Reasons not to Self-Publish?

By Clare Langley-Hawthorne

Last week I read a blog post by Edan Lepucki entitled Reasons not to Self-Publish and it prompted me, yet again, to consider the pros and cons of going it alone. As James Bell discussed in his TKZ blog post yesterday if you decide to go the ‘indie’ route be sure to start with your eyes wide open as not every adventure into the forest ends happily. But as Lepucki explains there are reasons why some authors decide to stick with the traditional route despite the positive experiences of some on the indie side.

At the risk of raising the ire of a few writers who have very determined opinions, I thought I’d explore some of the reasons that resonated with me. I suggest if you’re interested you read the original post to see all eight items on her list (some of which are more controversial than others judging by the comments!). I have highlighted (and paraphrased) just some of Lepucki’s reasons…those which speak to my own confusion/dilemma over the best road ahead… and apologies to Lepucki as I have also renamed her list items to accord with my own views)

1. A traditional publisher often gets it right…

The first reason on Lepucki’s list is entitled “I guess I am not a hater” and like her, I guess I don’t have any negativity towards the publishing industry. My experience has been very positive – with agents, editors and publicists all eager to do their very best for an author despite the business imperatives of the industry.

More controversially, Lepucki states “I want a reputable publishing house standing behind my book; I want them to tell you it’s so good so that I don’t have to.” Now this may say a lot about my own self-confidence, but this statement did resonate with me. I understand her need for validation. It’s what has always made me hesitant about self-publishing. Even though it’s probably a bit dorky to admit it, I wonder how many other writers feel the same?

2. The conversation about self-publishing often ignores the role of smaller independent publishing houses.

Lupecki rightly points out that these independent presses offer a great option for authors. They tend to be well-respected and provide a specific brand and identity that can give an author an opportunity to get their work out there even if they don’t meet the formula for a bigger house. Lupecki argues that these small presses provide a level of ‘legitimacy’ and quality control suggesting again the importance of having a traditional-style publisher backing an author.

In previous blog posts about the current publishing industry we haven’t really touched on the role of these smaller presses (sadly, many of which have closed due to the harsh economics of running such an operation) so I would be interested in hearing opinions on the role and value of the small independent presses in the current market.

3. The conversation overlooks the value of the publishing community

Lupecki quotes Peter Straub’s acknowledgement of the invaluable contributions made by editors and copy-editors to his books and goes on to describe how helpful some of the comments made by editors rejecting her first novel were. In many ways, much of what Lupecki argues comes down to the same issue of mentoring that James Bell discussed in his blog post yesterday.

I do think she asks an important question when it comes to writers hiring their own editors and copy editors: How is that role affected by the fact that they are being paid by the writer him/herself? What, Lupecki asks, if the hired editor told you not to publish?

Having only worked with editors from my publisher I don’t know the answer to this – have any of you hired an editor only to have them recommend against publication as the work wasn’t up to snuff? And if so, did you take their advice or go ahead and submit or self-publish it?

4. The e-reading conundrum

Lupecki argues that while she doesn’t mind if Amazon is just one of the places to purchase her work she is worried about Amazon monopolizing the reading landscape. Her concern certainly resonates with me – I would hate to find the traditional publishers being replaced by a monolithic self-publisher either. But what do you think – is this a legitimate concern? While I would argue this isn’t really a reason against self-publishing (there are other avenues available, after all, not just Amazon), I think her fear of Amazon’s potential power in the marketplace is valid.

5. Is the self-publishing boom best for readers?

Now this is a tricky question and I think in many ways this goes back to Lupecki’s need for validation – but as a reader I certainly don’t want to wade through thousands of unfiltered self-published novels without any guide as to quality. I do think, however, (and TKZ have touched upon this in many previous blog posts), that as the digital industry matures, there will be more self-selection/review options which will help guide readers to quality work.

So what do you think about Lupecki’s reasons against self-publishing?

