Self-publish, are you crazy? The cons

They just can't believe it.

They just can’t believe you’d do that.

 

Why on earth would you ever want to self-publish your book? Are you crazy?

Here, my friends, are some reasons why you shouldn’t.

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garbageReason 1: You might have a very good story to share, but do you know what will happen if you self-publish your book?  It will get lost.

It will disappear, says George R. R. Martin, in the mountain of  “crap” that gets self-published all the time.

As Martin sits comfortably on the Iron Throne of bestseller success, he says in a recent profile in The Independent that self-publishing is still mostly unmonitored, unvetted, non-certified. Editors are the great gatekeepers, he says, who hold back the crap so that only worthy works will reach readers.

For him, it seems, the term “self-published” is synonymous with “untrustworthy” as well as “crap.”

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manhattan-skyline

Reason 2 why you shouldn’t self-publish: Publication with one of the big NYC firms gives you legitimacy as an author.

Did you hear about what happened to that poor North Carolina poet, the one who was laureate for just six days this summer?

The selection of the state’s new poet laureate was officially announced … and then, a few days later … another announcement was issued when she decided to resign from the post.

What happened?  Critics said the normal channels of appointing a laureate had been short-circuited by the state’s governor. But aside from complaints about the process, what also kept getting mentioned was the fact that her output was limited to just two books, two self-published books.

Many people, this suggests, still regard self-publishing like that cake that your eight-year-old made for your birthday — so wonderful and great for you, but please don’t share it with anyone else.

At the book section of the Los Angeles Times, we routinely received about 400-500 book galleys per week (and that’s a conservative estimate).  The first titles to get winnowed out of the pile were the self-published ones.

Sure, there might have been some impressive jewels hidden in these works, but no one had the time to look for them.  The imprint of “Simon & Schuster” or “Random House” on a book’s spine was a very helpful, efficient guide — a publishing version of quality control for editors scrambling to assign reviews and keep that news-hole filled.

***

morse-code

Reason 3: Publishers have established channels of promotion and support that are more extensive than even the savviest self-promoter’s network.

This is related to the preceding point about quality control.  Publication with an established firm may mean that the book will get considered for review by a newspaper or journal (although that review news-hole is shrinking).  If it does get reviewed, and reviewed favorably, the benefits of such visibility could be incredible (although that’s not guaranteed).

Publicity reps usually maintain good relationships with periodical editors.  Book publishing is still a business that depends on such established personal relationships even though technology provides plenty of shortcuts around that.

 

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money

Reason 4: We haven’t even talked about money yet.  There’s no money in self-publishing.  Wait, there’s no guaranteed money in self-publishing.  That’s what I meant. Plenty of people seem to have beaten the odds (Hugh Howey is turning into the patron saint of self-publishing success) but it’s all anecdotal.

You can’t base your own decisions on them.   So, consider: Choose to self-publish and you miss out on the chance of a nice advance from an established publisher (never mind that those advances are getting smaller and smaller all the time).

“Don’t quit your day job” is the advice of one self-published author in a Daily Finance piece about self-publication that appeared this summer. Read it, but be forewarned: It is a very candid, sobering account.

 

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Reason 5: Self-publishing throws a wrench into some writer-agent relationships.

If you already have an agent who’s handling a new manuscript, but you also have an old, out-of-print novel that you’d like to bring out again by self-publishing it, your relationship with the agent may get tangled.

That’s what the Writer Beware blog points out about a gray contractual area, “Self-Publishing and Author-Agent Agreements: The Need for Change.”  This is a scenario for a select few to consider: Most of us are just trying to get out of the gates.

 

Next: Why you SHOULD self-publish.

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6 responses

  1. Nick, I’m shaking in my inkpot. Of course, you’re going to come back at us like a hurricane from the other direction, right, once you’ve pummeled us from this one? I know you gave a nod to self-publishing in an earlier post, but I’m not sure that self-publishing a nonfiction book is the same as self-publishing fiction. What do you have in store for us quaking fiction writers?

  2. There’s more coming in the other direction, Jil. I’ve been thinking about this a lot especially for myself and it’s just taken longer than I thought to understand all the different voices on the issue. I’ll have the flip side coming by the end of this week. Hopefully it’ll put all the negativity of this post into balance and context. That’s my plan, my friend! Wish me luck!

  3. Pingback: Self-publish? Of course! The pros « Call of the Siren

  4. Pingback: Self-publishing: John Ashbery, Czeslaw Milosz… and you « Call of the Siren

  5. Pingback: On writing: The wounds of revision « Call of the Siren

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