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Author Topic: Why I don't generally recommend self-publishing.  (Read 17482 times)

Offline m3mnoch

Re: Why I don't generally recommend self-publishing.
« Reply #15 on: August 07, 2015, 04:19:01 PM »
dammit.  sorry.  one more.

this list:
http://www.amazon.com/Best-Sellers-Kindle-Store-eBooks/zgbs/digital-text/154606011

the large majority of those titles are self-published.  basically, anything on the list selling for $4.99 or less.

Offline Not Lu

Re: Why I don't generally recommend self-publishing.
« Reply #16 on: October 31, 2015, 07:19:50 PM »
I'm going to go the other direction here. Although Marc makes excellent points about the time and effort that go into publishing and marketing a book, he misses the point entirely. "Who" publishes the book just doesn't matter. Only two things matter:

1. Quality of the work
2. Marketing

Why? Books are mostly sold two ways:

1. Quality of the work
2. Word of mouth (which includes reviews)

Marc is correct that it's a lot of work to get the quality of your book up to publishable standards. It's even harder to market a book correctly. But, that doesn't mean you need a publisher to do it for you...assuming they'd buy and market a book that isn't high quality.

Tebakutis gave a great outline of things a new author should cover to get their work up to par. But an author should follow that plan regardless of their intent to submit the work to an agent, a publisher, or self publish. An agent or publisher isn't going to fix your work...they'll simply reject it. A publisher might pay for an editor, but you should probably have paid an editor $50 or $100 to edit a sample of your work anyway (so you can be certain of proper grammar and have clean copy to send to an agent or publisher). Cover design is paid for by the publisher. If you self publish it'll cost you several hundred for original art with design. If you give the work to a publisher it'll cost nothing up front, but thousands over the long run if your book is successful. Same with marketing, you can hire it out or have the publisher do it for much more money.

Essentially, what I'm trying to illustrate is that the only difference between a book that is traditionally published and self published is who takes the risk...you or the publisher. If you believe you have high quality work and a modicum of managerial skills (to hire an editor, cover designer, marketer), you should take the risk yourself and spend the money to self publish.

Another thing that should be taken into consideration is that the "book selling" industry is changing. Author Earnings is doing some excellent work on dissecting sales numbers. I'm sure a lot of you have read in the press that eBook sales have gone flat. This was based on a report done by the Association of American Publishers which stated that their 2015 sales have fallen 6% from the year before. What this report doesn't say is that sales from indie and self published books is growing rapidly. Here's a snippet from the Author Earnings September report.

Quote
In the 18 months between February 2014 and September 2015, the Association of American Publishers (AAP), whose 1200 members include the “Big Five”: Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Hachette — have seen their collective share of the US ebook market collapse:

    From 45% of all Kindle books sold down to 32%
    From 64% of Kindle publisher gross $ revenue down to 50%
    From 48% of all Kindle author net $ earnings down to 32%

The eBook market is leaving the big publishers. That means less money for them to finance new projects. Which in turn means less chance they'll publish you. Do you want to stake your career on a dying industry? Or would you rather make a bet on yourself?

Offline Raptori

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Re: Why I don't generally recommend self-publishing.
« Reply #17 on: October 31, 2015, 07:27:17 PM »
the only difference between a book that is traditionally published and self published is who takes the risk
In a sense you're right, but there's also another big difference: if you're traditionally published people will assume that your work is of at least acceptable quality, whereas if you're self-publishing people will need more persuasion to give it a go. In such a crowded marketplace, and in a culture where most people have a ridiculously short attention span, that difference in perception is a not insignificant advantage.
I wish the world was flat like the old days, then I could travel just by folding a map.

Offline Not Lu

Re: Why I don't generally recommend self-publishing.
« Reply #18 on: October 31, 2015, 07:41:00 PM »
Quote
In a sense you're right, but there's also another big difference: if you're traditionally published people will assume that your work is of at least acceptable quality, whereas if you're self-publishing people will need more persuasion to give it a go.