46 thoughts on “Reasons not to Self-Publish?

  1. Interesting questions, Clare. I’ve generally had a positive experience, too, by going the traditional route. If I were to self-publish, it would probably be more novellas and short stories. I do have a novel sitting in a drawer, but I think that it was rejected with good reason- it’s not good enough for the marketplace, and I’d hate for it to be the first work of mine that a reader encountered. So in the drawer it stays.

  2. Thanks for sharing these Clare. I am particularly attracted to Number Two. I enjoy the work of some of the smaller, so-called niche publishers, who do one thing and do it right.

  3. Like you Michelle, anything in ‘the drawer’ stays in the drawer…sometimes there’s a reason for rejection:) Joe, I haven’t had any experience with some of the smaller presses but I’d be interested in hearing about other authors experiences with them, as they often get overlooked in the ‘traditional’ versus ‘indie’ publishing debate.

  4. 1. A traditional publisher often gets it right…
    It seems to me that many authors think this way. Sure, we all want someone who seems like an expert to pat us on the back and say, “good job.” The problem I see with that is that publishers define a good book as a book that will make them money. There are cases where a publisher will pass on a good book because they don’t know how to market the book.

    2. The conversation about self-publishing often ignores the role of smaller independent publishing houses.
    Technically, I am one of those small independent publishing houses because I occasionally publish other people’s work. But I also self-publish. I don’t really see much difference between a small publishing house and self-publishing, other than there is someone other than just the author who thinks the book should be published.

    3. The conversation overlooks the value of the publishing community
    I don’t think anyone is overlooking the value of editors. The real question is, who has the right to decide what should and should not be published? The reasons a publisher may be opposed to a work being published may be very different than what would cause an author to think it shouldn’t be published.

    4. The e-reading conundrum
    This one could be a potentially real issue if we reach the point where everyone is reading their books through a device. Thus far, seems to be taking the approach that they will make everything available, but we’ve already seen something similar from Apple. In March of this year, Apple removed an app created by Exodus International, a Christian organization that is dedicated to helping people who are struggling with homosexuality. When a company has the power to silence those who disagree with their beliefs, it is a dangerous thing.

    5. Is the self-publishing boom best for readers?
    It’s interesting that people ask this question about publishing, but they don’t ask it about the Internet. Anyone with an Internet connection can create a website and say whatever he wants. There are a lot of blogs out there and most of them are ignored. The availability of more information never hurt anyone. In general, the more information a person has the better off he is. The real question should be how can we better filter this information so that readers can find the information they really need and want.

  5. The nice thing about now is that writers actually have choices. Traditional, indie or hybrid. Or you can sit at Starbucks with a laptop and pretend to be a writer. Whatever. It’s up to you! So there’s no reason for anyone to be a “hater.” I find that an odd stance. This should not be an emotional decision, but an artistic and commercial one. Figure out how to write what you love and make money at it. Partner with a good agent and publisher, or do it yourself, or something in between.

    I’m a hybrid, and I love (as Michelle has noted) having a place for my shorter fictional works.

  6. Perhaps there is room for both? I was with Simon & Schuster for several years and two books. Michael Korda was my editor and I had an invaluable, life changing experience. The books I’m writing now are more hardboiled mysteries and I’m thrilled to be at the helm of the ship, determining my own course in the world of new media. I’m not here out of bitterness, but with a sense of adventure. And who knows, my next book just might be perfect for a publishing house…

  7. I don’t understand why this topic–self vs. traditional–attracts so many scorched earth responses, a la Anon 10:57.

    These are business decisions, each of them made by people with different goals in mind.

    Correcting for the few genuinely criminal scofflaws (of whom I’ve never personally met even one among publishers and agents), there are no predators and there are no victims. There are only ill-considered business decisions.

    Verbal bomb-throwers who purport that there’s only one valid route to success often serve only to confuse those who don’t know any better.

    Whatever route an author takes, it’s critical to remember that success must be *earned*. It cannot be bought.

