Monday, July 18, 2011

Don't Throw In The Towel: E-pub/Self-Pub is Not The Easy Fix

I have found it interesting how many authors out there are forgetting things they have said in the past. You all know that time and time again, I have stressed here on this blog that writing takes time. This is not an over-night success activity. I am also not the only person out there that makes this comment. Other agents, editors and certainly writers have said the same thing. We hear stories of authors with double digit rejections crossing their desks before they make that first sale. We hear stories such as Steve Berry who had to wait until his 13th (I believe) book before being in the right place at the right time to make a sale. And we all argree this is normal.

And yet...

With the rise of all these digitial outlets for authors to move their books from their computers to supposedly the public, I am shocked and amazed at how many of this prior group, especially the writers and the agents, have seemed to throw this idea out and see this digital move as an easy fix. Now, when an author's first manuscript ever receives less than 10 rejections, suddenly people are diving on the digital market.

Oh sure, I am hearing all of these people "justify" their move.
  • "This is a way to get my writing out there to people to build my readership."
  • "But Authors X, Y, & Z did it."
  • "It's not my fault my story is so unique and the publishing world isn't open."
  • "This is the only way a new author can get out there."
Sorry to say it people, but maybe the real issue is to work on improving our writing craft. Maybe your first book really is a piece of garbage. Maybe you do need to learn a bit more about being a writer.

I am really disappointed in many of these people who seem to think that this is a viable option. Again, let me stress, I am in no way saying the e-publishing or self-publishing market doesn't have a place out there. I am also not saying that some stories really do have a limited market (a memoir about your family that you want to publish for your family, a local story that only has a market for those living in your small town, your collection of poety). The only thing I am saying is that I do believe many have forgotten that this all takes time and that first book may not be the right one.

The point is, just because the digitial market for self-publishing or e-publishing is out there does not mean you have to jump on that market just to supposedly make a sale. I am amazed at the number of people out there that seem to jump at the lure of the immediate apparent money offered for these "quick" sales, instead of examing their own writing to improve it.

Simply put - just because it is available does not mean it is the only solution. Maybe we examine that story and call it what it is. This is something that is not a strong piece of writing. This is something we can learn from so it is time to throw it out. Now, let's write something that is worthy of being published.



  1. good points ... that I (we) don't want to hear !! ... but that sad, and real truht is ...
    tom honea: asheville / magnolia

  2. YES!

    I've been wondering about this too. I've ALMOST decided my first MS is NOT going to be my first published. It sits on the back burner and I work harder on the next to make it the best it can be.

  3. As someone who DID go the self pubbed route, I can tell you that I didn't come to that decision lightly. I didn't pub my first manuscript, or even my second. Those are stashed in a drawer somewhere. But *this one* was different. I worked hard on polishing it and not making the same writing mistakes I'd made in the previous mss. When people ask me how to "get into" self publishing I always tell them to try submitting first (when they feel like their mss are ready), and if they are getting rejections, find out why and fix those things. Then submit again. I don't think self publishing is the 'fall back plan' it used to be, and is an incredibly viable option (I chose to do it even after an agent offered to work with me), but I do think you need to have those hard times and rejections in order to learn and grow as a writer and jumping the gun to get every manuscript you crank out out there is a mistake.

  4. Steve Berry gave many of us 'unpubbed' writers at the RWA conference a lot of hope.

    I asked Candice Hern once if it was okay for me to hold out for my dream- a book I could hold in my hands with my name on it. Her opinion was why virtually give away something I worked so hard on for so long.

  5. I completely agree...and this is exactly why I remain wary of self-published books from first-time authors.

  6. This is very good advice - but I'm sure most people looking to self publish will already be polishing their writing to perfection before they go for it.

    I'm an as yet unpublished writer. I've just finished my 2nd novel and am planning to self-publish it eventually.

    This is not something I've decided to do because it is easier - I decided that self publishing was my best option because of the flexibility and level of control it offers.

  7. Thanks for this reminder. My feeling is that if no one wants to publish my novel, it probably because it's not ready to be published...

  8. Great reminder. With all those self-pub hooks dancing around us, it is easy as a first-timer to think, "hey... maybe...", so it's refreshing to get a reality check. Yes, I agree that there are books so unique and so (fill in your favorite adjective) that the author prefers to go the route of self-pub. And who knows, maybe it's the right thing to do for that author. I do believe, however, that especially for first-timers (like me), there's absolutely no glory that compares to having your MS accepted, first by an agent and then by a publisher. There is also no greater learning than all those rejections -- we NEED them. We need to face the "cruel" world of real readers and a demanding market. Unfortunately, self-pub is not yet at a standard to match the quality that traditional publishing (mostly) guarantees. I'm glad to see I'm not the only one that still sees it as the ultimate grail.

