Monday, October 11, 2010

10 reasons you shouldn't self-publish

Indie author and publisher Chris Kelly is doing a blog tour this month to promote the first e-novel from Scathach Publishing, available now online at Smashwords and titled Matilda Raleigh: Invictus. As an indie author myself, I put Chris to the test when asked about what to write for my blog.

When Ty invited me to his blog, he found his evil streak and asked that I make my post about why you shouldn’t self-publish. I released my self-published novel last week to almost no notice (hence this blog tour) and firmly believe Independent Publishing is the best option for me. But I love a challenge, so decided I would try for ten reasons you shouldn’t self-publish. Here goes...

10) Self-publishing for money.

Now this is a bad idea. An often quoted statistic is that self-published books sell, on average, 140 copies (traditionally published books average about 14 copies). This is an old statistic, from before ebooks really started to take off. However, I can guarantee, more writers will make a fortune going the traditional route.

When it comes to the biggest stars, the J. K. Rowlings, Stephen Kings, John Grishams and so on, you'll do better the traditional route. Yes, I know how much Joe Konrath makes in a month. I also know how many novels he has released, and I know he was previously traditionally published.

9) Have no start-up cash.

Okay, I had no start-up cash. And self-publishing was really hard. Take cover art; in cover art I have been very fortunate because my friend is an artist. That's actually her job. I was bugging her for months to get an on-line presence. Then I asked her how much she'd take for cover art. She offered to do it gratis, on the condition I help her set up on-line. I was very lucky, just in the right time at the right place. But I’m like that quite often.

Without start-up cash, I couldn't afford to hair an editor. It really take time and effort to edit it, and I'm am sure its not perfect. I will have missed thngs. And if you get confuzed by words like thier or there, an editor would prove invaluable, because spell-check will miss it. .And there are nine mistakes in this paragraph, for those who think they are good at editing. Be honest, how many did you spot in your first read?

8) Have a thick skin

Despite all the recent successes of indie authors, indie publishing is vastly looked down upon. People will attack your books for no reason other than that you self-published. You will be called a lazy narcissist (does that even make sense)? People will hate you. Fruit will be thrown.

You gotta have a thick skin, baby. Luckily, I have an advantage in that area, being Scottish. Insulting each other is how we say hello, and pretty much everything after that. You'll understand this (maybe) if you've visited Scotland. (I thought it was a global thing, but apparently it's weird, and it's ours. Like the thistle.)

If you don’t have a thick skin, you should consider traditional publishing.

7) There are no gatekeepers

Sometimes people look at this as being “great,” like some vast freedom to publish whatever you want. It's not. Indies get less freedom than trads. People expect traditionally published books to be good, so when a book is shit it's either a) the reader's fault (they didn't get it, it's not their thing, etc) b) an aberration (all trad published authors get 1 shit book considered an exception) or c) errors beyond the author’s control (ie printing errors).

If a self-pubbed book sucks ass, it is always the writer's fault (even when it isn't).

Because of this, a good indie book has to be of a much higher quality than a good trad book. In fact, a good indie book, if trad published, would probably be a very good trad book. This higher rate of standards is why it is so impossible to find an awesome self-pubbed book. They're just considered very good.

6) The price will always be wrong

Ebook prices are in a flux. No matter what you price it at, some people will bitch that it is too much, others will bitch it is not enough. You will either be overcharging (even at $1, some people want everything for nothing) or you will be undervaluing (if your book is $1, how do you expect people to buy my book at $2.99).

Realistically, neither of those should be your concern, but this goes back to point 8. You will need a thick skin. Because people are going to bitch about everything you do, no matter what it is.

If you don't have a thick skin, don't self-publish.

5) There is no validation

Someone might review your book, and say they enjoyed it. They might not. They might say they hated it. They might not review it. You can't make them.

Someone might email you, to tell you how much your book means to them. Or they might not.

In traditional publishing, your book has to be a certain standard to get published (okay, that standard is salability, not quality, but still ... ) and if you get published, you're above the bar.

But in self-publishing, no one has to tell you how good (or crap) your book is. If you are the type of person who needs that validation, traditional publishing may well be for you.

4) There is no “I” in team

This is one of the biggest reasons to not consider self-publishing. When you traditionally publish, you get a full team of (I'm not exactly sure what to call them whilst remaining objective, as I have been trying to do) team members who help get your book published. There's editors, artists, financiers, marketers, and so on. But you kiss that all goodbye when you self-publish.

When you self-publish, you publish alone. Which means you do the work of all the people who put out a book the traditional way. You will have about eight different hats to wear. It isn't easy. In fact, it is very hard and very time consuming, and you are going to do much more work after the book is written than you did whilst writing it.

