Friday, 1 April 2011

Seven reasons why you may decide not to self publish

Recently, a string of authors, including the big name Barry Eisler, have gone on to turn their backs on the traditional publishing route and self-publish, sparkling plenty of discussions and divided opinions in the author community. We don't know where publishing will be in two, five or ten years. All we know is that the publishing world is changing; with Kindle, Sony, Nook etc. more and more authors realise they can reach their target audience by going indie, without having to wait months and years on agents and publishers. While not everyone's Amanda Hocking, making millions in the process (I know I'm not, not sure about you!), it's not just about making money, but more about seeing one's work read and hopefully enjoyed by others.
Of course there's the stigma of publishing: that a book's not good enough to be picked up by a traditional publisher, that it might be riddled with grammar and spelling mistakes, etc., but like prejudice goes, it's usually based on a few bad examples rather than on the majority.
I call self-publishing 'author self-impowerment' because it gives authors full control over their book and whatever happens with it, such as what to write, how many books to write in a series and, my favourite activity of all times, cover design. Hence, I'm all for it if your book's gone through enough editing and you have given thought to the seven points raised below.

Read my favourite seven points to consider before you take the leap and self-publish:
  • you expect to make millions in the process. As said, most writers will never reach Amanda Hocking's status. This certainly applies to both self- and traditional publishing. Some make it, others don't. Unfortunately, that's the reality.
  • you're a recluse and don't enjoy human contact, not even the virtual one like social media. In that case, you're better off locking the manuscript away forever because in our world there's no way you won't have to communicate with fans and those yet to become at some point.
  • you're not prepared to listen to audience taste. You don't need to waste your time trying your hand at steampunk and YA vampire romances when you'd rather write futuristic thrillers, but it might be worth looking at some aspects of what is popular nowadays and find a way to bring your knowledge and research into your preferred genre to give it a modern or unique twist.
  • you have nothing unique to say. This one ties in with the point previously made. Readers are spoilt for choice. Since almost everything's been done already, if you can't come up with a new twist, your books might never really take off and find worldwide appeal.
  • you don't mind waiting. As in, you don't mind waiting to hear back from agents' assistants, agents, a publisher's editor, then the editor-in-chief. It could take years. Life's too short not to take your own future in your own hands. This doesn't mean you shouldn't try the traditional publishing route. But I've talked to authors who built a platform first and then were approached by agents/publishers rather than spend their valuable time trying to persuade someone else of how much potential their novels had.
  • you're not prepared to spend forty hours a week marketing your work. As much as I'd like to pretend otherwise, even traditionally published authors spend more time engaged in promotional activities than they spend on writing. So, learning about marketing and PR comes with the job, really.
  • you can't take criticism. And there's going to be lots of it in the form of bad reviews, comparing your work to those of others, etc. Writing a book is highly intimate. By putting your work out there, you make yourself vulnerable to others belittling your work, talent, and so forth. Don't forget it's a job. Customers pay for your novel, so they're entitled to say whatever they want. Of course, we all wish they could play nice and fair, but life doesn't always work like that. If you can't grow a thick skin, then you're better off never showing your work to anyone, not even to friends and family.
To your publishing success!


  1. All very good advice, but I still think self e-publishing could be the quickest way to get your name out there. You just want to make sure the good reasons outweigh the (unfortunately unavoidable) negative.
    New e-authors should also be aware that there really are people out there who delight in picking new work to shreds (and they will find that one typo in your 100k Novel!); fortunately there are many fair reviewers as well, but remember ‘fair’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘glowing’.
    If you have a sound personal voice and decent writing style people will like your work, and they will contact you (so be prepared) in some form or another to say so. To me that’s worth way more than money at this point in time!

  2. So true, Garry. Couldn't agree more. Thanks so much for stopping by. Regards, Jayde

  3. Very motivating! I feel like dropping the search for an agent/publisher and just e-book my manuscript! Thank you for these great tips.

  4. Pretty much on the money Jayde.

    This is the part I particularly agree with:

    " have nothing unique to say. This one ties in with the point previously made. Readers are spoilt for choice. Since almost everything's been done already, if you can't come up with a new twist, your books might never really take off and find worldwide appeal."


    Jonathan Gunson

  5. So true, Jayde. Some writer's are great at creative storytelling, but lousy at marketing. And the time factor is so important. There is a lot to consider, but also there is no perfect way. Choose what fits and be prepared for the journey knowing there will be some bumps in the road. Thanks for an informative post.

  6. Of course the traditional route as well as the Indie route have their own set of readers right now. The trick is to bridge both. If you have a loyal Indie fan base make sure you can keep supplying them with eBooks while you write for a traditional publisher. If you have a loyal traditional fan base, publish some eBooks for crossover. I think that's what Barry and Amanda did - widen their fan base or exposure to a whole new audience.

  7. Please let me preface with I read ebooks exclusively. My health doesn't permit much else and therefore I am excited for anything that grows the ebook market.

    I recently read the first in a self published series that I had high hopes for. The book was difficult to follow and maintain suspension of disbelief because the author did a lot of telling, not showing. Characters became emotionally invested in each other without apparent reason (or at least long before I ever did). It was difficult to understand the characters motivations at any given time and I never really developed any attachment to them. In spite of all that I wanted to like the story. I saw where she was trying to take it after I finished the book and let it percolate with me for a while.

    Typos and grammar had nothing to do with what was wrong with that book (although there were some but it wasn't too big a difficulty to over come). The problem with that book was it needed an editor to help her direct the story; to point out the inconsistencies and show her where the flow turned into speed bumps.

    Typos are frustrating because they break the reader's flow, but unless the grammar is difficult to understand they aren't such a big deal (unless you've paid a hard back price, then you tend to want perfection). But typos are not all editors are for. In fact, catching typos is what a copy editor does, not an editor. Editors work with the writer to even out their flow. They point out where the story could be improved so that the reader is more invested, or understands where the author is trying to go. They do many things like that. Some writers are great writing on their own, others need that help.

    I've recently read a lot on this topic as well, perhaps for the same reasons Jayde describes of recent public happenings. This year I've made it a point to read more self published works and I have to admit that I haven't really found any that have held my interest yet, but I'm still hopeful. I'd like to see the publishing industry shaken up a bit and new things start to happen both for authors and readers. I think ebooks and the self publishing industry is going to make that happen. I also think that freelance support staff (editors, copy editors, graphic artists, marketers) for authors is going to become a more in-demand job. I'm excited about it.

  8. These are right on the mark. I had no idea of the amount of marketing it would take to market my books as a self-published author. It turns out I really enjoy the social media marketing aspects, so it's not a problem, but I imagine it would be if I was a recluse.