  9. seems you're having a bear cave moment. run, prevail or taste just like chicken.

  10. Your take on this situation is very narrow-viewed. I'm an author who has ZERO interest in NY publishing. A paperback on a shelf is not my dream. Digital publishing was my first choice and it's the choice I'll stick with for now, despite requests-for-fulls from agents (I'm looking for an agent who's open to digital publishing, in fact).

    I'm not going to be insulted by your insinuation that I've "settled" for digital publishing because I realize many people still hold to the view that there's only One Real and Valid Way, but I am going to say again: your view is very narrow.

  11. "The point is, just because the digitial market for self-publishing or e-publishing is out there does not mean you have to jump on that market just to supposedly make a sale. I am amazed at the number of people out there that seem to jump at the lure of the immediate apparent money offered for these "quick" sales, instead of examing their own writing to improve it."

    In America, we live in a capitalistic society -- if the public likes it, it will sell, if not, no one will buy it, and if it stinks, word will get out. Just because e-booking is now easier for writers to get their work out there, does not mean it will be successful and the same is true when you're traditionally published.
    I've sent my work out to numerous agents -- no one wanted it and NONE offered any suggestions, aside for the robotic, and ironic form letter. BUT, my readers liked it, loved it! And they were not mom and dad and my best friend, thank you very much.
    Now that I've found out about all the hoops etc, going traditional puts authors through, why do I want to do that when I can put my e-book straight into the hands that really matter -- those of my readers! The bonus - cheaper than buying a paperback at the dollar store.

  12. Thank you for your insight. I would, however, like to make a distinction. E-publishing is not necessarily self-pub and vice-versa. There are successful business models out there (Think Carina, Ellora's Cave, Samhain, to name a few.)

    I do agree that this form of publishing shouldn't be a last resort. I agree authors should work on their craft. But I do not agree that this type of publishing shouldn't be taken seriously. If that is not what you were saying, forgive me for misunderstanding.

  13. Let me tell you how things work in the real world.

    The average advance is less than $10,000.00 and it takes you 24 months to make that $10k, less the 15% your agent takes away.

    If your book sells 200 copies a month on the Kindle you will make MORE money than the author with a NY book deal and you will not have given up any of the rights to your work.

    Plus, after the 24 months ends you will continue to make money every month... forever. And forever is a very long time.

    Can a NY publisher guarantee you that your book will sell beyond the 60 or 90 days it is on store bookshelves before being stripped and returned? Not in this economy they can't.

    A few months ago I told some friends that I was on track to make the same $400 a month that is being offered by NY publishers for one of my books. Here it is two months later and I've made half of that $10k -- in three months.

    At this rate a publisher would have to have offered me a $120,000.00 advance to match what I will make on my own on the Kindle in 24 months.

    Do you know of any NY publishers offering a $120k advance for a first-novel???

  14. "My feeling is that if no one wants to publish my novel, it probably because it's not ready to be published..."

    That isn't always true. Agents don't represent GOOD novels. Agents represent novels that they can sell.

    I saw one Agent whose website said she wasn't looking at Science Fiction novels unless it was exactly like a Noir Sci Fi novel she had recently sold.


    Because Agents are basing their decisions on what they can sell instead of the quality of the work, there are probably millions of fantastic novels from great writers that get tossed aside every day.

    But, that same author might find a niche on the Kindle/nook/iPad and sell thousands of copies.

    Believe in your skills and your story.

  15. I understand your points, but publishing houses are a business. Would you agree that they kind of determine what the new trend will be? In a later post you say that many times an author self publishes but does not have a marketable book. Well, who decides what is marketable in the end? Publishers, correct? I don't know, I am beginning to lean toward the idea that readers ultimately determine what is marketable, not publishers. If I write a story about fairies and publishers don't believe it is marketable, that is because they are not wanting it to be marketable. If they wanted to, they could make that the trend EASY. I just can't agree with you there.

    I'm very much leaning toward self pub. This is after at least a year of deliberation. I haven't submitted that entire time, but after going to a conference for SCBWI I found out that the future trends will not include my type of story. Wow, what a downer! I've had many readers over the past two years soak up my book like sponges and have asked me why it isn't published. That's when I realized it was a story worth sharing, and THAT is what self pub comes down to.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!