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Reasons Not to Self-Publish in 2011-2012: A List

By posted at 6:01 am on November 29, 2011 174

In a previous essay, I interviewed four self-published authors I admire, and I examined some of the benefits of that career path. Midway through writing the piece, I realized I’d have to continue the discussion in a second essay in order to fully explore my feelings (complicated) on the topic (multifaceted). You see, Reader, I still don’t plan on self-publishing my first novel, though I don’t deny the positive aspects of that choice.

Below I’ve outlined a few reasons behind my decision, informed by our contemporary moment. I can’t predict the future, though I’m sure I’ll remain comfortable with my opinions for at least another thirteen months. It’s in a list format, the pet genre of the blogosphere. How else was I to keep my head from imploding?

1. I Guess I’m Not a Hater
People love to talk about how traditional publishing is dying, but is that actually true? According to The New York Times, the industry has seen a 5.8% increase in net revenue since 2008. E-books are “another bright spot” in the industry, and the revenue of adult fiction grew by 8.8% in three years. (Take that, Twilight!)

Of course, the industry has troubles. The slim profit margins of books; the problems of bookstore returns; the quandary of Borders closing and Amazon forever selling books as a loss-leader; how to make people actually pay for content, and so on. Furthermore, the gamble of the large advance strikes me as ridiculous — and reckless, considering that editors and marketing teams have no real clue which books will be hits and which ones won’t. (Still, what writer is going to kick half-a-million out of bed?) And there’s the always-chilling question: With mounting pressure to turn a profit, how do editors justify publishing an amazing book that might not speak to a large audience? Talented authors — new and mid-list — are bound to get lost in this system.

And yet. And yet. I read good books by large publishing houses all the time, books that take my breath away, make me laugh and cry and wonder at the brilliance of humanity. I trust publishers. They don’t always get it right, but more often than not, they do. As I said in the piece that started me off on this whole investigation: “I want a reputable publishing house standing behind my book; I want them to tell you it’s good so that I don’t have to.”

2. I Write Literary Fiction
coverBefore you get your talons out, let me clarify: I don’t consider literary fiction superior to other kinds of fiction, just different; to me, it’s simply another genre, subject-wise and/or marketing-wise. Many of the writers who have found success in self-publishing are writers of straightforward genre fiction. Amanda Hocking writes young adult fantasy, dwarfs and all. Valerie Forster, who published traditionally before setting out on her own, writes legal thrillers. Romance, too, often does just fine without a publisher. Aside from Anthropology of An American Girl by Hilary Thayer Hamann, I can’t think of another literary novel that enjoyed critical praise and healthy sales when self-published. That’s not to say that it can’t — and shouldn’t — happen, it’s only to point out that it’s a tougher road for writers of certain sorts of stories. Readers like me aren’t seeking out self-published books. Why not? That’s for another essay. (Please, can someone else write that one?) Until the likes of Jeffrey Eugenides and Alice Munro begin publishing their work via CreateSpace, I don’t see the landscape for literary fiction changing anytime soon.

3. I’d Prefer a Small Press to a Vanity Press
coverThe conversation about self-publishing too often ignores the role of independent publishing houses in this shifting reading landscape. Whether it be larger independents like Algonquin and Graywolf, or small gems like Featherproof and Two Dollar Radio, or university presses like Lookout Books, the imprint at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, which recently published Edith Pearlman’s Binocular Vision (nominated for this year’s National Book Award), independent presses offer diversity to readers, and provide yet another professional option for authors. These presses are run and curated by well-read, talented people, and they provide readers with the same services that a large press provides: namely, a vote of confidence in a writer the public might have never heard of. Smaller presses, too, enjoy a specificity of brand and identity that too often eludes a larger house.

In this terrific interview, publisher Fred Ramey of Unbridled Books puts it this way:

I believe that the iron grip that large publishers and their marketing partners have had on readers’ attention since the 1990s has slipped quite a bit with the arrival of online retailers and opinion-makers. Obviously patrons of online booksellers can see the breadth of reading options – “Others who bought this item also bought….” Patrons of independent bookstores know of those options, too, and depend on the recommendations of their booksellers. The few “designated” titles from the big house are still dominant, of course, even in independent stores. But if you are an author in one of those corporations whose book has not been “designated” your reality can become pretty stark.

Independent presses can offer a real chance to a talented writer who might not fit the formulas of the big house. Yes, I know that each conglomerate has a few imprints and a good many editors dedicated to the best of books — to maintaining the course of American letters. Those are the prestigious imprints that aren’t always required to pretend the sales of a prior book predict the performance of the next book. (I’m often astounded at how willing the industry is to act as though it believes that. We all know it isn’t true.) But independent presses are all dedicated to finding and presenting the best of books, dedicated to the books in and of themselves and to the promise of the authors.

A year ago, I published my novella If You’re Not Yet Like Me with a tiny press called Flatmancrooked, and I consider it the highlight of my career so far. Not only did I get to work with a sharp and talented editor, Deena Drewis, and have my book designed by the press’s risk-taking founder Elijah Jenkins, I also had so much fun participating in the press’s LAUNCH program, where the limited first-edition went on pre-order for just a week. My book sold out in three days, and getting that first paycheck was exhilarating. My tiny book got me on a panel at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, a few awesome readings, and it even found its way to two different editors at larger houses. It became my literary calling card. When readers received my book in the mail, it was signed and numbered by me. It also came with a condom.

Flatmancrooked, sadly, closed its doors earlier this year, but Drewis has continued the LAUNCH program with her new press, Nouvella. The success of Flatmancrooked showed me that small can mean flexible and daring in its editorial and marketing choices. Small presses try things that large, established houses are too huge, and possibly too chickenshit, to even consider. The fact that Flatmancrooked is now defunct showed me that a labor of love is still a labor (especially when its laborers have other full-time jobs to go to), and that instability is unavoidable in the small press (or the small, small, small press) game.

Some writers are forever wed to the small press landscape. Others, like Blake Butler, Amelia Gray, Benjamin Percy, and Emma Straub first published with smaller outfits and have since moved onto larger houses. Perhaps the small press world is becoming the real proving ground for literary writers.

4. Self-Publishing is Better for the Already-Published
Perhaps the smarter, and far more seductive, path is the one where the writer begins his career with a traditional publisher, and then, once he’s built a base of loyal readers, sets off on his own. The man who loves to talk smack about the publishing industry, J.A. Konrath, already had an audience from his traditionally-published books by the time he decided to take matters into his own hands. It’s much harder to create a readership out of nothing.

coverI’m interested to see how Neal Pollack’s latest novel, Jewball, does as a self-published book. Short story writer Tod Goldberg is also trying this approach with his new mini-collection, Where You Lived, self-published as an e-book. I don’t need an intermediary to tell me about these writers because their previously published books speak for them.

