Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Some thoughts on self-publishing

Nerine had a good post yesterday about self-publishing and traditional publishing. I don't think I've said much directly about self-pubbing but since it is one of the hottest topics in the publishing world, everybody gets to have an opinion, right?

I recognize that people choose to self-pub for different reasons, I just hope they do it for the right ones. Want to keep your backlist out there without having to sign a contract? That's a reason that makes sense to me, especially if you can afford good cover art and book design. You've already got a foothold in commercial publishing and want to experiment with putting out a short work by yourself - I get that one too. Especially if you can afford the cover art, book design, and editing. You've been rejected time after time by both the Big Six and small press - okay, to be honest, this is the one I don't get.

Self-publishing is not for me for a number of reasons. The top reason is money - I can't afford to hire out freelance cover art, book design, and editing. I don't spend my money on books with cover art that looks like a bad Photoshop job or the free Kindle sample is littered with editing problems. I would never even consider asking a reader for money for something like that that I released. So I have to be good enough for a publisher to offer me a contract. Sometimes I am, sometimes I'm not. When I'm not I keep working on the story and it'll either get better or it goes in the trunk. I'm a big believer in writing the next story.

That's another reason why I would not self-publish. To quote Nerine: "if a novel has been rejected countless times, even by the small presses, there’s usually a very good reason for this." I agree with this so very much. If that first book keeps getting rejected, it's okay to let it go. Put that paper in a drawer, put that file on a flash drive, raise a toast to it as a valiant effort, mourn for what could have been and will never be - then tell it goodbye. Let it go like a leaf on the wind and get busy hunting for your next book. Because the truth is, if you're a writer, there's going to be a next book. There can't not be a next book, because you are a storyteller and this is what you do. The only way there won't be a next book is if you were more interested in being published than being a writer. If that's the case, then choosing to self-publish is probably more about vanity than anything else.

Sorry if that sounds harsh, but there it is. Look, I really don't have anything against self-publishing. If it's something a person wants to do and they can afford it, I wish them the best of luck. Depending on your reasons I may not understand you, but I will always wish you luck.

What I do not like is when self-publishing gets lumped in under an umbrella term like digital publishing. The term digital publishing, to me, means small press commercial pubs that are digital first / digital only. Examples include Lyrical Press, Loose Id, Samhain, Carina, Noble Romance - there are quite a few. When you're pubbed with these digital presses you get editing, cover art, all the usual stuff - and authors do not pay for these things. So to me there is a huge difference between self-publishing and getting a contract with a small press that happens to be digital. Unfortunately not everyone sees this.

Now you have my thoughts on self-publishing and frankly I hope I won't be revisiting the topic. Next week I'll talk about why I think posting stories for free can be a great thing for a writer to do. Yes, really.

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