Myths vs. Facts about self-publishing

Myth: Self-published books are ones that have been rejected by every publishing house in the industry.  Therefore, the author self-published because she couldn’t find anyone else to publish it.

Fact: That may be the case for some.  But, any more (and believe me I have done my research) that accounts for only about 25% of self-published titles.   The majority of self-published authors have made indie publishing their first choice, and have never sent their manuscripts into traditional publishers or agents.  There are also a lot of previously published titles that have gone out of print or were dropped (for whatever reason) by thier publisher.  So, once the rights revert back to the author they decide to keep it in print by self-publishing.   I know writers who have turned down publication with publishing houses and have even turned down agents.  I’d give you names…but I am not a name-dropper.  Regardless, a google search would lead you right to them.

Myth: Self-publishing is better for non-fiction.

Fact: If you are an expert in a certain field, and want to put out a book in your expertise, than SP/indie publishing can benefit you greatly.  If you are writing about a current event it is actually better (IMO) if you self-publish rather than wait a whole year for a publisher to put it out there for you…If you are a public speaker, yes…you can sell a lot of books at a speaking engagement, etc.

However, the majority of well-known indie titles are fiction and usually cross-genre/niche fiction which might fall between two categories.  Paranormal Romance, fantasy/mystery, scifi/horror…etc.  I won’t name drop (as I’ve said) but I will mention titles such as Kept, The Didymus Contingency, and The Shack. Non-fic SP titles have limited appeal…unless you write a non-fic about self-publishing which automatically has an audience who looks at indie titles from the experts (those who have done well at it) first.

Myth: Self-publishing is expensive; and you will be stuck with a garage full of unwanted, over-priced books that you cannot get rid of.

Fact: That is only true if a) you went with a vanity company (as opposed to a true DIY Publishing company).  b) If you use the old, off-set printing method rather than print-on-demand like CreateSpace.  c) if you have zero business skills.    My advice to anyone is to thuroughly investigate your options before leaping into SP.  Chose a printing source carfully,  and never buy a bigger inventory than you can handle (IE actively sell).  I use POD technology, and order a short amount of inventory at a time.  I usually blaze through it in as little as 2 months.  Follow the examples of successsful indies, and NEVER go with a vanity company.

Myth: Readers hate self-published books and can spot one a mile away.

Fact: If you believe that, then you’ve been listening to to many agents, publishers, and elitist authors.  Most readers (in the real general public) don’t care who publishes a book as long as it is good/interesting/entertaining.   You’ll never find a reader who says “I only read books published by Daw” the way you hear women say “I only carry coach purses.”  They may, however, care about genre; I have a friend who only reads high fantasy.   They  may flock to their favorite author before checking out someone who is new or unheard of…but I doubt they care who owns the ISBN/what publishing logo is on the spine.  In all honesty, I have only heard one person who claimed to be “just a reader” complain about the quality of SP titles in an online forum…and that person turned out to be an internet troll just trying to cause trouble.   The only 2 complaints I’ve ever heard from the general public (IRL) are a) they’re more expensive and b) you cannot find them in many brick & mortar book stores. Both of these issues can be easily remedied by business savy indie authors who price competitively and can work out consignment deals and/or direct selling platforms.

Myth: The majority of self-pub/indie titles are “bad.”

Fact: So are the majority of TP titles.  In fact, of the last 10 indie titles I have read, only one was truly bad.   I also previewed one that was really unprofessional and with a trite storyline.  BOTH of these books were written by teenagers.  (I’ve said before, all one would need to do to improve the quality of SP books is to impose an age limit).  The rest of the indie titles I’ve read were great.    Of the last five TP books I’ve read only 2 were really good, one was adverage, two were horrible.   Mind you my opinion is not coming from any prejudice, or pre-concieved bias.  I usually read a fair share of both SP and TP titles.   I am also not just speaking from a purely subjective point of view;  In several TP books I’ve found HUGE errors, defective printing and binding, and overall bad/bland/unoriginal writing even from big name houses & authors.

Myth: Self-publishers are afraid of rejection.

Fact: Well this could be true to an extent, but I have to say that I think people who are afraid of rejection do not publish anything at all, via any publishing model. If they do, they write in a vacuum.  NOBODY recieves “rejection” more than an sp/indie author due to the “stigma” of self-publishing, the reviewers who won’t consider indie titles, and the disaproving elitists.  Real indies laugh in the face of rejection, and mock those who mock us.  We aren’t afraid to put our work out there and let readers have at it…we, like all writers, grow and learn from criticism.  People who fear rejection keep their stories and poems keep them tucked away in a desk drawer, never to be seen by human eyes.