5. I Value the Publishing Community
I decided to ask the most famous writer I know, Peter Straub, if he’s ever considered leaving the world of big publishing and putting out a book all by his lonesome. After all, he’s a bestselling author and editor of more than 25 books (18 novels alone!), and he’s a horror writer beloved by genre geeks and snobby literary types alike. A few of his fans probably sport tattoos of his bespectacled face on their pecs. (Or: Peter Straub tramp stamps! Yes!) In an email response, Straub acknowledged how quickly the publishing world and our reading habits are changing, and he said he just might experiment with self-publishing short fiction in the coming years. He told me:

True self-publication means writers upload content themselves, and plenty already do it. I’m not quite sure how you then publicize the work in question, or get it reviewed, but that I am unsure about these elements is part of the reason I seek always, at least for the present, to have my work published in book form by an old-style trade publisher. The trade publisher, which has contracted for the right to do so, then brings the book out in e-form and as an audiobook, so I am not ignoring that audience.

What he went on to say gave me a special kind of hope:

Most of the editors I have worked with over the past thirty-five years have made crucial contributions to the books entrusted to them, and the copy-editors have always, in every case, done exactly the same. They have enriched the books that came into their hands. Can you have good, thoughtful, creative editing and precise, accurate, immaculate copy-editing if you self-publish? And if you can’t, what is being said about the status or role of selflessness before the final form of the fiction as accepted by the audience, I mean the willingness of the author to submerge his ego to produce the novel that is truest to itself?

This — this! — I get. Even though my first novel was rejected by traditional publishers, one assistant editor’s notes on it — notes that were thorough, thoughtful, challenging, and compassionate — were enough to show me that these professionals are valuable to the process of book-making. I know you can hire experienced editors and copy-editors, but how is that role affected when the person paying is the writer himself? What if the hired editor told you not to publish? Would that even happen?

6. The E-Reading Conundrum; or, I don’t want to be Amazon’s Bitch
Many self-published authors have gone totally electronic, eschewing print versions of their work altogether. I can’t see myself taking that route, however, because I don’t own an e-reader, and I don’t have plans to buy one (not yet, anyway… I read a lot in the bath, etc., etc.). It seems odd that I wouldn’t be able to buy my own book — I mean, shouldn’t I be my own ideal reader? I also prefer to shop at independent bookstores, and in fact, I pay full price for my books all the time. The thought of Amazon being the only place to purchase my novel shivers my timbers. I don’t mind if someone else chooses to read my work electronically, just as I don’t mind if Amazon is one of the places to purchase my work; I’m simply wary of Amazon monopolizing the reading landscape. Self-publishing has certainly offered an alternative path for writers, but it’s naive to believe that a self-published author is “fighting the system” if that self-published book is produced and made available by a single monolithic corporation. In effect, they’ve rejected “The Big 6” for “The Big 1.”

7. Is it Best for Readers?
In September, when my brother-in-law learned that my book still hadn’t sold, he said, “Please don’t self-publish!” He was actually wincing. If I did self-publish, he said, he’d buy it because we were family, but otherwise, he’d happily ignore my novel in search of something he’d read about on The Millions, or heard about on NPR, or had a friend recommend. There are simply too many books out there as it is.

Our conversation reminded me of Laura Miller’s humorous and perspicacious essay, “When Anyone Can be a Published Author,” in which she reminds us that the people who celebrate self-publishing often overlook what it means for book buyers and readers. She writes:

Readers themselves rarely complain that there isn’t enough of a selection on Amazon or in their local superstore; they’re more likely to ask for help in narrowing down their choices. So for anyone who has, however briefly, played that reviled gatekeeper role, a darker question arises: What happens once the self-publishing revolution really gets going, when all of those previously rejected manuscripts hit the marketplace, en masse, in print and e-book form, swelling the ranks of 99-cent Kindle and iBook offerings by the millions? Is the public prepared to meet the slush pile?

As a member of the reading public, I am not prepared, or willing, to wade through all that unfiltered literature. As a writer, I must put my head back to the grindstone and write a book that more than a handful of readers can fall in love with.

8. I’m Busy. Writing.
Today I wrote two pages of my new novel while my mother took my five-month-old son to the mall. I get twelve hours of childcare a week, and six of those are dedicated to preparing for my classes and running a private writing school. The other six hours I devote to my new novel. The old one, the one that traditional editors didn’t go nuts for, is in the drawer. Some might say I’ve given up; I say, I’m just getting warmed up. I’m still writing, aren’t I? My career isn’t one book, but many. And like every other writer out there, I decide what road I want to travel.


Image credit: purplesmog/Flickr

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174 Responses to “Reasons Not to Self-Publish in 2011-2012: A List”

  1. Mark Haber
    at 7:07 am on November 29, 2011

    Great article Edan. I had a collection of stories published by some friends in 2008 and I don’t regret it, however I have 900 copies sitting in boxes in the laundry room. Of course it didn’t help that the stories were “literary fiction” ala Donald Barthelme. There are benefits to both vanity publishing and traditional publishers, either small or large. You really did a great job of illuminating the different sides of this dilemma. The important thing is to keep writing. You ARE just getting warmed up!

  2. Ronlyn Domingue
    at 9:09 am on November 29, 2011

    Wonderful essay, Edan. You’ve made a good case for your choice.

    I agree with Mr. Straub’s comments on the value of good editors and copy editors. Having a keen eye notice gaps in a story or opportunities missed makes for a better book in the end.

    For now, a traditional publisher, regardless of how small, gives a writer an edge (even if that’s slight) in publicity and marketing. For better or worse, being published by a traditional press suggests that the work passed some sort of test–it’s been deemed ready for an audience.

    Like you, I still love my books on paper and won’t get an e-reader until I have to. I’m traditionally published and will continue to be for a while–and I have no intention of making exclusive deals with any one e-book seller, thus cutting out any potential reader.

    Best of luck on completing your next novel and finding a great home for your first.

  3. Laura Roberts
    at 9:29 am on November 29, 2011

    “I don’t want to be Amazon’s bitch.”

    I don’t either. Have you ever heard of Smashwords? Or, for that matter, the invention of the PDF? You can sell the files from your very own website, with the aid of another great site: Paypal.

    There are always ways around Amazon’s corporate claws, if you look for them.

  4. Sue Lange
    at 9:30 am on November 29, 2011

    I’m thinking that eventually every professional writer will work with traditional publishers as well as self-publish. It all depends on what they hope to accomplish with a specific piece. You may already be self-publishing right now with your blog posts. (Does your contribution to The Millions go through an acceptance/rejection or editing process?)

