Self-Publishing…Yes or No?

My first thoughts on self-publishing used to be no, no, NO! After all, it was one of the first pieces of advice I was given as a budding writer. If I wanted to be taken seriously, I needed a publisher behind me, a real publisher. One fellow writer said, “Some authors are opening small companies to publish under, but readers are seeing right through it. It’s still self-publishing and that translates to unprofessional work.”

Pretty strong words, right? Yes, they were. I decided to heed them.

But, the publishing industry has shifted in the last couple of years. Have things changed enough? Is self-publishing more accepted now?

I’m considering self publishing my next book, but it makes me nervous. Those words from the beginning have stuck with me. If I self-publish, will I be taken seriously?

And honestly, speaking as an avid reader, there are valid concerns about the quality of work from indie authors. I’ve read some books that were poorly written. Most of these authors have never been published. The reasons were clear to me, and sadly, the authors didn’t understand the poor quality of their work.

I don’t mean to sound harsh. I understand the hard work that goes into writing. I really do. My first works didn’t get published and they shouldn’t have. They weren’t good enough.

The skills of writing need to be developed for many years. Publishers filter the good from the bad. With the option of self-publishing, we no longer have that filter.

Of course, the reverse has also been the case. I’ve read indie authors that were phenomenal! But most of those seemed to be previously published writers.

Just yesterday, I saw where Harlequin Intrigue Author Dana Marton just released a self-published book! That took me by surprise. I’m a fan of hers and she definitely caught my attention with this career choice.

So, I’m honestly on the fence about this as a whole and when considering my own writing. I’ve worked too hard at developing my writing career to do anything to hurt it now.

What do you think? Do you have any thoughts on this subject?

Published in: on July 24, 2011 at 9:07 am  Comments (12)  
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  1. I know of several pubbed authors who are now self-publishing. I’m not pubbed yet, but I’ve come close. So I know I’m almost there as a writer. Self-publishing is an option I find interesting only in that it liberates me from rejection angst. If the one thing that is holding an editor back from pubbing me is not about craft (and it isn’t at this point), then I can reasonable assume that there might be a reader out there for MY story. I won’t go that route today, or tomorrow, but I am free to write and grow as a writer without the sword of rejection looming over my head. This is very exciting. Who knows? One day agents and editors might be pitching to writers! After all, we’re the ones with the product that they want to sell. And if they aren’t willing to work with a promising new writer unless they’re SURE that they’ll make loads of money, then that promising writer now has an option and can filter out the middle man.

    Options are opportunities!

    • You’ve made an excellent point. I received many rejections for THE CURSE OF A MIND because publishers didn’t feel like it fit a specific genre. In truth, it is a mix, but I wrote it that way to make it stand out. That backfired on me. Thank goodness Whimsical Publications believed in it enough to publish it and market it as a romantic thriller. 🙂

  2. I had the same reservations. There are some stories I wrote before I was published that will never see the light of day. But I had two books I knew were perfectly good books—they just hadn’t sold to Intrigue (the line I write for) because of elements in them that Intrigue didn’t like. That’s it, a simple marketing decision that kept good books from seeing the light of day. (It happens).

    They were short books, only workable as category books if I tried to publish them traditionally, and I’d already received the final “no” on each. So I had two choices: put them away in a drawer somewhere or design a cover for them and try my hand at self-publishing.

    So, I self-published. And I don’t regret it. I’ve made a decent amount of money on them already, in just a month and a half, and I’ve barely marketed them at all. The royalty is much better in self-publishing than you’ll get from any traditional publisher. And it’s inspired me to put new work on sale straight to Kindle/Nook as well.

    I’ll still try to sell the traditional route, too. Advances are a major plus, and the good distribution (and print books) are a huge plus. But there’s no reason not to try to self-publish as well.

    It helps that I have established a readership, and I have the traditionally published label. I’m still a member of RWA, can still send my traditionally published books for the awards, and all of that does give me a level of “legitimacy” in the eyes of people who are wary of self-publishing.

    So I do think self-publishing is a legitimate choice. But it’s one that’s much easier to make from the standpoint of a traditionally published author. If I were unpublished, I would still be looking to go the traditional route to establish my credentials.

    • Paula, I love hearing success stories for indie authors. It takes guts to step out there on your own! Kudos to you!