    John Gilstrap

  8. Conversations like this are going on everywhere. Everyone thinks the times are tumultuous.

    They aren’t.

    Publishers are just playing defense, like other segments of the entertainment industry did last decade, trying to maintain operating profit with an unevolved business model that is difficult to update because those at the top don’t know how to stop the tide from coming in. When that situation has been rectified, and McKinsey or Booz Allen or Bain has been paid for services rendered, the economies of scale will shift back to a normal paradigm.

    Writers will not be able to go it alone. Publishers will not be able to afford to ignore their mid-listers. Advances will probably be smaller. Back-end steps in contracts will probably become more prevalent though, as will more equatable percentages on digital profit-sharing. And the quality of content will most likely be elevated, because those writers who came in during the lean years will have better internal quality control capabilities (better ability to self-edit) after learning from their early experiences in the business.

    If you look at the film, television, and music industries, this is the most likely outcome of the current state of affairs. Google buying Youtube. Facebook IPO’ing. HULU. Netflix and RedBox paying providers for original content. Napster, Limewire, and PirateBay struggling while iTunes thrives.

    In the end, the entertainment business always adapts accordingly.

    People should consider that before making such an important decision as self-publishing, going traditional, or doing a hybrid.

  9. As the previous comments are suggesting it is all about choice and adaptation. I think we are in a state of flux at the moment but I feel like this is a great time for authors and publishers to evolve accordingly. The key thing is that there is no short cuts to success no matter what route you take.

  10. For every Best Seller I pick up, I do the same for one of my self-published friends I’ve met over the internet in various writer’s forums, Writer’s Digest online, Good Reads, Facebook, Twitter and the Blogosphere.

    I’ve purchased two books in the last week that were self-published. A memoir of an African American woman who grew up in a similar era as me and another book published by a woman who works in my building.

    One thing I can say is I’ve not been disappointed by what I discover and that is that whether or not the content is “polished” by a professional or not, there’s a lot of freshly written books out there that are highly entertaining.

    Some of the “Best Seller” books I’ve picked up in the book store, I put right back down because the first page broke rules that have been preached to us for years.

    If you’re a Best Selling author who has become lazy, I’d rather purchase something unpolished for a little less out of my pocket and give some love to a fellow writer trying to make it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. John,

    I think the “scorched earth responses” are mainly because many of the people who have chosen the self-publishing route only did so after they were hurt because the traditional publishers were unwilling to publish their work. To them, self-publishing became their way of sticking it to the man and they’re hoping that the traditional publisher will see what big mistake they made by rejecting them. While it is certainly possible to make more money from self-publishing, there is more work for the author to do. I figure that all balances out, so people considering which route to take need to consider more than just how much more they’ll get per book.

  12. Lots of interesting and very true comments here. I think that whatever the route you choose to talk about, the scope for generalisation is huge. You ask, for example, what the experience of people with small presses has been – but even that is going to cover everything from the awful to the wonderful.

    I’ve been published by different sized presses and have good and bad to say about all of them. I know exactly what they’ve done wrong and right. I have also begun to self-publish – my backlist and also new non-fiction – and I’m learning about that as I go. One thing’s certain: the more we each know about ALL of this, all the options and pitfalls, the better equipped we are to deal with the knocks. And none of it is easy, believe me.

    And yes, the vitriol expressed by many on the self-publishing side is easily explained by the frustrations of not being published and not understanding why. My mission in the work I do with writers is to try to get them to see why publishers make the sometimes unpleasant decisions they do, what is “wrong” with the manuscripts concerned and what to do about it, depending on whether the writer wants to continue to aim for the validation of publication or the control of self-publication.

    You are asking all the right questions! In the end, however, writers have less choice than we’d like because we have less choice than we’d like over the words that come from our fingers. So, in the end, we just do the best we can with what comes out. Informed choice without vitriol is what I aim for.