    At any rate, self-publishing is best left to those that can market themselves more aggressively than their publishers can. There are a number of authors that are better at it than their publishers. And they have access to readers somehow (through aggressive social media or contacts with major reviewers).

    The editing a publisher provides is golden, but lately the editing for major publishers seems to be going downhill. There are a lot of typos etc. getting through. I can only assume that there is less editing being done as well as proof-reading. And an author can hire any of those out-of-work editors that used to work for the big houses. Whether or not they do that is, as you pointed out, up to whether or not the author really wants to put their ego in check.

    Thanks for some excellent thoughts on this subject.

  5. Val
    at 9:37 am on November 29, 2011

    Regarding #2 I would like to say that an author’s success in self publishing has nothing to do with genre fiction as opposed to literary, rather it is the result of a a good story with quality writing coupled with the old fashioned route to building a career: reader promotion. Word of mouth rather than expensive marketing campaigns boosts sales. It is also untrue that there is little or no literary fiction being self published. In fact, there are many gifted writers producing works of art, all one has to do is look.

  6. Gabe Brownstein
    at 9:53 am on November 29, 2011

    Wow, this was a good one to read before setting down to my morning business of writing. (Is it “business” if you get paid in contributor’s copies?) Just very thoughtful and human. Nice to see someone thinking out the problems of a changing world.

  7. Should Literary Authors Self Publish? - GalleyCat
    at 10:02 am on November 29, 2011

    […] Millions just published an essay by Edan Lepucki called “Reasons Not To Self Publish in 2011-2012,” collecting eight unexpected reasons why literary writers should give traditional publishing […]

  8. JR Tomlin
    at 10:08 am on November 29, 2011

    You know there are a lot of reasons for deciding to go with traditional publishing rather than self-publishing. What I am sorry to see is people making the decision based more on emotion, prejudice and ignorance than facts. And I’m sorry, but that is what you are doing here if your list is honest.

    For example, your first one, that you are not a self-hater made me go, huh? And then I read the whole thing. What were you really saying? That you need validation from a corporation for your writing. That you can’t get enough validation from readers and if a company doesn’t tell you a writer, then you aren’t. I would say that you already — if not hate yourself — then don’t have much respect for yourself. I’m sorry that you are making an important business decision on such a need for validation rather than what may be best for you as a writer.

    On one point you were correct in my opinion, not all publishing companies are dying. They’ll be around for a while. But take a look at what happened to the fiction writers at Kaplan who weren’t even TOLD that the fiction branch was being dropped. Is that really where you should get your validation?

    For heaven’s sake, if you sign a publishing contract don’t do it for validation.

    You make a decision where to publish on the value of editors? And Peter Straub values them? That’s nice. I do too. A good editor is a wonderful thing. I pay mine well to do the job for me. For ME, not for a publishing company. Where on earth did you get the idea that self-publishers don’t use editors. It is simply not true.

    And yes, Joe Konrath was previously published. He will someday sell as many books as Amanda Hocking, who wasn’t. Is it easier for a self-published author who has already been published to sell books? Yes, often.

    Is it easier for a traditionally published author who has been previously published to sell books? Yes, often.

    You don’t like Amazon? Then sell through Apple and Barnes & Noble.

    All that aside, being an indie author may not be for you, but publishing is a business. The decisions need to be made — for your own sake — on reasons based on reality.

  9. Jaye Viner
    at 10:09 am on November 29, 2011

    This was exceptionally wonderful to read. Thank you for your research and honesty.

  10. Isabelle
    at 10:21 am on November 29, 2011

    A very insightful essay, thank you. You have confirmed my decision to move forward with a traditional publisher for my second novel.

  11. Collin Kelley
    at 10:28 am on November 29, 2011

    I really hate “articles” like this. Sorry, Edan. There is whiff of anti-technology and that old MFA brainwashing of “if you don’t publish with a real press then you aren’t a REAL writer” mentality going on here. The publishing business is changing on a daily basis and those who can’t or won’t keep up are destined to be left behind.

    My first two novels were published with a small press, but I’m going to give self-publishing a try with an eBook of short stories. I also self-published my first collection of poetry about a decade ago and it continues to sell to this day. I have no regrets whatsoever and would self-publish again in a heartbeat — even literary fiction.

    If your work is good and you’re willing to do a little shameless self-promotion, then the book will rise to the surface. Find a good editor, pick good cover art and find like-minded authors and readers to engage.

  12. Don’t Write for “Validation”, That’s Bad Business | No Publisher Needed
    at 10:56 am on November 29, 2011

    […] Edan writes over at about why NOT self-publish. He lays out 8 logical reasons (to him) that back up his decisions. Fine, you can, and should, do […]

  13. Jim Kukral
    at 10:58 am on November 29, 2011

    I agree with JR. If you’re going to write for validation, just own it. The other excuses make zero business sense. Don’t want to play with Amazon? That’s just bad business, the same way that not playing with Google would be.

  14. MacEvoy DeMarest
    at 11:05 am on November 29, 2011

    It is nice to see a cogent, well-thought-out evaluation like this, as opposed to the brash predictions and wild-eyed haranguing one comes across elsewhere.

    Having said that, I did notice that you present your thoughts as a snapshot in time (even in your post title) rather than a final analysis on the subject. It seems like you see changes coming, but have determined that they are not yet relevant to literary fiction.

    I’m curious what people think: Is it inevitable that a Jeffrey Eugenides or Alice Munro will eventually self-publish their work? Or will literary fiction forever remain compartmentalized from other genres? Thoughts?

  15. Claude Nougat
    at 11:18 am on November 29, 2011

    Very good post, Edan, I enjoyed reading it all the more so that I’m getting a little tired of the J.A.Konrath and other similar writers’ hype surrounding self-publishing. I recently posted about the pitfalls of self-publishing on my blog, suggesting that with the rising tsunami of self-published authors, it’s going to become harder and harder (if not impossible) to duplicate Amanda Hocking’s success.

    This said, and while I agree with most of your points, there are two areas where we don’t see eye to eye.

    One is the fear of becoming “Amazon’s bitch”: that is a totally groundless fear (and if it exists, you could argue that there is equal deanger in becoming anyone of the Big Six Publishers’ bitch). In any case, as one of your readers said, you can always go to another digital platform: B&N, iBookstores (for the Ipad) or Sony Stores or even sell thebooks yourself like Rowland is doing on Pottermore. Indeed, to spread yourself on several platforms is highly advisable and makes economic sense.

    The other is to believe that literary fiction is not suitable for e-readers. Why? A good story will always sell, no matter the genre. It just so happens that “straightforward genre” as you call it trumps literary fiction everytime in the digital world as much as in the real, physical world in the terms of sales. The real money is made in romance, as every publisher knows. That’s what people like to read most. Next come thrillers, fantasy, sci-fi etc. Literary is bottom of the pile – sad but true!