      More often than not, when I see an author succeeding in self publishing, it is a writer that was already established in the industry, like you. 🙂

  3. When I first decided that I was going to finish my book, I researched EVERYTHING about traditional publishing vs self-publishing. I had heard the same things you just mentioned- the unprofessional remarks, the “obviously you can’t cut as a real author if no one will publish your work”, etc… In the end, I did decide to self-publish and I am glad I did. Granted, I just officially published it last week on b&n and amazon in ebook format only, but, I have had great reviews from the people who left them (and I have sold more than just 4! lol). To me, it all depends on the author and the amt of time & hard work they put into it. I paid to have a nice cover made. I paid to have my work edited (albeit an English teacher who loves her red pen.. but still, she is great at what she does).
    Yes, self-publishing IS better for an established author to work it. You get better royalities right off the bat and you do less work b/c you are already well known for your previous works, but, people are starting to realize that with a little patience, a LOT of hard work…. you can make a name for yourself. It just takes longer.
    Will I eventually try to be traditionally published? I would love it, I won’t deny that. Every writer wants to get that wonderful letter saying they are accepted. Right now, though, I am content to have people just buy my books and tell me their opinion.

    • Congratulations, Christi! You were wise to research everything first. I’ve often wondered if I can even do the technical side to publishing, i.e. formatting the manuscript, uploading it to the publishing service, etc. That part makes me nervous, too. lol

  4. Great question and great points.
    I have read some great self-published work but I have read a lot more BAD self-published work. You’re exactly right in regards to the filter. You take that out and you’re going to get a lot of bad which is going to hurt the credibility of self-publishing. It’s a question to which there is not yet an answer!

    • I think you hit the nail on the head right there! 🙂

  5. Will you be taken seriously if you self-publish? Do the traditional publishers keep crap from hitting the bookshelves? We all know THAT’S a laugh.

    To me being taken seriously is if people are paying you money for what you write. Was Amanda Hocking taken seriously? Okay, her stuff will certainly never be mistaken for literature, but are you going to say that a self-published millionaire isn’t to be taken seriously? Now she’s also signed a multi-million dollar deal with a traditional publisher.

    Consider someone like Joe Konrath. Also someone not putting out literature. Originally traditionally published now he’d turn down a half million dollar advance because he’s making more money doing it himself. I, for one, take anyone who’s making thirty grand and more a month as a serious writer.

    I have one self-published novel (plus a short-story and three edited books I’ve put up on my own). I won’t rival Hocking, Konrath or a bunch of others and I’m certainly not getting rich off my book. However, there are two girls working on their Master’s degrees in English here in Panama, where I retired, who are translating my book into Spanish. I don’t know how serious that is, but for me I think that’s pretty damned cool.

    • Indeed, sales can do the talking. No arguing that. There are some writers out there doing very well for themselves publishing their own books.

  6. I didn’t intend to self-publish. My first book (a mystery) was published by an independent publisher. I will always be grateful to them, but it wasn’t quite the experience I thought it would be. While I was writing the second mystery, I had a book of humor essays I couldn’t get published through traditional means. Agents thought it was a great idea, but I’m not famous. Could I call them when I’m Dave Barry, etc. So I went out on a limb and hired a cover designer, got some beta readers and before I knew it, I had a paperback via Createspace and an e-book on Kindle, Smashwords, etc. The paperback sales are poor, but the Kindle sales have been steadily climbing every month.

    It was such a fine experience, after my 2nd book was rejected, with compliments, by three agents (mostly because it’s a nice midlist book and big publishers aren’t interested in midlist newbies at the moment), I went back to Createspace and Kindle. I’m seeing the same phenomena with the mystery: steadily moving up each month.

    Did I ruin my reputation by self-pubbing? I don’t think so, and neither does my bank account.

    The publishing world is in the midst of a revolution right now. Authors can have more control than ever before. The old guard would like us to think that Indy authors are all bad writers who CAN’T get a deal. We can look at Amanda Hocking, Barry Eisler, Joe Konrath, etc, and know that’s not true.

    Will I take a deal offered by a publisher in the future? The one thing I’m learning from all this is to never say never.

    • Yep, never say never! That’s so true. Thanks for sharing your story, Gayle.

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