  13. Timothy wrote, “many of the people who have chosen the self-publishing route only did so after they were hurt because the traditional publishers were unwilling to publish their work.”

    Timothy, and therein lies the Achilles’ heel for the long-term viability of self-publishing. Because “publishing” now incorporates so many options other than killing trees, too many people who write (as opposed to talented writers) see the decreased barriers to entry, and therefore put stuff out there that is underdone, if not rancid.

    There are exceptions, just as there were exceptions to the tree-killing model of self publishing. But at the end of the day, talent is talent and crap is crap and while both are in the eye of the beholder, the buying public is impatient.

    At the end of the day, financial success in this industry is like financial success in any industry. It’s about distribution, and therein lies the strength of the traditional publishing model. It’s in disarray right now, but it will correct itself.

    Timothy further wrote, “people considering which route to take need to consider more than just how much more they’ll get per book.” I could not agree more. I would rephrase it a bit, though. “… how much they’ll get per book SOLD.”

    I think that the self-publishing industry will continue to grow, and writers who begin their careers self-published and stay there can hope to make hundreds of dollars a year off their books. Bravo for them. Really.

    I have my own sights set on hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. For that, I need a team to help me.

    John Gilstrap

  14. hundreds of thousands per year

    That phrase right there is why I consider myself a hybrid writer. Yes, I self-published a few books and they made me a few grand over the past year. But I realize that in that format they are unlikely to pay off my mortgage or allow me to leave the day job. Therefore as each new work comes out, and even continuing for the old works, I still seek representation and chance at the hopefully bigger pot of money that represents.

    Just as podcasting was the ladder that got me into narrating audiobooks, self-pubbing is the ladder that will get me into trad-pubbing and a full time paycheck.

    All in time though. All in time.

  15. John,

    I think it is distribution that has really made self-publishing much easier than it was before. Tim O’reilly started out as a self-published author, but now O’reilly is the name in computer books. Tim O’reilly talks about having the books on hand and shipping them out as the orders came in. But today’s self-publisher doesn’t have that problem. I sell books all the way around the world, and I’ve never shipped any of them.

    As for hundreds of thousands a year. If you can made that kind of money, more power to you, but most of the traditionally published authors I know don’t make anywhere near that much. Most have to keep their day job and what little they’re making from book sales is going toward promoting their books. On average, self-published books do even worse, but let’s face it, most self-published books are junk. There are a few that make it to the top and make their authors hundreds of thousands of dollars. But from what I can see, the chances of any particular author making that kind of money are not improved by traditional over self. Perhaps they are not hurt either, but they aren’t improved.

  16. Timothy,
    Your latest post reminds me of one of the key points of frustration in this entire topic: Not all writers are writing to the same audience. In every response I’ve structured for this chain, my head has been 100% in the realm of commercial fiction. I don’t have a clue what works for business books or memoirs or any other type of book, for that matter. Even my own nonfiction was pubbed under the old model, really before there even was a new model.

    As for the hundreds of thousands per year, that phrase goes less to reality than possibility. To even have a shot at those numbers (and not everyone is interested in that, though for the life of me, I can’t understand how or why they wouldn’t), you’ve got to have the kind of market penetration that can only be engineered by a team of experts.

    And allow me to add my voice to Taylor’s chorus: My crystal ball says that Fletch is right.

  17. Fletch is wrong, everybody. Fletch is wrong.

    TV and film don’t count, because it takes a crapload of money to make that stuff. And they have to charge a crapload to make a profit (or get advertising dollars). Neither of those apply to e-books. Publishers can’t charge enough to make a profit except with their big guns. And they can only make money on new authors by screwing them out of equitable shares. They can’t give full services to authors anymore because they don’t have the cash to do it. They are on life support.

    John Gilstrap says the distribution if the traditional publishing model is in disarray, but will correct itself. I’d like to hear exactly how. Be specific. As bookstores go under and ebooks become dominant, just how are these old time publishers going to dominate any distribution whatsoever? How? Give me the scenario.