Excellent point. A self published author has to find a way to market their books in a way that proves their worth first. Then with that trust build an audience. A traditionally published book has the publishing house vouch for the work, but the author still has to build the audience from there. More risk for the self published author, but potentially more reward if they can build an audience of loyal readers.




Offline Raptori

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Re: Why I don't generally recommend self-publishing.
« Reply #19 on: October 31, 2015, 07:53:37 PM »
Quote
In a sense you're right, but there's also another big difference: if you're traditionally published people will assume that your work is of at least acceptable quality, whereas if you're self-publishing people will need more persuasion to give it a go.

Excellent point. A self published author has to find a way to market their books in a way that proves their worth first. Then with that trust build an audience. A traditionally published book has the publishing house vouch for the work, but the author still has to build the audience from there. More risk for the self published author, but potentially more reward if they can build an audience of loyal readers.
Yeah definitely - and that's another thing, as self-pub you have to start building your audience from nothing, whereas the traditional publishers can get their new authors' names out there to their existing audience.  :-\
I wish the world was flat like the old days, then I could travel just by folding a map.

Offline m3mnoch

Re: Why I don't generally recommend self-publishing.
« Reply #20 on: November 03, 2015, 01:28:09 AM »
the only difference between a book that is traditionally published and self published is who takes the risk
In a sense you're right, but there's also another big difference: if you're traditionally published people will assume that your work is of at least acceptable quality, whereas if you're self-publishing people will need more persuasion to give it a go. In such a crowded marketplace, and in a culture where most people have a ridiculously short attention span, that difference in perception is a not insignificant advantage.

this makes me want to think of 'traditional publishing' more like 'curation services'.

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Re: Why I don't generally recommend self-publishing.
« Reply #21 on: November 15, 2015, 01:19:06 AM »
I am SURE some people self publishing make good money, but I do feel they are the minority.

I am sure some people published by publishing houses make good money, but they too are in the minority.

Offline jefGoelz

Re: Why I don't generally recommend self-publishing.
« Reply #22 on: November 15, 2015, 06:37:07 AM »
I know a guy who quit his job as a pharmacist because he made more than enough money with his self-published fantasy books.
The sense I get is that you can probably make more money self publishing if you'd never be more than a mid-list writer if you conventionally published. Some guys have been successful without much promotion, though the ability to promote your book can be as important as the writing.

Regardless of whether you self-publish or conventionally publish, you probably won't make enough money to quit your day job, unless your needs are very modest or your investment account is pretty flush.

Offline jjwilbourne

Re: Why I don't generally recommend self-publishing.
« Reply #23 on: April 24, 2016, 12:45:23 AM »
About 5 years ago, the general recommendation would be this:
Don't self-publish unless you don't care if anyone reads it.

Today, we live in a very different world.

But first, let's start by saying this: self-publishing isn't new. It's a business model, not a shortcut.

You can open a Dunkin Donuts franchise.
Or you can open your own small Coffee shop.

You don't look down at the small coffee shop owner and say: "You should have applied for that general manager job. You would have had all your infrastructure built. You're a sucker."

When it comes down to it, it's about knowing your "why."
Why are you self-publishing?

If it's because you're looking for a quick buck, it's likely a terrible decision. There's often nothing quick about publishing a book and often few books ever turn a profit. And this isn't exclusive to self-publishing. Traditionally published books often flop even ones that should do well.


Quote
In a sense you're right, but there's also another big difference: if you're traditionally published people will assume that your work is of at least acceptable quality, whereas if you're self-publishing people will need more persuasion to give it a go.

Excellent point. A self published author has to find a way to market their books in a way that proves their worth first. Then with that trust build an audience. A traditionally published book has the publishing house vouch for the work, but the author still has to build the audience from there. More risk for the self published author, but potentially more reward if they can build an audience of loyal readers.
Yeah definitely - and that's another thing, as self-pub you have to start building your audience from nothing, whereas the traditional publishers can get their new authors' names out there to their existing audience.  :-\

Let's work our way through this the way that self-published authors see it:

Does a Traditional deal mean "people" will trust that you are acceptable quality?
Yes and no. It depends who these "people" are and which people are most important to you.

