Thursday, October 27, 2011

Is Self-Publishing Giving People A Misconception On Publishing

I have been thinking about this for some time and thought today would be as good a day as any to bring this up. I do know, as I type this, that there will be many of you that think this is a slam against the self-publishing model. Please note, this is in no way a slam, just a perspective.

In recent years, we have seen a huge increase in those self-publishing opportunities for writers. A lot of writers are all diving on these options as a way to A) get published finally; B) get something published that traditional publishers might avoid; and C) to have a chance to learn about the business. It is this last option I really want to look at.

I do believe that a lot of authors who self-publish are missing out on understanding many things that go into a true business approach to publishing. Because they are, in many cases, in complete control of everything about their book or books, they fail to see things that would only come about by working in the traditional model. For example, they may be missing out on a real element of market research. Sure, they can talk to their individual group of close friends and determine if a book will sell, but what about the larger picture. Along the same lines, how is the book adapted to different markets to increase sales.

I would also add that the editorial side of things might also be limited. Having the editors, who are really focused on both content and grammatical issues may be out of the loop if the author is working on their own.

I guess I bring all of this up because I have heard (and read) far too many authors who are self-published teaching other authors methods, skills and what not that really don't work at all. For example, I heard one author at a conference talking about how you would use social media like Twitter and Facebook to pitch your stories to editors. "This is what they like." I later found out that the "publisher" this person worked through only ran operations off of a Facebook account. Now here is the problem. The writers in that room listening to these comments walked away thinking that was what to do. In her case, she had missed out on that education that might have made her a bit more successful with her writing.

Again, please understand that there is nothing wrong with self-publishing. This is certainly an option that may work for you and might be the only approach for your book. With that said, I do believe that whether or not you take the traditional or the self-publishing approach, it is crucial that an author takes the time to really understand the business and the craft. Regardless of the model you use, the skills are all the same.

Just some thoughts.



  1. And that's just one benefit of blogging and paying attention online. Most of us online know not to pitch on Twitter or in a bathroom. :) I never have to read another query letter post because I've read them all and there's nothing new to be said, but if writers don't read they still might make the mistakes. And misconceptions are what happens before we have true understanding.

  2. This actually mirrors exactly what I've been saying and thinking all along. No matter the route the writer takes, he/she needs to be sure the finished product is as polished as possible. If someone wants to self-publish, then I would advise that they hire a professional editor to go over the material before it goes to print. Yes, this would be an additional cost to the writer, but once something is in print and out there to the public, those mistakes are out there publicly. Although I'm not interested in self-publishing (sounds like a looot of work), writers who don't following through and learn the business end of writing only serve to tarnish the image of all self-publishers by producing poor quality books. Cudos to those individuals who learn to walk the walk and talk the talk.

  3. Self publishing means self promotion and self marketing. Not the same things. An Inde author must understand this or their work will bomb. But for some of us, this is the only way to get out work out there.

  4. Anonymous, you are soooo correct with this.

  5. Hi Scott
    I'm glad you posted this today, found you on twitter by the way. I personally am afraid of the self publishing route, well for my first novel that is, When a person is new to writing there are so many things that you need to learn, not only about writing, but also, where do you go once you've gotten your story written. I'm currently working through, writing a synopsis, a query, and a cover letter and with so much to do and think about, I feel it's better the first time at least, to have someone there that knows what they are doing, because I would be totally lost!

  6. AS with anything, there will be people who know what they are doing and people who want.

    There will be those who edit on their own, and those who hire top editors.

    There will be those who self publish because no one else would take their book because it was poorly written, and those who self publish because, though many publishers loved their book, their list was already "full" (complete with referring their MS to other people... after a while, an author might just be tired of being passed around to different agents/editors/departments).

    There will also be those who are happy to only sell a few copies.

    There will be authors who find a stock image and type a title over top, and those who hire professional book cover designers. Some may even go as far as to find ones that the pros have used themselves at some point.

    My thought on this is... the Publishing Houses that have been around are FULL of people who know what they are talking about--that's why they got the job.

    When it comes to self publishing, every "has the job" if they want it. But that's not to say that some of those people won't actually know what they are talking about.

    Some of those people may know how to get their book into B&N, how to target their audience, how to have a book translated and distributed worldwide. Some of them may have "connections".

    Every now and then, a self published author proves this. The problem I see is when a new self-published author things the success "just happened" to those people, and that the success will happen to them, too. It's not that easy.

    I consider myself a pretty passionate person, but I still think it's important to stay balance. All too often, I see indies bashing traditional pubs and traditional pubs bashing indies.

    My thoughts? If anyone is as good as they say, they don't need to bash anyone else. The only reason to put down anyone or try to talk them out of their ways, is if you feel like they are competition that needs eliminated.

  7. I find this fascinating, too. I self-publish, and the learning curve for marketing is one of my big puzzles at the moment.

    I don't see (or hear a lot about) large publishers doing marketing. I know they must, but I don't see the process--other than to go, "X book published in Y year sold Z copies," that is, doing sales comparisons.

    The other end of the marketing process--getting books into markets and getting them reviewed and written about by big reviewers--seems to be set up to filter out self-published books at the moment, but I see that changing, just as the definitions of what constitutes a bestseller changes.

  8. One of the biggest problems that self-publishers face is getting reviewed alongside their traditionally published peers - and therefore accessing the widest audience possible. No matter how well produced the book, or how expert the writer, this seems to be the final frontier that indie publishers can't cross. Unless you know of anywhere, Scott!