  16. Ike Hamill
    at 11:21 am on November 29, 2011

    I’m worried less about how to publish and more about how to promote. Some houses will make a real marketing push for a book, and others barely seem motivated to try to make back their money. In the end, it seems like the author is the one on the hook to find their audience and make sales.

    If you’re going to take on that much of the risk, don’t you deserve that much of the reward? It seems like tireless self-promotion is the only key to success, and you don’t need a publisher taking all of the profits if you’re the one in the trenches.

  17. Drummond
    at 11:28 am on November 29, 2011

    Perfect. As the animation video at says, “the book can be found in many new formats, which is great. But it all begins when an author finds his (/her) publisher.”

  18. Henry Baum
    at 11:32 am on November 29, 2011

    Those are all fine reasons (I’m a self-publishing person who’s published w/ Soft Skull and other places) but you don’t talk much about what you do if your book is rejected by big and small presses. There are many arguments to go with a press, but there are fewer arguments to say it’s better to have a book languish in a drawer than to find new readers, however small a number it may be – and these days it might not even be small. Good things can happen if you reach people. Nothing happens if you don’t.

    Also: don’t listen to Laura Miller. If a book is good, it will rise above the slush pile, just like in an agent’s office. That’s how the system works. You don’t compete with bad books any more than a good blog competes with a spam blog.

    And you don’t have an e-reader? You can have the complete works of Jane Austen (and others) for free, immediately. It’s a writer’s and reader’s dream. You seem to think ebooks are synonymous with bad writing, because genre books get all the publicity. Dan Brown and Stephenie Meyer sell more than everyone in print too. Commercial books always sell better.

  19. Edan Lepucki
    at 11:41 am on November 29, 2011

    Thanks for the feedback, everyone. I appreciate the comments about the Amazon conundrum–I was hoping someone out there would have more information on that topic.

    To clarify, I don’t believe that e-readers are bad, or that what can be read on one is bad. I simply don’t have one, and don’t want one. Not yet at least. I do a lot of my reading in the bath. I also just like books as physical objects, and I like going shopping for them at a store. That’s just my preference–it’s fine if it isn’t yours. Maybe someday my preference will change. I bought a Kobo for my mom and she likes it a lot.

    MacEvoy DeMarest, yes, these are my thoughts on the matter right now. The world is always changing–especially the book world! Who knows what I’ll think in 2013? You ask great questions–ones I’d love to see debated further.

  20. M.P. McDonald (@MarkTaylorBooks)
    at 11:58 am on November 29, 2011

    If a writer wants to go the traditional route, that’s fine. It’s very hard to switch up the dream most writers have had to see their book in print. When we were first dreaming of being published, nobody ever thought of uploading an electronic book. I also wanted to go the traditional route. However, it finally occurred to me that agents, editors and publishers aren’t my audience and aren’t nearly as important as readers. They give the real validation–not the few people sitting in NY deciding who gets through and who doesn’t. Also, how many is a ‘handful of readers’? A hundred? A thousand? How about 25,000 and counting?

    So, go ahead and reach for your dreams. I’m living mine now every time someone buys my books and especially when I get an email from a reader thanking me for writing them. Best feeling EVER!

    Also, just a note, an ereader can be read in the tub. Just put it in a freezer sized ziplock bag. I read mine in a hot tub at the gym. In fact, it fares better than a paper book because it doesn’t get damp and warped.

  21. Shannon LC Cate
    at 12:09 pm on November 29, 2011

    “As a member of the reading public, I am not prepared, or willing, to wade through all that unfiltered literature. As a writer, I must put my head back to the grindstone and write a book that more than a handful of readers can fall in love with.”

    YESYESYES…to this and really, to everything else you said here. I read literary fiction more than any other genre (and, especially as an academic, I despise that term, but it’s a marketing label, right?) and I am NOT prepared to meet the slush pile, nor am I willing to cast my babies (my own books) into it to sink or swim–even though I am not writing “literary fiction.”

    I will keep at it until I can get that traditional publisher. I am also a fan of certain small presses and would rather go that route if big presses don’t see my work as a good fit. But in general, I will probably not self-publish until/unless I have a traditional career and it seems like a beneficial ADDITIONAL strategy to take.

  22. Stephanie Haefner
    at 12:10 pm on November 29, 2011

    There are different choices for everyone and everyone chooses what is best for them. Me personally, I need a traditional publisher. I do not currently have the resources (ie money) to properly promote myself. I do what I can that is free…and there isn’t much that works.

    In my opinion, if a book is being rejected continuously, well…maybe it’s not that good. Or maybe the market is not right for that kind of book at that time. Literary agents and publishers are professionals and they know this business. If they don’t think they can make money on something, I trust their judgement. Why would I go and put tons of my own money into something that is not sellable? But they are human and don’t know everything…they can’t predict the future.

    My reasons for not self-publishing…. I can’t afford to pay a professional editor, or a graphic designer (and let’s face it, 99% of self-pubbed covers are, to put it nicely, less than desirable). I need the backing of a publishing house- the support and marketing. I would rather spend my time writing than figuring out how to format and upload things, designing covers, etc…

    Self-publishing is a great option for some, but not everyone.

    Thanks for this post!

  23. Tayari Jones
    at 12:15 pm on November 29, 2011

    This is related, I think to the conversation. As an African American writer, I am often asked how I “made the transition from self-publishing to traditional publishing.” The people asking me this are often journalists who assume that this was my route.

    I am not sure what this means exactly, but when I am asked, it’s not framed as a compliment.

    I think it’s naive to think that good writing is all that matters and there are not real advantages to having certain credentials, particularly if you are a person that doesn’t have a lot of built-in social privilege.

  24. Ruby Barnes
    at 12:19 pm on November 29, 2011

    Edan, I understand your viewpoint but I’m not totally in agreement and here’s my tuppence.

    1. You don’t have to be an industry hater to self-publish. I’m not a hater but I have self-published. Why? Because self-publishing an ebook give almost instant access to a market of millions with Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader, iPad, iPod touch, iPhone, Android and so on. Because it allows the indie author to price as they see fit, earning up to 70c on the dollar. Because I don’t have to wait and wait to access a book-buying market via a publisher.
    What are the statistics on unpublished authors getting picked up by agents and publishers? An agent I know personally looks at 3000 manuscripts and takes on a handful of new authors per year. Then, if published, the percentage of authors that make back their advance for the publisher is very small. Only the 95th percentile of authors then make more than $12,000 a year.
    Also worth a mention that you’ll likely be expected by your publisher to do a fair amount of marketing, no escaping that.

