of the pros and cons of self-publishing to help you make up your mind.

 
Pros (the Latin word for “for”) 
  1. The author keeps the majority of the profit. 
  2. If you pay for an ISBN number you’ll automatically be on Amazon and other on-line shops. 
  3. No-one can demand you change this or that before publication. 
  4. An excuse to use social networks because you're promoting your book. 
  5. There's no deadline to work to. 
  6. Print on demand (POD) is cheap nowadays. No need to use an expensive vanity press.
  7. POD is easy and straightforward with sites like Lulu or YouWriteOn.com 
  8. No more rejections.
Cons (Con is an abbreviation for the Latin word "contra" that means against.)

  1. There is a lot of prejudice about being a POD/Indie/self-publisher. In the end this may get you down.
  2. You may find the entire process daunting. From the outside it does look difficult.
  3. You’re totally on your own. No-one cares about your book other than you.
  4. Marketing on social networks is one thing, but how are you at giving talks, book signings and getting shops like Waterstones interested in stocking your book?
  5. You risk having your book out in the big wild world with all its faults if you have not properly edited.
  6. Once you’ve self-published landing an agent or publisher with that particular book is very unlikely.
  7. Having a garden shed full of books (if you’ve chose vanity publishing).
  8. Lacking time. You want to write, not chase publicity.

 

16 comments:

  1. Interesting post, Louise. I agree and it's the loneliness of it that puts me off the most.
    There are always snobs, I'm afraid. Even bestselling authors like Dan Brown are vilified by some. But point 6 of your cons, "Once you’ve self-published landing an agent or publisher with that particular book is very unlikely" may not always be true these days. According to The Book Deal there are indications that agents are trawling self-published books instead of the slush pile in search of the Next Big Thing: http://www.alanrinzler.com/blog/2010/09/25/literary-agents-open-the-door-to-self-published-writers/

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  2. Now that's an uplifting link you left, Sandra! Reading it though I see that agents will only want you if you've sold in the thousands and have a hefty platform already.
    Still, it's good to know we aren't being written off, if you pardon the pun!

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  3. Authors these days are expected to do lots of publicity anyway, however they are published. So being self-published may not make very much difference in this respect.

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  4. I think that self-publishing is as legit as regular publishing. For example, I'm going to check out your books this weekend and see if they'd be something I'm interested in. I just want to say something about snobbery and personally, people are going to be snobs about everything from your sexuality to your religion to how much money you make. I say "F*ck Them" and I really do mean that. I've been judged all my life by people who say I'm to fat, too old, not perky enough, whatever. Self-publishing is going to change the world and finally allows an artist to be an artist instead of having to tweak a manuscript to make it more sellable to Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Atheists, kids, girls, women, men, gays, lesbians, Republicans, democrats...you get the picture. Just write what you want and put it out there.

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  5. I have seen and reviewed a fair number of self-published novels and found them to be a very mixed bag. I can think of just one that was outstanding (The Big Story, by Ian Taylor.) Most, sadly, have been mediocre. The most frustrating thing about the books I have reviewed has been the fact that potentially very good stuff has been prematurely published. Spell checking and proof reading are not enough.

    So my advice to would-be self-publishers is have your novel assessed by a professional editor. It need not cost the earth but it could make the difference between "oh no, not another" and "hey, this deserves to get noticed."

    Just don't be in too big a hurry.

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  6. Interesting article. I have some experience of self-publishing but the books I put out were of little literary merit. I actually rejected the interest of a local publisher who offered a deal of 1/3,1/3,1/3 between the retailer, publisher and author. I chose to go it alone and do the whole lot myself, and I'm glad I did.

    I did everything for the book - layout, cover design (very basic but in eye-catching black & white stripes) and publicity, although I did have some help with that last part. I also did my own distribution, which was exciting and filled my days in. I did runs to stock up Asda, Waterstone's etc, but atthe other end of the scale I had pubs and market stalls selling it.

    My first book sold very well (I have been trying to find the best sellers chart for Nov/Dec 2003 to see if I broke in - 30,000 sales in those 2 months may have been enough).

    One frustration came when I was talking to a friend about it. "Oh, vanity publishing?" he said. It was far from that as I knew before I sent it to print that it would be a good seller, hence my rejection of the publisher.