If by "people," you mean "critics," "literary award foundations," and many "professional review mediums," then yes. It definitely makes a difference. And if those are the people you feel are most important for you to gain respect from, by all means DO NOT self-publish.

If by "people" you mean "average readers," then not so much. I doubt that most readers know who publishes the books they read. And why would they? Apart from a few smaller presses who specialize in a very narrow niche of books or styles, the publisher is completely irrelevant. The reader will remember an author's name, however. That is the brand that insures quality, not the publisher's name.

A self-published author may need a bit more persuasion in order to get a reader to try them out. I agree. But, as a self-published author you have the control to persuade. Traditional published authors are tasked to market their own books with their hands tied behind their backs.

There is a misconception that landing a traditional deal means you get a five or six-figure marketing plan, guaranteed. In reality, most authors have to do basically the exact same things that self-published authors have to do. Authors still have to promote their books. They have to build their own fan base. They have to interact with their fans. You don't typically get a team of people to do these things for you. Traditional publishing is not a red carpet.

And to top it all off: you can lose control of your work for life. So if the publisher decides to take it off the market or not promote it at all for years on end, the AUTHOR gets screwed, not the publisher. They have a million other books pulling in revenue.

Again, let's go back to your "why." Before you can decide, you have to decide what success looks like to you.

Why self-publish?
Why traditionally publish?
What will self-publishing give you?
What will traditional publishing give you?

Are you a control freak? Or do you like to hand off work to other people?
Do you like doing multiple parts of a business? Or do you want to keep your hands out of some of the administrative details?
Are you entrepreneurial? Or are you someone who likes to work for a large business?
Do you need to make money as a writer? Or is this purely a hobby? Is it somewhere in between?
Do you need the approval of an organization to feel success? Or do you need the approval of fans to feel success?
Is your book lead gen for a bigger business move or service? Or is your book the primary product?
Are you flexible enough to role with the punches of a changing industry? Or do you want to ignore it all and focus only on craft?
Are you a risk-taker? Or are you extremely risk-adverse?
Are you willing to pay for professional collaborators (editors, cover designers)? Or can you not afford invest in yourself?
Are you an extremely slow writer? Or are you fast enough to meet demand pressures and don't want a larger company slowing you down?
Can you self manage? Or do you need someone to manage you?
Do you have a lifestyle that requires you to have a large income? Or is your lifestyle modest with a low overhead?
Can you make big business decisions and have the wits to pivot when something goes wrong? Or do you need something more straight-forward?

I could go on and on.

Know yourself.
Know your goals.
Know what success looks like to you.
Know and understand the business and be willing to spend months putting in the time to learn how to run a business.

Do what feels right to you.

You can always try it another way.
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Offline Syner

Re: Why I don't generally recommend self-publishing.
« Reply #24 on: May 12, 2016, 07:06:56 PM »
Think article overlooks the fact of how subjective and conflicting the entire traditional publishing world is and from that, builds on why not to self publish. From my experience in query hell for the last year and a half, I have to wonder if some established authors of today would have even made it and if not would have opted to self publish. Saying "because your book was rejected = it's a bad story, put it aside and move onto the next, here is a list of established authors who do that as well," is IMHO not a universal rule. Not doubt that rule, at times, is very sound, but lets be honest, there are some first timer books that were picked up, started a bidding war, went on to get movie and show deals, etc, but read as if they were entirely ignored by an editor or even proof read by the agent, publisher, and writer. If I misinterpreted the article, I apologize.

What I've learned over the course of trying out the traditional route is that an awesomely written query to an abysmally written book will get you noticed, but not the other way around. But I will agree that if one wishes to be rich and famous then self publishing is probably not the route to take.