    2. I get the impression you believe that it’s either / or with self-publishing. I have two e-books out this year and I’m an unknown author with genre-bending content. Nevertheless I’ve managed to shift about five hundred paid copies and fifteen thousand free copies of my first novel. Isn’t it better to have that readership out there than to stay inside the cocoon?

    3. Perhaps I’m talking at cross purposes. Self-publishing is and isn’t vanity publishing. With POD, Kindle and Smashwords the lines have become blurred. I don’t consider my e-publishing as vanity but I’m hesitant about going POD because it can have a vanity feel.

    4. Have to fully agree with you there. I also know mainstream authors that are doing very well from their backlist. It’s difficult to rise up out of the noise of myriad independent e-authors. That’s a challenge to rise to.

    5. Agree with you again but see the advantages in my (1) above of the independent approach.

    6. Others have already said it, there’s a lot more to ebooks than Amazon Kindle, although they are key. I just realised in the last few weeks I’ve sold copies of book 1 through B&N, iStore and Sony all around the world and picked up tons of positive product reviews on Amazon and those other e-stores. People are reading e-books on tablets, phones, e-readers, laptops. On planes, trains and listening to them in automobiles. It’s electrifying.

    7. A valid point. To build a readership is a challenge. There are ways and means, but the compulsive communication dangers of social networking are waiting to consume our writing time.

    8. Yep, valid point. Mad marketing of an independent e-book can absorb valuable writing time. Each individual has to choose the road to travel. Here in Ireland, by choosing to e-publish independently, I’m taking the road less travelled. It’ll take some time before I’ll know if it has made all the difference.


  25. Collin Kelley
    at 12:26 pm on November 29, 2011

    I think there is a myth that continues to be perpetuated that if you get signed by a traditional publisher that they are going to do a big marketing campaign, send you on a book tour and guarantee reviews in all the big dailies. I know quite a few authors published by traditional presses and they are doing most of the marketing and promotion themselves, especially if they are with a small press. Self-promotion and marketing is time-consuming and can be a huge distraction, but whether you self-publish or are lucky to get a contract, this whole notion that the book will sell itself (or the publisher will do it for you) is just a fantasy for 99 percent of writers.

  26. Michelle
    at 12:27 pm on November 29, 2011

    I work as an event coordinator/marketer for an independent bookstore that has been inundated in recent years with self-published authors looking for shelf space and store events for their books. We get – and I am not exaggerating – between 400 and 500 requests a year from self-published authors asking us to stock and promote their book. On a slow week, we get 5-10 requests; on a busy week we’ll get 20.

    If you ask most indie bookstore event coordinators about self-published authors, you will probably see some combination of eye-rolling, teeth grinding, or derisive laughter. Self-published authors are the bane of our existence. There are so, SO many would-be self-published authors that would do well to read this piece, and read it thoroughly. And then second-guess their decision to self-publish. But I know they won’t.

    Why do I loathe (most) self-published authors? Here’s why. And I’m saying all this so maybe – MAYBE – there’s a self-published author out there who will read this and then understand what they are up against when it comes to marketing their self-published book through their friendly neighborhood indie bookstore.

    1. Their books suck. There is no other way to say this. Bad writing, bad grammar, bad spelling, bad plot/character development, bad subject matter, etc. Don’t even get me started on do-it-yourself cover art. The book is bad. It’s bad. That’s why it couldn’t get published by a traditional publisher. But you can’t tell the self-published author of this monstrosity that their book is substandard and unsellable. Because they would act like you’ve just told them their brand-new firstborn child is ugly. Hey, I get it. You put a lot of work into this thing, and you ended up with an ugly baby. But that doesn’t change the baby’s looks, or the book’s ability to sell.

    2. 90% of self-published authors are rude, pushy, completely self-absorbed, and relentless. This is my BOOK! It’s my MASTERPIECE. How dare you say it is not worthy of being stocked in your store, unless I pay for consignment?? How dare you, to not jump up and down and beg me to do an event for this book – even though I am not really from around here, I have no friends, and the book has only a very narrow niche appeal since it’s about my past life experience as a 16th century vampire with a skin condition?? Some of them don’t even bother to pitch the book themselves, but hire some poor hapless “freelance literary agent” to do it for them. Then relentlessly prod the “agent” to get them an event. THE BOOK SUCKS. IT’S NOT HAPPENING.

    3. Self-published authors show a really appalling level of self-non-awareness. EVERY self-published author thinks they are the next Stephenie Meyer/James Patterson/That Guy on Amazon Who Sold a Million E-Books. EVERY self-published author thinks their memoir about going on a hiking trip to Alaska where nothing particularly dramatic happened is “special” and that “people will love it!” EVERY self-published author thinks they have written the new breakout bestseller, YA sensation, Great American Novel. I hear the same words from the same types of people over and over and over, about how their books are “different.” The books are never different. 50% of them have badly Photoshopped covers and are printed in Comic Sans.

    You wrote a book. Congratulations. Let me make this clear. WRITING THE BOOK AND PAYING SOMEONE TO PRINT IT FOR YOU DOES NOT MAKE YOU SPECIAL. If the book is actually good – and in the several thousand requests I’ve processed, I’ve seen three or four that actually were – THAT makes you special. But please, PLEASE stop acting like paying AuthorHouse or Smashwords or any other vanity publisher a few thousand dollars entitles you to anything. It doesn’t. Not the adoration of untold legions of fans. Not the respect and admiration of your local indie bookseller. Not sales from your friends (who 80% of the time, from what I can see, end up with free copies rather than purchased ones). Not attention from local or national media. Self-publishing means that instead of the book manuscript being stuck in a drawer, there’s a 99% chance you’ll end up with boxes of unsold books in your garage. Fewer than 1% of self-published authors sell more than 150 copies of their book.

    Please think about all this, self-publishing authors, before you give your credit card number to Smashwords.

  27. Edward Champion
    at 12:36 pm on November 29, 2011

    Independent presses do indeed offer alternatives, but if you think they don’t come with their own coteries and rules of the game, you’re sadly mistaken. Some of these factors make the indies just as susceptible to problems of convention as the Big Six (and it may also explain why they serve as a “proving ground” — don’t think for a minute that commerce doesn’t motivate ANY publisher, no matter how noble or artistic or alternative the intentions; people do need to stay afloat). As Tayari notes above, great writing is never enough. And even if you have secured some minor station in the literary world, that may not be enough either. There are any number of flukes which cause a floundering book to be published and a masterpiece to be ignored. If you don’t have the patience to deal with this, then self-publishing may be for you. I just worry that figures like Joe Konrath are contributing misinformation to wide-eyed aspirants which suggest a dot com-like trajectory to instant riches. The e-book market, despite its many evident virtues (especially with tied up backlists being liberated), remains a polyglot glut for many of the reasons you cite.