    Self-publishing with a more serious book will be a different ball game altogether, but POD is a great development.

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  7. I follow Alan Rinzler, and even YouWriteon lists some authors that got published after POD the same book. Like I told some people during a speaking engagement, you just have to edit properly and be proud of your work.

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  8. That’s true Rosalie, but at least the author knows someone believes that their book is worthy of publication.

    Michael, I applaud your bluntness and thank you for taking a look at my books.

    Yes, Rob I agree. My first book, Eden, I admit was published before it was ready. I was too eager and somehow thought I needed to rush. A Proper Charlie has been taken through its paces with a proof reader and an editor, yet I’m still nervous when people tell me they want to read it!

    Joe, well done! I don’t think I’d be brave enough to turn down a
    publisher if one offered to published my books!

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  9. Myne, sorry your post popped up after I'd answered the others.

    Yes, you do have be proud. Writing a book IS something to be proud of and you MUST edit and proof it properly that is true. I follow Rinzler. This is great:
    http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/morleyd/entry/how_successful_writers/

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  10. Great posts. I did a pros/con list for both traditional and self pub the other day trying to figure out what route to take. In the end I decided it really doesn't matter because both you have to cross your fingers and hope for the best.

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  11. It is a very worthy topic and well-written Louise. I think each of the authors, who are out of big publishers and literary agencies has been putting much time and thoughts to answer of the questions you brought up.
    I would love if the theme remains opened and if other writers have to say something on the matter you would publish it.
    Best wishes,
    Borislava

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  12. I am thinking about self-publishing... but it is scary. I think the problem can be (and this is my experience with self-published authors) is that they are their own sales people so they can be quite aggressive. I THINK and I am hypothesizing as I write and haven't really had time to process it out-- but I think-- that while you have to sell your own material and that's tough, you're going to have to lay back at a certain point and allow your material to sell itself. In other words it better be good enough to sell. And you better be willing to put it out there to be reviewed. Having watched what one young woman did, put together a poorly written book and then tried to bully reviewers into giving her good reviews, I think it's important to write so that you aren't fighting to keep it out there in spite of it's flaws after you've spent tons of money on it. Does that make sense? Get review copies made, have it reviewed (just like publishers do) be prepared to work on it some more! and then go for the larger print job. I would think that would be possible... otherwise see if you can get reviewers to read a homeprinted version???

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  13. Patricia, for me it was a case of being let down my publishers and agents and going with POD as a matter of rebellion! :) Seriously, I got tired of waiting for that Book Deal and decided to go alone.

    Borislava, thank you. Yes, I love the different views too. I will publish any genuine comment.

    Danette, Yes, I see your point and I have been on the receiving end of some aggressive authors (Hope I’m not becoming one of them!) and it puts me off their work. Books should sell themselves, but the problem with SP is that no one knows your book exists so how can anyone buy it? Sending your book to reviewers is something that any writer should do, but again, a lot of reviewers won’t look at SP books. The world is against us!! :(

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  14. Thanks for this post, Louise. I'm seriously considering self publishing my first book, and the articles I've been reading about changes in the e-market have been quite heartening, from a self-publishing perspective at least.

    But I'm very wary of publishing before the MS is ready - if I read a poorly developed book, there'd be little chance that I'd read any other books by that author. That's why I mustn't let my enthusiasm get the better of me - so I only publish when the novel is ready and not a moment before!

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  15. Hi Cally, yes, just take your time to edit, or better, find someone who'll do it for you. Maybe a beta reader to swap MS?

    Good luck. Let us know when you're published, would love to check it out!

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  16. I know that I am going to be reiterating points here, but it really can't be stressed enough.
    SP authors need to know how to do it properly. Publishing can be an expensive process and you cut corners at your own peril. For me, it's all about info, info, info so that the SP author has realistic expectations for each step along the way: peer reviews, critical manuscript assessment, professional editing, clean design and snappy covers, suitable distribution and a marketing plan. All this would be handled by the Publisher, and it all costs time/money.
    The tower of success is built by individual bricks; depending on how you define your SP success, you will need some or all of them.
    I run a self-publishing company and spend a great deal of time educating and sharing info. www.mousehand.co.za

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