  18. Taylor I don’t know if your being sarcastic or not. But we’ve definitely seen this show before. It goes like this:

    1.) Technological innovation revolutionizes the way content can be delivered to the consumer. Early adopters call it the “Wild West” or the “California Gold Rush”.

    2.) Established channels of production ignore the new outlet, considering it a passing fad, allowing the quantity of available content to surge past what they provide annually.

    3.) Previously denied product and new content enters the marketplace via the new channel of distribution. It proves profitable, so the establishment starts trying to buy it up, while ignoring the new channel of distribution almost completely.

    4.) Variable cost per unit goes down because the barriers to entry have become so low that companies can no longer justify the higher price at point of sale. Maintaining profit margins becomes difficult. Investors become worried.

    5.) An entity from outside the industry sees an opening and seizes the opportunity to create a niche market. The niche grows to be bigger than the established supply channels because it is unregulated by the rest of the industry.

    6.) Established supply channels dry up and die. Forcing the remaining companies to adjust their business model to the new paradigm. Long term senior managers are fired or forced into retirement. Outside leadership, known for outside-the-box critical thinking, is welcomed.

    7.) Remaining established businesses cry foul on the field of intellectual property rights, demanding variable per unit costs go up, while driving compensation to content providers down.

    8.) The few successful businesses born out of the technological revolution are either forced out, bought out, or merged with one of the larger, remaining established businesses.

    9.) Remaining established businesses band together to create their own outlet within the new delivery system, increasing fees and controlling more product.

    10.) Original content providers finally realize they are leaving money on the table and forcibly negotiate new standard terms of exchange.

    And Voila! New paradigm developed. In the case of the music industry this took six years to occur. In film and television, it took four. So, in less than a decade, this entire conversation will be moot. You can dislike that all you want, Anon 5:04PM.

  19. I go drop the kids off at school and whoa, a huge comment debate occurs in my absence (which is great). I am a strong proponent that change promotes change and I do believe publishers will adapt. They survived the advent of the paperback and I am confident they’ll survive this. Although I know there is quality self-published work out there my experience has not been so fortunate. Most of the material I have read was simply not up to publishable standards. That being said, some bestelling authors do get lazy and their books are no longer up to par either! Like John my focus has always been on commercial fiction and it’s a tough road to forge on your own.

  20. Dear Fletch. Sure. Like that’s all gonna happen. Uh-huh. We’re gonna get another quasi monopoly in publishing. And I’ve got a bridge I want to sell you.

  21. My, my…

    At least the people posting today have blood coursing through their veins.

    We’re starting to see companies, like Simon & Schuster, emphasize digital. So the crystal ball is foggy right now, and I would give it another year to see how things are settling.

    As Brother Gilstrap has counseled, it’s business. Just not business as usual!

  22. I’m growing bored with this argument. If I want to self-publish I will. What is true for me may not be true for you. I think my “hired” editor shot straight with me and her quality is the same as it was when she worked for a big house. My product would be embarrassing without a true editor. An editor’s job at my level is to say, “I wouldn’t publish this as is,” and then tell me what will fix what is wrong with it.

    If you are with a publisher that actually puts a team on your book, you can’t beat it. If they expect you to sell your own books, you don’t really need them for your professionally written eBooks.

    A bad book is a bad book, published by a house or by an individual. The difference is most editors know good from bad and fixable from wasting everybody’s time.

  23. John,

    Certainly, things work differently between fiction and non-fiction. But I don’t see that it is beneficial to talk about “possibility.” That is akin to calling the lottery a retirement plan. But if we’re going to talk possibilities, the simple truth is that there are novels on both the self-published and the traditionally published sides that have reached the hundreds of thousands. Consider, The Shack, which the last I heard was involved in a dispute over millions of dollars between the people who originally self-published it. It did eventually move over into the traditional side, but it is unlikely anyone would have published it if it hadn’t been self-published first. But millions of dollars is not typical on either side of the industry; it is just a possibility.

