Friday, June 3, 2011

Fears Of Self Publishing

I suspect that this blog post will be unpopular. But, I also hope that it will spark conversation, because that’s why I am writing it. This is something I need to get off my chest.

Here’s the deal. I’ve been thinking about self publishing (specifically, publishing e-books) for some time now. I’ve weighed it vs. traditional publishing and seeing where I want to go with my writing carrer. I see writers I follow both on Twitter and Facebookk discuss the release of their latest book, and they’re referring to eBooks they self published. And what occurs to me is that they are getting their books out there. People are actually reading their stuff. And no one is reading mine. Because I’m still trying to get published the traditional way.

And let me first start off by stating why I want to be published the traditional way.

It’s pure go.

See, I want to be able to walk into a Barns and Noble and see my name on the spine of a paperback on that book shelf. And as far as I know of, no one that is self published get’s there. It’s been a dream of mine to get there for years now (true, it took me years to actually start doing something about it, but that’s a different blog post), and I not only find it hard to let go of, I don’t think I want to. I like the idea of being published traditionally.

And here’s where I start to get into some of my fears about eBooks.

Self published books, in my opinion, are, for lack of a better word, professional. These are professional writers. eBooks that have been self published are written by amitures.

Cue the hissing and throwing of things at this blog.

Listen, I know there are a lot of very talented self-published authors out there. Hell, I’m a Kindle owner, and am reading an eBook right now by Scott Siggler, who self-publishes all his stuff. I’ve also got a book written by someone I follow on Kindle, a free book that he’s putting out there as a gateway to his other stuff that cost money. I’m hoping it’s good enough to warrant spending said money on his stuff.

But the truth is, there’s a perception of amitureness in self-published eBooks. I’ve tried several books before finding Scott, and they were bad. Badly edited, badly formatted, no covers, etc. It left a bad taste in my mouth, and I’m discovering more and more that I’m not the only one with this perception.

So, a big fear here is that if I self publish, I have a huge perception image to overcome in order to convince everyone that my books are worth spending money.

Maybe this isn’t true. Maybe there’s a big enough eBook readership that knows there are plenty of good books out there that they are willing to risk a few bucks on an unknown, but for now, it feels like a huge mountain to climb.

Another fear I have is related to money.

If I want to climb that mountain and rise above the chaff, I need to make my book so polished that it shines like a new car. Or better still, a diamond. And that means making it look as professional as a traditionally published book. I would have to hire an editor and pay them to make my book look pretty. I would have to hire an artist to give my book a cover, preferably one that doesn’t only do the painting, but also one that does that cover design. I say this because I’ve tried my hand at cover art before, and let’s just say that I am not a graphic designer. And then there’s promotion.

That’s all a pretty significant outlay of my own cash before my book is even up for sale. What happens if the book doesn’t sell? I’m out some cash.

And that’s a real fear I have, to be out of cash.

And a final fear I have is that self-publishing will somehow prevent me from getting published the traditional way. I mean, can I pub self-published books in my bio? Should I? Will the perception I mentioned above leave the publisher/agent afraid to touch me with a 10 foot pole? I don’t know.

This is not to say that I don’t have fears about traditional publishing. I do, but they just don’t seem as insurmountable as these fears are.

All that said, I realize that these ARE fears, and as such, I shouldn’t let them blind me to the possibility of eBooks. I need to figure out how real these fears are, and are they truly as insurmountable as I believe them to be.

I’ve been thinking of taking a book that I wrote that I had no intention of getting published the traditional way, and putting it out there as an eBook to see how well it does and if this is a viable market. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s not good enough to get published traditionally. It is. It just wasn’t written for that purpose.

I am also taking an eBook plunge in another way. Some friends and I are working on an anthology that we plan to put up on the Kindle store. Maybe THAT’s a better test that self-publishing my other novel.

The point here is that there’s just a lot of stuff about eBook publishing that I just don’t know. And I guess until I do, these fears will continue to get in my way.

And so, I guess my next step is to do some serious research into self publishing eBooks, try to get some of my questions answered, and maybe find a way to test the waters.

Because the real truth is, I don’t want to let fear, any fear, from ruling my life.


  1. The problem is, ePub is in its infancy. True, it sprouted from the vanity-press, and does have that same sigma. But the truth is, no one, not even seasoned veterens of publishing, have all of the answers. In fact, none of them even have half the answers. Mainly because there are no "answers", only conjecture and educated guesses.

    Look at this way: Imagine you are an essayist from when the printing press was being invented. "What? You mean my writing will now be available to the masses, rather than the elite few who can afford my painstakingly handwritten books?" It's evolution. Times change, and everyone must change with them.

    Perhaps some publishers may sneer at ePublished authors. But I doubt they will be able to afford to do so for long. Because for every Publisher who looks down on us, there are five more up and coming small presses who are willing to take a chance.

    One last point; the promotion and marketing touted by big publishers is actually quite negligible, and can easily be overcome with social networking, blogging, etc. Even now, authors with publishing companies have to do most of their own legwork anyways.

  2. I think ego is why we all want to be published. I mean, we all want people to read our stuff, right? ;-) I am curious - how often do you go to the bookstore? Because I know for a fact that even if my books were in a store, I'd never see them. I buy all my books online or at Costco. My books are available in print, and I even sell a couple every month.

    Two blogs in particular you should read, if you aren't already:

    Joe Konrath, who you've no doubt heard of:

    and Dean Wesley Smith

    A couple more things - it's not nearly as expensive as you might think to self-publish, especially if you have friends with editing experience (editing does *not* have to cost a lot to be professional grade, that's a myth). And do read Dean's thoughts on not worrying it to death. It's refreshing. Readers are not *nearly* as picky as writers about books, no matter how much we want them to be.

    Cover art can be under $100 (let me know, I'll point you to my artist - or post a request at deviant art). Formatting can be inexpensive as well, or you can learn it yourself (plenty of free resources out there). So you can put out an ebook for less than a couple hundred bucks, easily. If you learn to format for print (again, not that hard), you can put a print copy out for around $50 through CreateSpace.

    Agents are increasingly seeking out indies who sell well, and self-pub will not hurt your chances at a trad contract (another myth used to scare people), if you still decide you want one after reading through the blogs I referenced above.

    And finally - the stigma against self-published books persists mostly in the writing/publishing community. Your average everyday reader just doesn't care (and if your book is professional, they won't even know it's self-pubbed)...and once you realize that, it's much easier to just ignore that stigma. Especially six months after your book comes out when you're finally starting to see some decent sales (it takes awhile to build for most people).

    I have a publishing/marketing blog you can peek at if you'd like at - I post numbers and marketing ideas, etc...

    It's an amazing feeling knowing that people are buying and enjoying your work, and to get those monthly paychecks, however small. It's very motivating, and I'd urge you to try it with the novel you have set aside (anthologies sell differently, so it's not such a good experiment, IMO).

    Good luck with your decision...

  3. That would be - I sell a couple print copies each month. The vast majority of my sales are ebooks. :-)

  4. Jamie, thanks for the comments. And the links, I'll be for sure looking into these. I really appreciate it.