I don’t usually share anything other than book-related posts, but this morning I was reading one of my favorite writing blogs by Christian Mihai and responded to his survey about self publishing. Realizing I have some strong opinions on the subject, I decided to share my response with you. Don’t worry, I’ll get back to my regularly scheduled reviewing tomorrow.
I don’t know if you’ll find this helpful or not, but I’ve been in the book selling business for over ten years now and I’ve got some insight on the marketing element of self-publishing. While there are excellent arguments for going the self-publishing route, I thought I would share the reasons why I wouldn’t choose that path.
The biggest problem with self-publishing is the limited distribution, advertising, and availability of your titles. When you go the traditional route, other people become invested in your success and take certain measures to integrate your works into stores across the country and online retailers. They sort of become your champions and sales result, whereas a self-published writer has to build up their own audience and practically hand-sell every copy. It’s possible to be successful that way, but it is definitely the tougher route. Your audience is limited to the people you can contact and, even with an online following, the publishers almost always have a much broader range. Availability and distribution add to this problem:
Most of the time when a self-published author wants to do a signing at our store it’s a two week long ordeal to contact our home offices and have them get in touch with the publisher (assuming they have paid to put their books in our system. If they haven’t, there’s nothing we can do for them). If we had to work that hard to get ahold of the book (and there’s never an exception to this with regard to these types of books, in my experience) then certainly other stores aren’t going to arbitrarily carry them unless you give them all personal visits. After all the work it takes to get the books, when they come in I am always underwhelmed at the quality and cost of the printing. I can usually spot a self-published book a mile away, and they are frankly a pain to deal when once the author is gone. If the author doesn’t pay for their books to be returnable within our systems, we wont even order them because 9 times out of 10 we’re stuck with them forever and only sell a couple if the author comes back regularly. I once worked for a manager who thought all of this was too much of a hassle, and refused to even talk to the self-published, much less order their books.
Other considerations: sometimes in self-publishing, the writing suffers. When publishers reject you, it often means you need to go back and keep developing your story to make the book more marketable (or even start working on other projects). You might even have a good story, but your writing needs improvement before its ready to be sold. A good deal of self-published authors don’t go through this important developmental phase. They settle for “good enough”, whereas fighting for an agent encourages continual improvement. I remember reading that J.K. Rowling got rejected over a hundred times before someone took a chance on her, and that only forced her to make changes and mold her story into the phenomenon it is now. I personally want to push myself to the point where agents recognize the value of my work and are willing to put their names on the line to support me, even if it takes a lot of rejection and perseverance.
Hope that was helpful!