Saying self publishing stunts progression as an author is also disingenuous as a universal rule. Editors and agents reject your work 99% of the time based off the query or synopsis, both which need to be written better than the book. Granted there are people who will ignore advice when it's given, but when the rejections are, the majority of time, formal, there's not really any advice to ignore. A person needs to be objective regardless, and continue to learn, at whatever it is they do and that is something I think one is either born with or without.

For me, I know my story could be better, but I also know that even if the godliest of editors or an army of beta readers helped me rewrite it, I would still think it could be better.

I'm new here, and not trying to step on anyone's toes or offend, simply offering my opinion. :)

Offline Peat

Re: Why I don't generally recommend self-publishing.
« Reply #25 on: May 12, 2016, 09:19:58 PM »
That said, whenever I see someone say "never self-publish" I have the same reaction when people say "never traditionally publish" (which, believe it or not, I have heard from self-pub authors who are doing extremely well). Both options have pluses and minuses. You, as an author, simply need to understand them.


I too have heard "never traditionally publish". It comes from a friend who said it well before he ever published anything, and is still saying it as he sits at home writing all day. He's not exactly typical but then, neither are the traditionally published authors who sit at home writing all day as well. His logic is that publishers these days simply don't do enough for their percentage.

Would it work for me? I don't know. But I am paying attention to both options, I'll try both within the next five years or so... and I know that 90pc of it all comes down to writing, writing, and more writing...

... and the other 90pc comes down to dumb luck  :P
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Offline marshall_lamour

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Why I don't generally recommend self-publishing.
« Reply #26 on: May 14, 2016, 08:06:44 PM »
I think that, increasingly, self-publishing is a viable first-option. If an author knuckles under to put the work and investment into it, they'd wield more bargaining power if and when they did decide to go the traditional route.

In the end, a book's dissemination is more important than its route of dissemination, and if it's not, I would have to question the value of that work. The two greatest risks an author is likely to take are both signing a contract and, in my opinion, undervaluing their work--the risks of traditional publishing and self-publishing, respectively.

There's this odd notion being popularized that self-publishing,itself, is inherently risky, but it's only as risky as the stakes an author undertakes. If an author stakes their entire livelihood on the success of a book, that's risky with either publishing route. The advice that I wish people would dole out more often is to simply not publish, as both sides of the industry have plenty of fat to trim--plenty of authors with little regard for the craft of writing, let alone the art--and it would better represent the realities we face today.  I think too many people are encouraged to write novels as though it's somehow a healthy mode of self-improvement, then when they finish, they've spent so much time on it (or what they percieve as a lot of time spent) that they think they might deserve some compensation for it or that they might as well cast out and see if anything bites.

On the flipside, if someone is relying on what amounts to a "permission to publish," then maybe they don't have enough heart in their work to make it worthwhile for anyone.  The same can be said of someone whose primary consideration for publishing is sales, which leads many to publish crap within traditional publishing as well as without.  Certainly the ultimate goal for any writer would be to write fulltime, but it's the merit and diligence of their work that should dictate that (and for good or for ill, that work does now include audience engagement for authors of all stripes).

It used to be that many of our greatest writers died before or shortly after reaching a broad enough audience to achieve success--likely due to their publishers' failings--but these days, authors have every opportunity to disseminate their work.  It would be foolish to withold work that you whole-heartedly believe in just because it's been rejected by a business equipped primarily to judge a work's salability, not its merit.  It's the author's own duty to cast a critical eye on their work and decide what's worth publishing and what's not, and after that, it's just a question of how and moreso now that authors are less reliant on publishers.
« Last Edit: May 20, 2016, 04:38:50 AM by marshall_lamour »
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Offline SarahW

Re: Why I don't generally recommend self-publishing.
« Reply #27 on: May 18, 2016, 12:25:39 AM »
I decided to self-publish my first novel. The reason is simple: it doesn't conform to a mono-myth, Satanic Futurism is highly experimental, it's a serialization of a collection of short stories set in the same world. Almost no agent even takes novellas, let alone short stories.