  28. Marion Gropen
    at 12:38 pm on November 29, 2011

    Nice post, indeed.

    There is one reason you missed, though: It’s also a tremendous time-saving for the writer to have someone else do the dirty work of running their publishing company. Most writers would rather be writing or selling their book than doing accounting, customer service or maintaining their website’s shopping cart, etc.

    You can off-load some of that on a “Pay-to-Play” publisher, which is sometimes lumped in with self-publishing, but all of those options come with substantial snags, that make it much, much harder for your book to be successful.

    I work with a lot of self-publishers as well as with small and micro-publishers. I don’t recommend this as a path UNLESS you like the business of publishing books, and are considering founding a new press. Frankly, this is a lot of fun, as businesses go, and many people do get hooked. It’s addictive.

    But if you hate running a company, including all of the accounting and infrastructure, then either you’ll hate being self-published OR you won’t do as well by yourself and your book as you would have done with a traditional publisher.

  29. M.P. McDonald (@MarkTaylorBooks)
    at 12:40 pm on November 29, 2011

    This is directed to Michelle, who commented above. Smashwords does not take our credit card numbers and we do not pay them to publish us. I just didn’t think it was fair to lump Smashwords in with vanity publishers who do take money upfront. Smashwords sells and distributes books to other retailers. When a book sells, they take a small percentage and pass the majority on to the author. The money flows to the author, as it should.

    I don’t have a print book as I feel that ebooks are the future, so don’t worry, I will never approach you to put my book in your bookstore.

  30. Henry Baum
    at 12:41 pm on November 29, 2011

    Michelle – you just wrote a manifesto illustrating exactly why people despise traditional publishing. The snobbery and self-importance. Maybe a dying business like a bookstore shouldn’t be so dismissive of its customers.

    Granted, there are a lot of bad self-published books, and probably a lot of clueless, pushy self-publishers, but your use of “EVERY” is ugly, at best. Millions of people self-publish every year – there is no possible way to classify all self-publishers as anything.

    Also: credit card number to Smashwords? Amateur.

  31. Collin Kelley
    at 12:50 pm on November 29, 2011

    Edward, I interviewed J.A. Konrath a few weeks ago for a piece I did for Huffington Post and I have to disagree that he is pushing “misinformation” about self/eBook publishing. If you read his blog, he is very upfront about the path and choices he made and he’s never made any claims that instant riches are just around the corner for every writer. Konrath, like a handful of those traditionally published, has gotten lucky. He’s also a savvy self-marketer. He sells thousands upon thousands of books to many eager readers. You can dismiss him all you like, but he has an enviable fan base.

  32. Bella Street
    at 12:57 pm on November 29, 2011

    You can pop your ereader into a Zip-Loc bag and still read in the bathtub. :)

  33. Michael McGuire
    at 1:00 pm on November 29, 2011

    Michelle, leaving aside the tone of your remarks, I didn’t get the impression that Lepucki’s post was aimed at POD publishing of paper books. Also — “there is no other way to say this” — I don’t care about independent book stores. I’m sure that marks me as a Philistine, but Amazon has consummately scratched that itch for me: if I need a rare book, it’s nearly always just a search and a click away. The other events that an independent bookstore might offer — poetry readings, book signings, etc. — I don’t care about. Never have. I just skulk in my digital cave and one-click purchase whatever I need.

    On a broader note, I think the slush pile can be attacked using search engines and online reviews. Granted, you have to develop a nose for sniffing out the carp, but that’s true even with published reviews from literary journals.

  34. Laurel
    at 1:05 pm on November 29, 2011

    I really value the balanced approach of this essay. But unless I read it too fast, the writer is missing a critical point: self-publishing as the path to traditional publishing. Need I recite — again — the list of famous authors who started out self-published, from Poe to Whitman? Yes, most self-published stuff is crap, but plenty isn’t. And plenty of highly qualified people are shut out NOT because their work wasn’t good enough, but because it didn’t fit a particular expectation, or trend, or marketing spreadsheet.

    Take me for example: professional, widely published writer complete with fancy MFA and highly-respected agent, as well as a memoir manuscript praised by everyone from my teachers to editors at traditional publishers. Still, no go. So I self-published, paid for all the stuff a traditional house MIGHT do, from editors to publicists, got some good reviews, and eventually the notice of Amazon’s traditional publishing arm, AmazonEncore. They gave me all the services, in the quality, that any writer only dreams of, and the book is out there, making its way in the world with a whole team behind it.

    But even if Amazon had never come knocking? The self-publishing effort was worth every penny because it got me what a writer most wants: readers! Readers who sent me thoughtful notes, who showed up to hear me read, who told their friends to buy the book. Yes, a writer writes; but the point of that writing is to be read and shared and enjoyed by others. Sometimes, self-publishing is the only way to make that happen. And sometimes it makes a whole lot of other things happen too!

  35. SP Author
    at 1:09 pm on November 29, 2011

    ” Self-published authors are the bane of our existence.”

    Have you considered that most self-published authors don’t give a hoot about your existence?

  36. Angela Perry
    at 1:18 pm on November 29, 2011

    I don’t envy you Edan. I admire you for sticking your neck out, but I wouldn’t trade places with you. You clearly state that this your choice and your thoughts on the matter. I see nowhere in the article where you say anyone has to do what you are doing. Yet more than half of the comments are from people saying you are stupid not to do it their way.

    Every time I make the mistake of airing my thoughts and opinions on publishing choices, I have writers who disagree appearing from the woodwork to tell me how wrong I am. It seems impossible to have a rational discussion on the subject. It’s funny, as I doubt anyone who felt obligated to weigh in on my career choice would buy my book regardless.

    When I choose how I publish, I will do so quietly and without fanfare, because of reactions like these.

  37. A M Fisher
    at 1:29 pm on November 29, 2011

    She wrote a novel. She posted it on her blog. She took it down the next day. She posted it the next day. She took it down the next day. She wrote it out on toilet paper and blew her nose with it in winter. She read it to her grandmother as her grandmother hung dying cause Abuela was a murderess and passive/aggressive to boot. She read it aloud on the street but only every other word and the street was the ocean.

    One writes a novel when one has nothing else to do and suicide is not an option, said Chateaubriand, or so, or so,

    no fun, I’m done.

  38. Vally Sharpe
    at 1:29 pm on November 29, 2011

    I have to laugh at the narcissism inherent in all of the above. “My way is best, no matter what.” The answer to which way to go if you’re an author has nothing to do with whether or not your writing touches the people you wrote to in the first place, which used to be the primary goal for people who dared to put words down on paper.

