What are your thoughts on 'self-publishing?' Would you recommend it? And if so, for whom?This is a good question, the answer to which will not be remotely surprising. No, I do not recommend self-publishing except in the following instances:
- You are writing a family memoir that you only intend family to read.
- You are making a photo book of some sort and have no intention of selling it.
When you decide to self-publish you need to face the stark reality that you will not only get absolutely zero respect in the publishing community, because you likely don't deserve it, and that most likely your writing will be atrocious--and people will notice. Most people who self-publish do not pay for editing services, and those that do rarely pay for decent editing service, settling for line-by-line work, rather than having someone actually tear apart the manuscript. If you've been rejected by legitimate publishers, you should probably start asking yourself why. Is it possible that you suck? Or maybe your manuscript isn't good enough or still needs a lot of work? This isn't like the short story market where there can often be a flood of good stories that get rejected simply because there isn't space. Legitimate publishers reject novels for very good reasons and very (and I do mean very) rarely do they reject perfectly good manuscripts--yes, it happens, but when that happens you'll likely know about it, which should be an encouragement. If your novel was rejected, you should ask yourself why rather than throwing up your hands and self-publishing.
And here's the thing: self-published authors feel like they should get respect by default, as if being published by a firm like Lulu or Booksurge or whatever is the same as being picked up by Tor or Randomhouse or some other legitimate press. You are not the same as Stephen King, because you have opted to cheat the system, a system which works and which pays authors for their writing. In cheating, you've put out a manuscript that will most likely be seriously flawed, and now you expect folks to take their hard-earned dollars and give them to you because you say your book is good, even though it was not professionally edited, has a crappy cover, and was essentially paid for by you to be put into print by a company that doesn't give a flying fig whether your novel is any good. And that's just it: self-publishing firms DO NOT care if your book is good or utter filth. They want to make a quick buck, and I won't begrudge them that, except where they lie and misrepresent who they are. And consumers generally know this. How they have managed to become smarter than a lot of writers is beyond me, but consumers are not likely to buy your self-published book when they can get one from a professional publisher for the same price, or cheaper, and have some guarantee of quality.
And you can damage your career by self-publishing. You might get lucky and still get published by a real press, but the chances of that are slim to none. Most likely you'll get so entrenched in the self-publishing world, and even bitter about it, that you'll never leave it. In the process you'll lose out on any chance to not only improve your craft, but to also develop a career.
Self-publishing is also manipulative. Yes, there are decent companies out there that do a fine job of not misrepresenting what they do (such as Lulu), but there are also a lot of companies out there that will do everything they can to snatch up your book and make you pay to have it printed. They prey on the unsuspecting author and are the only ones who profit from it.
Be smart about your writing. If you honestly think it is good, don't give up after a few rejections. Keep trying. Just because you're having it rough now doesn't mean you won't get a break later. You won't get anywhere by giving up, and there are a lot of benefits to persisting in the writing world. Self-publishing should only be the answer if you have a certain kind of product, but if you do decide to self-publish your fiction, be fully aware of what you're getting yourself into. Don't expect respect and come to grips with the reality that you will be looked down upon as an inferior author for legitimate reasons. You'll have to work even harder to get anywhere as a self-published author, and if you're willing to put that kind of effort there, why wouldn't you do it in the more legitimate market?
Self-publishing certainly has some benefits (you have greater control of your intellectual property), but again, is it worth it? I say not.
If you have a question you'd like answered, whether silly or serious, feel free to send an email to arconna[at]yahoo[dot]com, send a twitter message to @shaunduke, or leave a comment here or anywhere. If you like this post, please stumble it, leave a comment, or tell your friends! Thanks!