  24. The publishing industry is already technically on step 6 of my previous comment, going into 7, as this TKZ discussion occurs. They are suing libraries and forcing them to charge for rental of e-books at a higher rate and shorter time period. Congress just passed a new law regarding intellectual property rights too.

    The facts have already been born out for you twice. Talk to someone who used to work at LimeWire or Myspace.

    It’s fine if you don’t like what I’m saying. You might prove me wrong, be one of the very few who beats the odds. But the Big 6 ARE going to wrestle the e-bear to the ground. They already have 2 case studies in how to do it.

  25. Somebody who runs this place mark the calendar for a year from now and revisit this post and see where we are.

  26. I just left a message for my cousin Leonard to bring back a copy of Publisher’s Weekly from his next time machine foray ten years into the current future. Barring mistakes…or Daleks…. he should be back any minute.

    Anon 19:01, we may be able to see where we are, but we won’t be able to see where you are …cuz you’re anonymous…the great unknown … naught but a voice in our heads.

    and here, I just thought those Daleks were fictionalized characters made from old fashioned washing machines.

  27. Anon 7:01, what happens in a year? I said less than a decade. Moreover, are you trying to imply that traditional publishing will passe in 12 months? What evidence do you have to support that?

    Don’t give me your gut feeling. Present some facts, some form of data. And by the way, e-reader sales is by no means a predictor of industry failure or success. It’s just another means of delivery. Name one Big 6 publisher about to go under within the next fiscal year. Not just an imprint. They fold all the time. An entire publisher. Random House? Penguin and Hachette? HarperCollins? MacMillan?

    Just. Name. One.

  28. Wow Fletch just explained how these shifts happen in entertainment. It’s like I see this stuff happen, but I never quite understood how those steps work.

    Now at least it’s a bit more clear.


  29. Leonard just got back from Dec. 2021.

    He did manage to avoid the Daleks, but while running tripped and dropped the magazine in a puddle on the street as they descended. Apparently whatever was in that puddle was caustic and turned the pages into bright paisley patterns with nothing part of a word.. “ifflur”…visible on page 42.

    So, I guess that means we’re going to have to both take Fletch’s word for it and wait and see.

    Leonard said some of the puddle stuff got in his mouth and tasted like sweet strawberry bubble gum, but the left side of his face also has a strange paisley pattern to it. I don’t think I like the puddles of the future.

  30. Fletch, you’re like Obama. The effects of Obamacare won’t be known for 10 years (you say of publishing). That hardly helps now.

    Who said traditional publishing would be over in a year or that a big conglomerate would “go under”? Big industry dies slowly. I said let’s look at things a year from now and we’ll know a whole lot more what the trends are. Meanwhile, writers who have the guts to self publish will be making money while the rest of you are rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic waiting to get a contract from a company that’s going to screw you.

    Have fun.

  31. I’m very picky about what I purchase anymore because of my experience with the purchases I’ve made in the past year.

    If I can spend less money and get the same quality (and sometimes much better) in the entertainment factor, then I think there’s some snobbery going on.

    If I were going to publish one of my creations, I would much rather spend the time to recruit beta readers and pay a freelance editor than spend years submitting to people who have to slosh through a queue to get to my work, which they may never get to.

    It’s either you go the traditional route and if you score, you get a validation with the discovery or you go out and get stuff done and risk folks calling you a hack. Isn’t that what happens?

  32. Hopefully not Diane (!) and anonymous, my experience suggests that no publisher is out to screw you – they want you to be a success just as much as you do. Self publishing is your own decision but I think it’s over the top to use the Titanic metaphor. Sadly many who self-publish will have little success making money either.

  33. Hey, Clare!

    Traditional publishers are “da Bomb”! I absolutely cherish my editor. Every insight she gives towards my work does nothing but enhance it in ways I’d never think. Her insights alone are worth my undying support of traditional publishing.

