Self-Publish or Not – That is the Question
Just under a month ago I stumbled across Roz Morris’ blog Nail Your Novel and was taken in by her post ‘I’ve had near misses with agents and publishers –should I self-publish?’ -this is what has set the following in motion!
No doubt there is a lot of speculation and talk going on about Self/Indie Publishing and the Traditional Publishing route. Which option is better? Which one suits you? Can you go down both routes? What factors should we consider when deciding? Should we have moral obligations to society and our environment? Which ethics should we stand by? These are just a few questions I have heard and a few are what I have been pondering on. I hear you ask do I have any sure answers for these. No, but I do have some thoughts; I have read a lot of blogs and news pages (yes lots and lots!) till my brain just decided to let it all fester for a while before it exploded onto this page! This is what I came up with (My own take on things as it stands):
There seems to be a definite divide in thought where Traditional Publishing and Self/Indie Publishing are concerned. Both sides of the argument have valid reasons why their way is better and in most cases it is tempting to go either way.
I suppose the key point in the discussion that we need to consider is that from an early age it’s been etched into our minds that the best way to publish a book is via the traditional methods and vanity/self-publishing was considered a big no no. However; the recent popularity and rise in Self/Indie Publishing has made us writers think of self/indie publishing in a different light and where some of us has embraced it with enthusiasm, others have kept their stance cautious, questioning and in turn, naturally, wondering which option is the right one for them.
Yes, it seems, choice has made us uneasy. It’s quite ironic on the grand scheme of things; choice should be embraced; we should look at it from the perspective of how we can make it work for us; maybe I am an idealist at heart but, still I say choice is good.
Another point to consider is most (not all) creative types (I am extending this out to artists, actors, musicians, as well as writers etc…) are shy by nature; irony is bewildering sometimes! We are not too keen on promoting our work; we create –that’s what we are good at; if we were good at advertising, promoting etc we would be in another line of work entirely. So hence the reason; getting an established agent/publisher behind us seems the better way to go. This has both its positive and negative repercussions -especially if you are a first time author; see comments as mentioned in Roz’ blog (highly recommended).
In short, the three main consensuses from the comments section seem to be as follows:
- Publishers have access to a bigger market; so it makes sense to pursue the route the traditional way, right?
- If you sign a contract with publishers you are not just ‘selling a book. […You are…] selling RIGHTS’ (quote from Netta on Roz’ blog).
- If you get signed-up you won’t get the same publicity as established authors, -in fact you will probably end up marketing your own work anyway –seems like a dud-deal; I mean if we are not confident in marketing our work then why would we want to go into it; surely that’s the Publishers job? From what I have been reading that seems to be a big fat No!
So what do you do?
Yep, you know what I’m talking about: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, etc… Writers are encouraged to network as much as possible; and we are! So that has got me thinking… If Publishers want us to promote our own work then why don’t we just start by self-publishing our first few books? I mean that way we would build a fan base; become even better in our writing skills (after all, we are told we should continue to write write write –have a look at Rachelle Gardener Literary Agent’s blog Rants & Ramblings), understand the market & industry and be a bit more confident. This is very much needed, as I am sure, many of you have witnessed that not all writers have the confidence to go it alone, so this could be a good confidence booster.
Now let’s throw caution to the wind and take a look at another blog post I have read recently: James Maxey’ guest post on Magical Words: Pouring Cold Water on the Kindle-ing; he is a Traditional & Self-published author; what he discusses is interesting to say the least and he brings about an argument which will bring a balance to both the Traditional and Self/Indie Publishing debate; yet he has expressed that he favours the Traditional route for an unpublished author.
Now where does that leave us I hear you ask; I am asking the same question.
If your novel falls under the category ‘cross genre’ then it seems unlikely that you would be considered for a publishing deal; publishers do not know where to place you, even if what you write is good!
This is really beginning to be like a fight for survival!
In a world of post-modern ideas; I find this particular narrowness inexcusable. We are constantly encouraged to experiment and go beyond the norm but, when we exceed ourselves and do so; we get penalised and told it is not marketable! This is where Self/Indie-Publishing begins to take my interest; asides from the fact that I dabble in cross genre creative writing; the options self-publishing presents becomes quite enticing as there seems to be no limit to what you can publish (all within reason).
It is a shame that this being unnoticed by publishers –or rather, they are turning a blind eye as they prefer to play it safe and go down the well-known sensible option that brings the needed dollar-signs to the forefront! I know; money makes the world go around! Regardless; I really believe publishers need to open their eyes and consider the sales achieved by authors of cross genre novels. The book (e-book) buying public surely is not getting it wrong!
