A View on Self Publishing

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by Mike

You're a writer right? A good one. What? The picture is to get your attention. You see you need to be able to publicise yourself if you go into self-publishing. Sure you think you can hack that, but the chances are you will fail. Sorry, but you are up against marketing machines fighting for prime space in the retail market - even if you do have the PR gene - the odds are stacked against you. And you should be writing right? The breasts also appeal to base instincts - more of that later.

So I wonder what your view is on self-publishing? These are a few extracts from past interviews here at the magazine where we asked that question ...

Jessa Crispin of Bookslut

"Right now, unless you have a platform and a good designer and the stars on your side, you're better off setting your wallet on fire. It will be near impossible to get noticed and find readers. Sometimes it works; there are good self-published comics, and the new, brilliant Alinea cookbook was self-published, but those are exceptions. So much that is self-published is just awful. Really, painfully bad."

Juliet Pickering Associate Agent for AP Watt

"I think you should determine what your reasons for self-publishing are: to get into print at any cost, or to get a personal sense of completion after putting so much work into your magnus opus in the first place. What I would advise, is approaching agents to consider your book before you go down the self-publishing route. It does tend to be viewed as a last resort. And there’s no harm in moving on to another book after the lessons you’ve learnt through writing the first, and perhaps coming back to it later."

Dave Kuzminsk of Preditors & Editors

"Self-publishing is fine for poetry and books applicable to speakers giving how-to speaking engagements based upon specific platforms. On the other hand, it's the second worst route to take for fiction. Only vanity publishing is worse for novelists."

A final word from Julian Barnes on Publishing:

"The commercial pressures are much, much greater - the publisher wants their money back, the pressure on a young writer to write that 'break-through' book is more severe. I'm not against young writers making money - on the contrary. But I am in favour of young writers writing the best books they are capable of. And being protected against disappointment. Though maybe disappointment will make them better writers, who knows?"

So is it better to take the pain of rejection slips on the chin and use it to develop your character and writing skills - to push on and become a better writer? Certainly to self-publish could get you that publishing deal. But you are just as likely to win the lottery and far more likely to discredit your reputation if your intention is more than printing something up for your family and friends.

Our view?

Don't do it unless it's for fun. I understand the desire to birth the baby you've been working on for years, but you really don't want to deliver your love and joy into a box in the attic - that's no way to treat your labour.

It needs to come out into the open - to live, to breathe. And that's where the companies that urge you to self publish tap into your base instincts. As a writer your base instinct is to communicate, to move a reader emotionally, to take them on a journey. To communicate you need readers - a book really comes alive as it interacts with a reader. You know that it frustrates the hell out of you that it is trapped inside your pc. So the Self- Publishing houses tap into that desire. Tell you that they can give your book wings.

But don't be fooled the wings are clipped.

Stop. Think it through and take the long term view.

Top photo credit: Scott Sandars


gary davison said...

Enjoyed this, Mike. I agree with what you said. i think if you self-publish, then do it to get your book out there, but don't expect to make any cash or get anywhere with it.

I know that's harsh, but it is reality. Without any money behind a book it would take one hell of a following to build up to make enough noise for someone to hear.

That aside, if you could spare a few quid, I don't think self publishing and banging it up on amazon and trying to get something cost-free going online would do anyone any harm.

Michael J. Kannengieser said...

Hi Mike,
I met a few people who self published their books, and they may have well have changed their names to "Hi, please buy my book!" Unless a person has a bundle of money to promote their self published tome, it is not worth it.

Many brick and mortar book retailers will not sell self published books as some of the return policies of the vanity publishers are poor.

One particular "print on demand" house (they claim to be traditional publishers, but they are print on demand publishers) has a no return policy and many of their authors immediately discover that the majority of bookstores will not stock their books.

Unless you're famous, or if you're one of those "buy real estate with no money down" marketeers, self publishing is only worth it if you wish to see your book in print and have a few copies around the house to delight your friends. Nice article. -Mike K

George Polley said...

Nice article, Mike. About the only thing similar to self-publishing as a frustrating enterprise is slowly banging one's head on a hard object.

The book is printed and copies obtained when someone ruins it all by asking: "How are you going to market it?"

"Do what?" you reply with a bug-eyed look on your face; "What's marketing?" Then it's: "Oh, sh--!"

And spending your time writing and looking for an agent or publisher who will do that for you.

Ah life, ain't it lovely?