    That said, I have certainly been enjoying the steady flow of income from my self-pubbed urban fantasy(soon to be a series), Mythological Sam. It’s a genre that didn’t interest my editor and I cleared my desire to self-pub the work with her before doing it, because I value my place in the traditional house!

    However, I wanted to see and feel self-pubbing first hand–and I must say, I like it. I liked having control over the book’s beginnings and have met with a brand marketing expert to revamp the work to improve my efforts.

    I have a healthy respect for Amazon, but honestly, don’t trust them. I’m concerned with their ethics towards authors. This is an excellent time for authors to create a cyberspace authors’ union to protect our interests in the self-pubbing world. Any attorneys or agents out there up for the job?

    So, bottom line? Pros and cons for both. If I had to choose? I’d go traditional publishing house, hands down. I fully believe they have their fingers on the pulse of the industry and love what they do enough to keep the industry alive. And, heck, they’re so much fun to party with at conferences. Why would we want to lose that?

  34. The thing that will keep traditional publishers around is the same thing that has kept them around thus far. Authors are willing to let traditional publishers publish their books because traditional publishers take on the risk of publishing the book and do things the author is unable or unfavorable toward doing. The things traditional publishers do may have to change somewhat with e-books, but I don’t see any reason to think that traditional publishers won’t make that change. Authors will still prefer the guarantee that an advance provides and authors will still prefer to have the publisher pay for editing rather than the author paying for it. Readers will prefer the higher quality that traditional publishers will be able to provide and the risk will continue to pay off. But the more risk the publishers pass off to the authors without increasing royalties, the more good authors will leave traditional publishing behind. I think traditional publishers realize that. If they don’t, they will soon enough, so I fully expect traditional publishing to go on, pretty much as it has.

  35. (First part of comment)

    1. A traditional publisher often gets it right…

    Gets what right? Making you wait 18-24 months while your book is submerged in the publisher’s deep freeze? Low royalties? Slow pay of the royalty they do give you? Pulling your book after six weeks on the shelves of a bookstore with dwindling business? Refusing to promote your book because they no longer can afford to hire marketing people?

    2. The conversation about self-publishing often ignores the role of smaller independent publishing houses.

    You mention the “level of legitimacy and quality control” that even a small publisher can bring. This smells of the old “self-published authors are not ‘real’ authors” line. If it makes you feel better knowing you have slipped past the “gatekeepers”, just say so. Don’t try to make us believe that your books are more legitimate or of a higher quality because they’re traditionally published.

    I started with a traditional publisher and I’m now self-published and I can say with 100% confidence that I will put my self-pubbed novels up against ANY Big 6 book or any small press book in terms of editing and formatting.

    3. The conversation overlooks the value of the publishing community.

    The implication here is, once again, that only “quality” writing gets past the gatekeepers. Meaning that self-pubbed writers, who have to hire their own editors, might still be so caught up in their own delusions that they continue to put out “crap”, despite the protestations of their hired editors. This is the line that New York publishers are trying to shove down everyone’s throat, implying that only THEY should decide who gets published.

    Snooki published her “novel” with Simon & Schuster. Obviously, they have very good editors at their disposal. What did that do for her? For S&S?

    My editor has never told me my books are not publishable. Because they are. By me.

  36. Part 2 of my comment:

    4. The e-reading conundrum

    You say of Lepucki, “I think her fear of Amazon’s potential power in the marketplace is valid.” You should be aware that, as a trad-pubbed author, a bigger and bigger percentage of your royalty checks will come from Amazon sales. It will not get smaller. Amazon is not some corporate Satan that you can sit back and comfortably sneer at. They provide an efficient, timely service to the reading public and they do so at a good price. The author benefits from their efforts. There are Amazon competitors, but they don’t do as good a job.

    5. Is the self-publishing boom best for readers?

    Lepucki (and you) seem more concerned with readers finding out about you from NPR than anywhere else. You know, most people in this country (and therefore most readers) do not listen to NPR. Thankfully.