    No, this has to do with questions like, “Do I have the money to invest in my own small business or the skills to market my work so that readers know it’s there?” “Do I have the networks, the distribution channels in place to deliver the book, an understanding of the costs of things that have nothing to do with the content of the book.

    I help people decide which route to take based on the reality of the publishing business (and yes, it is a business) and I assist those who choose to “self-publish” make their product as good as I possibly can. Whether you tout your own books, or tremble with authentic or fake humility with respect to promoting them and decide to go the low percentage route of courting a publisher who spends somebody else’s money…

    Whether or not you stick with the traditional publishing model or go it completely on your own is not the issue. What IS the issue is what goals you have. If you think you’re the next J.K. Rowling, dream of being introduced as a published “author” and want to make millions, self-publishing is not the way to go. If you are a team-building consultant and you have an established network of people who already recognize you as an expert, what the acquisitions editor at HarperCollins thinks about your book is moot.

    In the end, all books are vetted. By the reader. And, I would submit that the masses couldn’t give a rat’s behind about who paid for the production and marketing. The proof’s in the pudding, and this pudding is based on whether you can communicate and whether what you communicate touches the life of the reader in some way.

  39. Michael A Ventrella
    at 1:34 pm on November 29, 2011

    Excellent post. I agree completely.

    I may not be with a major publisher, but my novels have done well with a small press and I’ve received respect in the publishing community I never would experience as a self-published author. (I’ve blogged about it here:

  40. Mel Staffeld
    at 1:56 pm on November 29, 2011

    Folks speaking from an independently published/co-publisher and literary consultant all of you have some valid comments and all of you don’t. Vanity publishing from what I’ve encountered has a pretty pricey cost to it and doesn’t work for a lot of people (from what I’ve heard). There’s nothing wrong with self-publishing as there’s a number of authors out there who have some great works that’d never see the light of day at the ‘traditional’ publishing as Lepucki so wishes for. Is that good or bad? That’s something only the individual author can answer. As my works and the consulting I do for novice publishers aren’t mainstream, they’d never be accepted at either the ‘traditonal’ or the ‘independent’ (and yes, I’ve submitted to both) publishers. Self-publishing works for me and I’m perfectly all right with doing the marketing and promoting. If you self-publish, you have to do that; if you traditionally publish you have to do that. Yes it takes away from the writing time but there’s no ‘marketing/publicity faery’ to do it for you.
    I do take exception to the implications (and I’ll admit I just might be reading the article wrong) that ‘traditional’ is the only way to go to gain acceptance. It’s most definitely not but only the author can decide what’s important to him/her. You can gain acceptance self-publishing, doing the ‘traditional’ route or the ‘independent’ route but to say one’s (i.e. ‘traditional’) is better than the others as Lepucki implies is an overly broad generalization that shouldn’t have been made. It’s a new world out there folks and formerly accepted rules have gone out the nearest window. If being with a ‘traditional’ publisher is so important to you, then go that route. If going through an independent is that important then go that route. If you want to self-publish there’s a number of ways to do it and there just as valid as anything else.
    I’d have to say that not publishing in 2012-2013 is more than a bit silly but again, this is Lepucki’s viewpoint. I don’t agree with it for a number of reasons but there are those of you who do. Instead of taking sides and getting snarky about it, how about we post our comments like intelligent people and maybe exchange our information about our respective publishing experiences among ourselves? From what I’ve read we’ve all have information and experience in publishing that could benefit others. I will ask to exclude ‘Michelle’ from this as at the bookstore I work part-time at we do have self-publishers come in and they’ve all been (from what I’ve seen and heard) very polite and professional and the store I work at does publish self-published works. If you and your co-workers are rolling your eyes and being snarky about how you talk to them perhaps you and your co-workers need to step down and let those more willing to work with people take over your store. If you’re giving writers attitude, they’re going to give it to you back in spades.

  41. Reasons Not to Self-Publish in 2011-2012: A List | The Passive Voice
    at 2:01 pm on November 29, 2011

    […] Link to the rest at The Millions […]

  42. Suzanna E. Nelson
    at 2:10 pm on November 29, 2011

    This has been an informative article, Edan. Thank you very much for writing it. I hope you don’t stop writing these types of articles because of our opinions. Let me say that I strongly disagree with the people who say most indie books suck. I know some indie authors, including me, who have received awards and gotten good reviews from companies like Kirkus and others.

    I took the indie path because I didn’t have the patience to keep sending out my manuscripts and not hearing back. Since being published I have done a lot of work to promote my books. Whether it’s more work or less work than what a traditionally published author does, I am not sure. All I know is that my books can’t be found in developing countries because I don’t have the kind of reach that a traditional publisher does. Most people in the developing world don’t have ereaders or credit cards, but they have bookstores.

    Everyone has their reasons for how they publish. For me being able to sell in the developing countries is where a traditional publisher would be helpful. Please notice that I said, for me. Thank you, Edan, for prompting this discussion. Looking forward to the next one.


  43. Shiloh Walker
    at 2:16 pm on November 29, 2011

    “….I really hate “articles” like this. Sorry, Edan. There is whiff of anti-technology and that old MFA brainwashing of “if you don’t publish with a real press then you aren’t a REAL writer” mentality going on here…”

    I actually kind of loved this article…and it didn’t come off as anti-tech at all. I see it as explaining why the author’s particular path suits her.

    I was doing epub before it was ‘cool’. And it was epub then…not digital. Started in 2003…so the ‘anti-tech’ thing can’t really be slung at me. I believe I’ve got 40+ titles out from epresses.

    I also self-publish. I’ve got 4-5 of those. Started that a year ago.

    I also write for traditional presses…I’ve done that since 2004. A number of titles out there, as well. Haven’t counted those, but more than a dozen.

    Why do I do all of them? Because I figured out one thing crucial thing that some writers have yet to figure yet…certain things work better for some of us, while other things work better for others.

    We’ve all got to find our own paths, and if Edan’s path isn’t one of selfpublishing or digital publishing? That’s her choice, and it shouldn’t matter a flying flip to anybody else.

    Personally, if I was just starting out? I’d look at selfpublishing as my absolute last resort and I’d fight it tooth and nail. Self publishing is fricking HARD. It’s ten times as much work as the other two routes. I’d rather be a writer…not an editor, promoter, writer, etc.

  44. minefield « Elsie Chapman
    at 2:16 pm on November 29, 2011

    […] edan lepucki’s reasons why he decided not to self-publish. and writer kirsten hubbard on why authors disappear from ya […]

  45. Mike Vargo
    at 2:32 pm on November 29, 2011

    Advantages of self-publishing: faster route to market, plus total editorial and artistic control, and control of everything else regarding the book.