Myth: People chose self-publishing because they think it’s the “quick and easy” route…

Fact: Wrong, wrong, wrong!  NOTHING about self-publishing is ever  “quick and easy.”  Period.  It’s a lot of hard work, and true self-pub/indie authors know this all too well.  However, it’s work we enjoy.  It’s much harder than sticking a manuscript or query into an envelope, and then waiting for a response.    And, then there is marketing…we don’t have a team of suits at our disposal to find out what works best for us;  we are our own marketing execs.  We are our own PR firm, and our own advertising wizards.  DIY is truly DIY.

Myth: Self-published books never get picked up by mainstream publishers.

Fact: Eragon, The Dydimus Contingency, a Time to Kill, and The Shack are just a few of the titles that were originally self-published.  Sometimes if an inde/sp title stands out amoungs the croud and gains popularity a traditional publishing firm will show interest…or maybe even an agent.  Jeremy Robinson landed an agent that way, and went on to gain a publishing contract.  It’s not unheard of.  However, (big however) some editors may not publish the same book. If a publisher/editor is particular about buying first publication rights they might not want to republish it unless significant changes are made (IE the title, and may suggest some content changes).  They may not want that same story at all; but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to publish you, as an author. It’s sticky and legalese related, rather than having anything to do with any stigma and/or your writing merit.  It may just simply be that they don’t want anything that the readership of a chosen genre might have already seen.  I know for a fact that some sf/fantasy publishers don’t even want a story or poem that has appeared on the Elfwood website,  or even the author’s own homepage.

Myth: Most self-published book covers are ugly/bad.

Fact: Most books PERIOD have ugly/bad covers.  In fact more TP books sport ugly, tacky covers than any of the indie books that I have seen.  Case in point:  http://punkrockpenguin.net/waste/amuse/badcovers/  and http://www.goodshowsir.co.uk/

A lot of indie authors (true SP/indies) go above and beyond to make sure their works stand out, and that their covers are superior in quality and design.  We know that our books have to look great on the internet/amazon.com/etc.  Many spare no expense for good artwork.  Even the carbon copy templates are at least a little more tasteful than half-naked barbarian chicks with one leg…

Myth: Success stories like Christopher Paolini and Jeremy Robinson are “the exception rather than the norm” for self-publishing.

Fact: Success stories like JK Rowling is “the exception rather than the norm” for traditional publishing.  She wrote a great book, an awesome series that has such phenominal success that it even has an AMUSEMENT PARK…

aside from that, Publishers routinely drop titles if they haven’t sold X-amount of copies.  70% of TP titles do not earn back their advances.  NOT every book that becomes published “traditionally” becomes a best-seller.  Many you have never heard of and will never hear of.  They’ll languish on backlists & midlists until the publisher/editor releases all rights back to the authors and/or drops the title.  Sad, but true.
Well, I’m going to have to close on that note…

I may post more on this later.

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2 Comments

Filed under self-publishing/indie publishing, writing

2 responses to “Myths vs. Facts about self-publishing

  1. jesseowalls

    I wanted to comment that some people self publish to avoid editors. When working with agents and publishers, you also have to work with editors, and though sometimes everything will go smoothly, sometimes publishers demand certain aspcts of your work be changed for commercial reasons. For me, when I write, I want my work to maintain the aspects I had intended for it, rather than having to make changes just so it will appeal to the general public and sell better. I understand you need someone to proofread your manuscript and find grammerical and punctuation errors, even ensure the flow of the volume, but to have someone tell you to rewrite entire sections becuase it really has no basis to the volume, now that is just butchering the authors initial vision. Anyways, that’s just my opinion and one reason why I would go with self-publishing.

  2. Jesse, you are very right! One of the many reasons why I chose self-publishing for Wishful Thinking was that I wanted that story to stay as-is. I wrote it the way I did for a reason…all of the characters, plot elements, etc…were there for a specific reason. I can just imagine an editor or agent saying “There are two many sisters, let’s get rid of so-and-so” or “eliminate such-and-such scene”…but to do so would take away from the work, NOT add to its quality.

    Thank you for your input.

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