There are a lot of arguments/criticisms taking place where it is stated that the quality of self-published e-books are below average –I have witnessed many myself so, I whole heartedly support this viewpoint.
There is nothing more disheartening than being swept away by an engrossing book and then right in the middle of the action something stops you in your tracks; something does not read right; grammatically it sounds odd; where do I stop to breathe? Is that word spelt incorrectly?
How did the author get away with that? I am certain you all know what I am talking about.
It is a huge shame –let me say that again- it is a HUGE shame partly because it ruins the reading experience and more so, it has the potential to gain negative comments and then your fan base may start to dwindle. I am certain that this is something authors do not want to encounter. Therefore, having your novel professionally edited is a must in my eyes. By all means you can get your friends, families and critique groups to give you pointers; this can be for grammar correction; character flaw detection; continuity flaws in plots, etc… However, I firmly believe the final draft should be professionally edited –it is far better to send out your novel with a piece of mind.
Patience is a virtue; think of it this way: it’s taken you months/years to complete your novel; already you are very patient when compared to others who work in other vocations therefore, I am certain you can wait a few more weeks/month to get a professional editor on board in order to make sure your novel is perfect to the standard you are happy with, before it is sent out into the unknown. Wouldn’t it be nice to start off on the right foot; not having the option of looking back and saying if only I had taken the time to edit my work properly… I surely do not want to be an author who is regarded with poor grammatical errors and extremely flawed plots/characters and non-existent continuity etc…
ACCESSIBILITY vs THE ENVIRONMENT FACTOR
On a positive note, e-book publishing is great in terms of accessibility. Authors could possibly reach out to the whole world if they wanted to (of course this is where your marketing and business skills come in handy). Think of all those millions if not billions of people out there…
Here’s another flipside; e-publishing is eco-friendly, so you get brownie points for not harming the environment; you could counter argue this with the following: in an ever increasing world of technology and radiation emitted from electronic items we use regularly; how safe are the devices we access to read the e-books with? I know, this will no doubt veer off onto a tangent, and well, it really won’t serve a point to this discussion, so we can leave this here for now.
THE SMELLOF BOOKS vs GLARING SCREENS
I realise that Self/Indie-Published authors can also have their books published in physical format as well as e-book format; from what I have looked into, the preference format currently seems to be in the e-book form. With this in mind a thought crossed my mind…
Who loves the smell of books? Who loves the feel of the pages; the minimum strain on the eyes? I know; I love the idea of e-publishing and e-books but I am also beginning to feel sick at the thought of looking into another screen to read my favourite book, when all I want to do is rest my eyes from the glaring screen!
Is it not enough to be staring at the screen all day; writing/typing/reading/surfing, etc…? Does this also have to fall into our time-out moments? I am sure I am not the only one thinking this and this makes me wonder if our moral values and ethics should also be a deciding factor on which publishing route to take? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
Whilst you think about the above I wanted to quote James Maxey again from his post on Pouring Cold Water on the Kindle-ing:
‘Looking at my sales data on Kindle is pleasant. On days when I’ve really sold a lot, I’d even describe the experience as euphoric. But gazing at my own bookshelf, with all the various editions of my novels and anthologies I’ve been in, is a much, much deeper satisfaction. Don’t throw away your shot at this. The wait is worth it’.
There has been talk and suggestions that gatekeepers are needed; I personally have not decided if that is wise or not, I’d like to think customer reviews and ratings would be suffice; word of mouth seems to be a viable option. What do you think?
My overall thoughts? I love the aspect that a choice has befallen on authors and we can, if we play our cards right, have the upper hand; though we have to be wise and ensure what we embark on will give us credit and not hinder us. On the other hand, I am inclined to try and pursue the traditional path; I am a traditionalist at heart and the idea of having a physical copy of my book in a readers hand just makes me smile. Maybe there is an aspect of vanity to it but, when the choice is between a paper book and a glaring screen; I know which one I would chose. Let’s see if I succeed or not; in the meantime there will be plenty of opportunities to see my writings and attempts at flash fictions etc…
If you agree/disagree/are impartial/think green is better than red and/or have things to add/discuss I’d love to hear from you –and sure, why not –you can always let me know if I am making any sense!
A word to the wise: The above written piece was initially intended to be a comment on Roz’ blog however, due to the length and direction it took; a comment would not of contained it, so here forth you see it. My warning to you; never underestimate what lurks within; I cannot believe what I have unleashed here… I hope it is readable/enjoyable/digestible and loveable! 🙂
*heads off to get some much needed and deserved cup of tea*
Last note to myself: To think a whole month of thought on Roz’s blog has brought this out –wonders never ceases to amaze me! -Thanks for the inspiration Roz!
~ by yikici on May 9, 2011.
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