    Disadvantages: most of the significant media outlets will not review you or interview you. It’s very difficult to get your book into bookstores, or — let’s not forget this route to the reader — into libraries. Of which there are many. It is also difficult to get speaking engagements or panel invitations on the basis of a self-published book, which can make it especially tough if you are a nonfiction author wishing to promote yourself at events related to your field of expertise. Perhaps the world is changing but right now, it still helps a lot to have that third-party credibility of being published by, well, a publisher.

    I have worked as an editor and collaborator with a couple of authors who chose to self-publish. One of them wrote a book in connection with a business he was launching — the book, a slim one, very nicely explained some ideas & concepts that his new company would then deliver upon, in the course of its specialized consulting services. In that sort of context, self-publishing can make good sense.

    The other author has a personal-growth book released just this year. He is working hard to promote it in several ways: over the Internet, through his existing personal/professional connections and activities, and by actively setting out to make new connections. It’s not easy, but this fellow is committed and capable, so we’ll see how it goes … and maybe down the road a little, we’ll have another self-publishing success story.

    Oh, and PS: either way, it sure helps to have the book be a good one.

  46. Michelle
    at 2:39 pm on November 29, 2011

    ”Self-published authors are the bane of our existence.”

    Have you considered that most self-published authors don’t give a hoot about your existence?

    Given that we keep getting hundreds of requests a year from self-published authors to do events for their books, absolutely, they do care. They care so much they call our managers’ cell phones after hours screaming about how we HAVE to give them an event because they are SO important and their book is GENIUS. They show up in the store and throw temper tantrums that cause us to call security because they won’t calm down and leave after we turn them down for shelf space or an event. Believe me, they do care. I see it

    I have seen blog posts from local authors trumpeting – exactly as some did here – that they don’t care about indie bookstores, that indie bookstores are dying, that e-books are the “way of the future,” etc. etc. They scoff at my store and the other local stores that ask them to either pay for a consignment event or move along, saying they don’t “need bookstores” to help them sell their book.

    And then the next week they are emailing/calling/showing up in the store, begging for an event. It’s happened to us at least five times, so I know it’s happening elsewhere too. I guarantee that some of the naysayers here have asked a local bookstore for an event in the last year and they just aren’t being honest about it.

    As for being a “dying business” – our revenues are up $600,000 over last year and up 40% compared to same-quarter-last-year. Probably partly due to the Borders closure. But we ain’t goin’ anywhere anytime soon.

    Self-published authors love to think – as Edan pointed out – that there are readers out there just dying to weed through thousands of self-published books to find the gems – which, of course, include their books – and fall in love with them and buy millions of copies. That happens maybe one time out of a thousand. Whether authors here want to believe it or not, “self-published” is synonymous with “no good” to 9 out of 10 of our shoppers. I know, because I have talked to them about it, and heard them complain about how self-published authors act at our events, in our store, with our staff, etc. They think we carry TOO MANY self-published books and do too many events with self-published authors, even though authors have paid for those events.

    There are nice self-published authors out there. There are self-published authors out there who really know how to work it and how to market themselves, and not rely on anyone else to do it for them. There are self-published authors who have built a fanbase and know how to make it work and who do sell a lot of books.

    But answer me this. We just cleaned out our consignment shelf in prep for closing out our end-of-the-year financials. When we called the 12 authors who had outstanding checks or consignment books still at the store, all but one of them was unreachable, didn’t respond to multiple messages, or told us to keep both their checks (average amount was $22) and the books and do whatever we wanted with them.

    These were the same books the authors had previously begged us to carry, begged us to promote, begged us to handsell their books.

    Now they’re going to end up in our dumpster – because the local charities we donate to have told us not to bother bringing “that type of book” to them. They can’t sell them, or get people to take them for free.

    What gives with that? How can it mean so much one month and be Dumpster fodder a few months later, if self-published authors are so committed to their “craft”?

  47. Theresa M. Moore
    at 2:46 pm on November 29, 2011

    I have read some of the really negative comments and I only have this to say: if you don’t like self-published authors and you are a bookstore, then you only have yourself and Amazon to blame for your loss of sales. The fact is that a bookstore coordinator has no right to judge a book on the basis of its production, and most bookstores will take the good with the bad because it is no skin off their noses to return what doesn’t get sold. They are in the business to sell books, not become a censor. Besides, if I know a bookstore engages in this kind of discrimination then I will not spend my dollars there.

    As for being Amazon’s Bitch, I am not. I just happen to sell my books and ebooks through them as part of my selling model, and I don’t mind stating for the record that I sell primarily through my own site. Amazon does not own me and never will. I also sell my books through Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and a host of other sites. I don’t like what Amazon does but it is the biggest place to have a presence, if not stellar sales. They advertise my books for free by listing them.

    The habit of painting all self-published authors with the same brush is disengenuous and insulting. Not all who self-publish are as bad as you might think, but the closed-minded will always remain ignorant. Go ahead, see if I care. I know my books are good because to date I have always received good reviews. If that does not count for something, then I must be doing something wrong. The other reason I self-publish is that I know how to put a book together (literally), and I have even written a nonfiction guidebook about it. But you lot who disparage self-publish are also insulting a great many classical authors who started out self-publishing and were not picked up by trad publishers until long after their books became bestsellers ON THEIR OWN.

    Look, I didn’t have time to wait around and I’m not getting any younger. I wanted to make money off the deal and also share my stories with others in the hopes that literature survives. Stick that in your dream pipes and smoke it. If you can’t tolerate self-published authors who make a real effort to produce quality books, then go stick your ideas where the sun doesn’t shine.

  48. Collin Kelley
    at 2:47 pm on November 29, 2011

    Shiloh, congrats on your success. No, it doesn’t make a “flying flip” if you choose to self-pub or go the traditional route, but there was an air of condescension and the same old “self-publishing” is bad seeping through the cracks whether Edan intended it or not. The whole being “Amazon’s bitch” is totally misinformation and sounds more like an attention-grabber (which I guess it is) than useful information. I’ve gone the traditional and self-pub route and I’ve found both to be very hard work. Writing and publishing is hard work no matter which avenue you choose.

  49. Sheryl Gwyther
    at 2:47 pm on November 29, 2011

    Love this article, Edan. Having recently discovered PressBook, I’m exactly in your position, wondering if I should dip into self-publishing (children’s novels). I already have 1 trade novel and 2 education titles published here in Australia, but getting that elusive second novel to a traditional publisher is like rolling jelly uphill. Sigh….

    Your article is sensible, insightful and a little scary. I also enjoyed reading the comments. :)

  50. Nancy Ellen Row
    at 2:48 pm on November 29, 2011

    OK, now go buy a copy of my book, wouldja? ;) I’m the bane of no one’s existence, but i am president of my own fan club.

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