    There is a real demand out there for books the “gatekeepers” looked down their noses at. I’m reminded of Boyd Morrison (and subsequently, many just like him), who turned to self-publishing only after every Big 6 publisher rejected his book. Of course, the book achieved great success as a self-pubbed effort and those same publishers then wanted to sign him.

    You also expressed confidence that publishers survived the paperback, so they will certainly survive this. You know, I used to say the same thing about the record business. I said, “They survived radio, television, and the private taping of albums, so they’ll survive this digital thing.” Boy, was I wrong!

    I’ve been to writers conferences (most recently, Bouchercon 2011) and the New York people, to a person, have their heads in the sand about all this. Their response is to charge a lot of money for the ebook versions of their novels so as to induce the consumer to buy the print versions. Talk about your short term thinking!

    The publishing business is edging themselves into a corner where they will eventually be putting out a handful of bestsellers, along with books that don’t translate well to digital, like cookbooks, atlases, coffee table books, and so on.

    My point in all this: the corner has been turned and there’s no going back.

  37. Mike, the great thing about the current environment is you can go it alone and enjoy success. The risks are still there, though, and many authors would argue that even though the publishers do get things wrong at times (snooki, really?!) they also do get things right sometimes too.

  38. I see a lot of responses here (and in the original post) talking about utilizing both traditional and self-publishing, which I think is reasonable for those who have that option. I also see a lot of wondering about this hater attitude and where it comes from.

    I can say that for me personally, while I don’t have a “hater” attitude, I can easily see how a new author could get one. When I first started the query process, I read a lot of blogs, books, and interviews about it, and the entire system seemed engineered to discourage me from even trying. Writer’s Market was full of suggestions, do’s & don’ts, and guidelines that bordered on the arcane. I was constantly told, “You probably won’t make it, or it will take such a long time that it won’t be worth it.” The extent of the encouragement I got from the establishment was, “But you should still try!”

    And I did try – for a year, which compared to many of the stories I’ve heard is not much. Then I quit, put the manuscript in the drawer, and started working on the next thing. My second book (Alex) Alex, was, I think, much better than my first in many ways. But when I honestly assessed the idea of entering another query process, I just shriveled up inside.

    I took a tentative look at Amazon, and lo and behold, it was the exact opposite of the traditional publishign experience. From the first instant, it was constant encouragement. The process was easy and accessible. I was trusted to make my own determinations about the quality of my work, and to price the work how I best saw fit. It was so refreshing, so approachable, that going back to a traditional query process never even seriously crossed my mind.

    For authors who started their career with traditional publishing, that relationship is there and I can see why it would be worth keeping. But for authors like myself, who felt like we were essentially scraping at the door with our bare hands and not even getting our query letters read, there’s not a lot of love lost.

    For me, it’s not really a matter of hating the industry. It’s just a matter of having the same feeling toward it that it had toward me.

  39. This post and the comments are particularly of interest to me. I haven’t made a decision as yet whether to go the indie route or try for traditional publications.

    As a new writer, the decision looks quite big when I do make it – finding an agent, submissions, etc – that looks difficult enough. But on the other hand, getting into finding an editor, book cover designer, formatting books etc – looks almost as difficult. Whatever the decision, I enjoy the fact that there is so much choice and options available to me now, and to readers.

    Like several on this thread, however – I agree that if my manuscript is rejected (several times) there is probably a reason for it, and I won’t think about self-publishing without looking into drastic changes or moving on to another novel.

    As a reader living in Aus I thoroughly enjoy e-reading, giving me access to books I just can’t get over here (not without waiting for two months for a package to arrive from Amazon). I’ve got to the point where I grow frustrated by some books on Amazon US not being available in kindle format, or others not being made available to international customers. If Amazon is going all-digital, from my perspective, I will be buying much more.

    And hopefully providing some of my own.

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