She's so relieved by your decision.
She’s so relieved by your decision.


Why should you self-publish?  To answer that question, you need to answer another question first.

Why are you a writer?

If you’re in it for fame or money, well…  You might receive one of these — maybe even both — but I think you’re better off getting a real estate license or starting a Youtube channel to reach those goals.

Good grief, I’m about to do the thing that I usually can’t stand: preach.  For anyone who doesn’t want to hear this, kindly exit the church while I’m climbing into the pulpit…

What I’ve learned from my own continuing journey is that writing a book requires willingness to be genuinely vulnerable.  In the past, my fragile creations have been handled by publishers with less delicacy than a UPS guy  in a hurry.  I didn’t think I could survive it.  It hurt immensely.  But I’m still here.  Still struggling, still working like all of you, my best beloveds, to give expression to my narrator’s experiences of  1880s London and the far edges of Europe.  I crave the work.  Every day.  And when I’m not at it, I get grumpy, like an ex-smoker on Nicorette.  That’s why I write. That’s why I labor by singing light.  So…

If you can secure a deal with a big official firm for your manuscript, by all means go for it. But remember: self-publishing shouldn’t disqualify you from the traditional route in the future.  For some, I think, it’s a way station until the big deal happens — a first step, a chance to see their work in another light, all dressed up, ready for the show.

Most people’s perceptions of self-publishing are still very immature. But all of that is changing. Who knows? You might be one of the people who leads the change, if you’re willing.


Here’s something else to consider: Have you heard about what is happening between the conglomerates? Did you read anything about the big, ugly war this past summer between Hachette and Amazon? In these battles, authors’ works have been moved around like pawns on a chessboard.  You read about that big full-page ad from writers against Amazon in the New York Times, right?  (Writers used to band together to free Soviet bloc dissidents, didn’t they?)  Self-publishing provides a measure of control and independence in an environment that’s increasingly devoid of both.

Call of the Siren’s previous post on self-publishing (“Self-publish, are you crazy? The cons“) presented some of the biases and criticisms that continue to persist — but every position has its opposite, of course, and I find far more persuasive reasons to consider self-publishing than not — or, at least, to keep an open mind as you seek an agent.

One of the most persuasive cases for self-publishing, for me, comes from author Jim Rossi, who isn’t trying to market literary fiction — his manuscript examines solar energy and its future implications (usually, self-publishing seems to be the resort of fiction writers).  He has a simple desire: He wants to reach readers.  That desire makes sense to me — nothing feels better than good exchanges with other bloggers in the WP universe.

So what do you do, as in Jim’s case, if a publisher wants your book, but doesn’t want to provide any kind of digital version to reach those readers?  Before the advent of the internet, you took the card you were dealt.  You were stuck.

Next: More responses to the cons.


  1. These self-publishing posts made me think of an open letter that Roger Sutton, editor in chief of Horn Book magazine, wrote to self-published authors who felt dissed. He basically explained why the Horn Book doesn’t review self-published children’s books. Sutton’s letter as well as Ron Charles’ article in the Washington Post (regarding this letter) helps to prove the points you’ve made in the con post. However, I do wonder if self publishing will become more prevalent as the publishing landscape shifts and author’s works are used as “pawns on a chessboard,” as you’ve stated. I was very upset when I read about that although I’m not an author.

    Btw, in response to the comments he has received from the open letter, Sutton has issued a challenge to self-publishers to “send me ONE book that he or she thinks is comparable in quality to the books recommended in The Horn Book Magazine.” Entries are due December 15.

  2. I think Charles and the Horn editor are on a different track from me even though it’s a parallel one. Thank you for passing along the link and the reference to the Post. I read both, and, yes, they definitely have the right arguments against self-publishing … from the editorial side. I used to make some of those myself, and I expressed them in the previous post, as you mentioned. But from the perspective of the writer, self-publishing is a wonderful opportunity to stretch one’s wings, even if the book isn’t quite ready yet.

    On the other hand, I think you will find many seasoned writers, like the colleague I mentioned, who know how to construct a narrative and will hire an independent editor just as good as any employed by the big firms. It may lack the official stamp of an established publisher, but I think writers have to finally stop worrying about that if they want to produce something honest … even if it means they’ll be writing in obscurity.

    One other thing that crossed my mind as I read Sutton and Charles — reviews, in the end, don’t amount to very much. I’ve enjoyed Ron’s stuff for years, but traditional book review outlets like the Post or my former company don’t resonate very far in the culture. Self-published authors would be better off not wasting energy in trying to convince papers to review them and work on the actual writing and making something they’re proud of.

    Good grief, I’m preaching again. I really appreciate your thoughtful, engaged responses to my post. This is the sort of exchange that’s great.

  3. Haha. The preaching is fine. I have read similar thoughts that people don’t look towards the traditional book review outlets as much anymore. Recommendations come more from Goodreads, friends’ suggestions, or apps that assess the person’s interests. To me, it seems that the gatekeepers in publishing are slowly losing power (or maybe the power is shifting). I would like to see what the publishing industry will be like after this transitional phase. With apps and e-readers, maybe we’ll just find our new reads via apps and it won’t matter how it’s published. All that would matter is the quality of the story and the writing.

  4. Nick, I was at a Litquake event last night, the book launch of “Drivel,” otherwise known as “Regretterature,” the not-quite-ready-for-prime-time prose of now famous authors. A friend mentioned “Inkshares,” a crowdfunded publisher. Have you heard of them? Check them out and let me know what you think.

  5. The gatekeepers are definitely losing power, Zezee, I agree with you. There still needs to be some way to “stamp” a book with legitimacy, but maybe that will come from another source. Maybe it’s Goodreads or maybe it’s something yet to come. That makes me feel more optimistic than anything else!

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