Maybe if someday they took 20,000 to 30,000 words, took experimental subsets of science fantasy, and took serials than maybe I might consider it.

Plus it seems like everyone wants the mono-myth, maybe I'm wrong. I find trying to force short stories that build toward a monomyth is both silly and immensely irritating.

Offline tebakutis

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Re: Why I don't generally recommend self-publishing.
« Reply #28 on: May 19, 2016, 07:29:28 PM »
That said, whenever I see someone say "never self-publish" I have the same reaction when people say "never traditionally publish" (which, believe it or not, I have heard from self-pub authors who are doing extremely well). Both options have pluses and minuses. You, as an author, simply need to understand them.


I too have heard "never traditionally publish". It comes from a friend who said it well before he ever published anything, and is still saying it as he sits at home writing all day. He's not exactly typical but then, neither are the traditionally published authors who sit at home writing all day as well. His logic is that publishers these days simply don't do enough for their percentage.

Would it work for me? I don't know. But I am paying attention to both options, I'll try both within the next five years or so... and I know that 90pc of it all comes down to writing, writing, and more writing...

... and the other 90pc comes down to dumb luck  :P

That's the way to go, I agree. Evaluate your options - my personal operating procedure is to query a number of agents and open submission windows, and then, and only if those people pass, look at self-publishing. For your first book, at least, always exhaust your traditional publishing options first, but don't assume getting shot down means your book isn't good.

I'm currently shopping around a military sci-fi novel that has gotten rave reviews from everyone I've had read it ... around 25 advance readers ranging from casual sci-fi readers, to fellow authors still working on breaking in, to professional published authors. I've also had several editors who passed tell me the book "is absolutely sellable, but just not right for us". Which is encouraging and frustrating. I've workshopped the hell out of the book based on comments from my writer's groups and various advanced readers, and I think it's about as solid as it's going to be.

To date, 34 agents have expressed no interest, with about 20% saying "Thank you, but not for me" and the other 80% not responding at all. I *guess* it could be my query letter, but ... who knows?

Regardless, that (plus the fact that I know traditionally published authors with 3 book deals with big publishing houses who aren't even making enough money to live) means my outlook on traditional publishing is now *another* route, rather than the only route.

With my mil sci-fi book, my last stop is going to be Baen (since they take unsolicited/unagented novel submissions) and then, if they pass, on to self-publish. After all, it went fine with my first book - since self-publishing last year, I've far outsold my numbers with the small press that published it originally.

It used to be that many of our greatest writers died before or shortly after reaching a broad enough audience to achieve success--likely due to their publishers' failings--but these days, authors have every opportunity to disseminate their work.  It would be foolish to withold work that you whole-heartedly believe in just because it's been rejected by a business equipped primarily to judge a work's salability, not its merit.  It's the author's own duty to cast a critical eye on their work and decide what's worth publishing and what's not, and after that, it's just a question of how and moreso now that authors are less reliant on publishers.

Pretty much this. Self-publishing is *not* cheap (as we've discussed, there's a right and a wrong way to do it, and the right way requires you to hire a professional editor and get professional cover art, at minimum) but Amazon, Nook, and other open PoD and e-book platforms make it absolutely viable. Just depends on the route that makes the most sense to you, and which you can afford.

Offline SarahW

Re: Why I don't generally recommend self-publishing.
« Reply #29 on: May 23, 2016, 06:26:41 AM »
Assuming your editor isn't the type to think draft (pick your hundredth draft) is the same as draft one. No, each draft has it's own manuscript killing issues that should be addressed. I've learned better editing by programming in Ruby/Python. The terminal literally won't run if you have a syntax error.

Plus while self-publishing isn't cheap, if you can draw your own graphic novel art you probably should. That's $500/generate your random hundred a page you won't have to spend on someone that flakes out on you. (Negative experience with comic hosting sites.) I've done my own covers for a long time because I have enough drawing ability.

In the real publishing world, if your editor/cover designer/comic artist flakes on you at say Big Two in comics, they might never get that job again.

At least I'm committed to my own work.