3) You don't know how ...

I left this one ambiguously blank at the end, there. There are lots of things you might not know how to do. You might not understand marketing, as an example. You might be very bad at accounts. This leads on from 4, but 4 was more “there are lots of jobs to do, do you want/have time to do them all?”

This is “can you do them all?” If you have no entrepreneurial spirit, and no business acumen, you shouldn't self-publish.

2) You just want to write

Some people just want to write a book, send it away, write the next book and so on. As I've said over and over already, self-publishing is hard. If you just want to write, you're probably not even reading this anyway. Lolz.

1) You'd be in competition with me

And my book is amazing. Seriously. Buy it right now, then come back and finish reading this article. On you go...

Oh, okay, I'll do a serious point (because some self-publishers publish romance, and some romance readers won't be interested in a steampunk, sword and sorcery epic cross genre set in alternate reality version of 1912. This is my blog tour, I've got to plug this somehow.)

1) You want money now

Occasionally, self-publishers are considered greedy for self-publishing. I don't understand that. Every penny earned is, well, earned. But if you want money now, no matter how your book sells, the advance offered by the bigger publishing companies is your friend.

Essentially, you could well be getting money for nothing.

And that's my ten. Yes, they are tongue-in-cheek, but at the same time they each have a valid point to make. I'll sum it up quickly for folk who got bored and skipped to the end of the post (don't worry; I do that, too).

If you are skint, want money in the short term, want more money in the long-term, then traditionally publish. Self-publishing is more for the love than the money (although some self-publishers are making a wack).

If you are thin-skinned, traditionally publish. Self-publishers are attacked for the price of their books (publisher sets the price for trad books), the fact they self-published, and more.

Business is not something you enjoy/are good at. This is a biggie. Because when you write a traditionally published book, it's about 60% writing and 40% editing and submitting (it feels like more, but that's fairly accurate as a guestimation) but, when you self-publish, it is more about 30% writing, 30% editing, and 40% businessing.

Yeah, I know that isn't a word. Being a writer, I'm fairly qualified to make up new words. Dickens and Shakespeare used to do it all the time.

I missed out a couple of things there that some people might consider important reasons to traditionally publish. I had reasons. Here's the ones I missed.

1) (3rd time for number one in a top ten, impressive!) It will hurt your trad chances

No one has came out and said it won't, but to be honest, it won't. If you self-publish a book, put an ISBN on it, and it tanks, then yeah, okay, maybe. But if it does well, you might get a publishing contract out of it. And if you use a pseudonym or don't use an ISBN (ebooks don't need them) then how will the publisher ever know?

2) Self-published books are shit

Obviously, I don't agree with that. There are good books on both sides, perhaps more good books on the traditionally published side. The agent/editor dam holds out a lot of crap, but some gets through, whilst some good books seem to get nowhere.

3) Publishers have distribution links

IMO these are going to become less and less important as e-reader popularity grows, and bookshops close.

A summation

I've been verbose enough, so I'll keep this short. There are pros and cons in both directions, and you have to decide what is more important to you. On the one hand, money, a supportive team who (might) really love your book, and industry validation. On the other hand, full creative control, a much shorter publishing turn around time, the chance to set your own price, and you get to fail or succeed on your own abilities.

And finally

My Blog Tour is also a Guest Post combo. Get yourself over to my blog to read M T Murphy’s opinion on vampires. You’ll find it here.

Come along ...

The only good excuse for not following my blog tour is that you downloaded my book and it's so good you can't turn it off, a real next-page-button-pusher (page-turner sounds better, right?).

And finally, finally:

Thanks, Ty, for having me here.


Charles Gramlich said...

lol. Good list. thick skin is a prerequisite for any kind of artistic endeveour it seems. Even though we artists are traditionally thin skinned.

David Barron said...

"You don't know how..." is probably the biggest one. Fortunately, a lot of other people do know how and are willing to point me in the right direction.

Fortunately, I have very thick skin because it has to contain the inner self-critic. That'll at least avert the 2nd #2.

Scathach Publishing said...

@Charles Thank you. I think people think of artists as thick-skinned because the more famous ones are. It seems to me skin-thickness develops over time.

@David Absolutely. There's tonnes of stuff I don't know, but that's what networking is for.

David Meadows said...

"...there are nine mistakes in this paragraph, for those who think they are good at editing. Be honest, how many did you spot in your first read?"

Five. I am so embarrassed. (But the worst thing is, four reads later I'm still only up to eight.)

That was a clever post. I know I don't self publish because I'm too lazy, but now I have a lot of other good excuses to use!