Monday, November 7, 2011

Self-publishing: Why I'm Not Doing It

If you dabble in the writing and publishing industry, unless you've gone blackout the last two years, then you've heard about the surge of self-publishing (or Indie publishing) as things go more digital. And since you've likely heard all the pros and cons and predictions from a whole bunch of people with more credentials than me, I'm not even going to get into that discussion. What I do want to say is that I've decided not to pursue that direction right now.

Before I share my reasons, I want to first make it very clear that I have many good friends and acquaintances who have chosen to go this route. And I truly wish them all the best. I hope they become wildly successful and their books get a gazillion fans, because the more good books we have, the more readers are looking for good books to read. And that's fantastic news for every book lover and author out there. Yes, there will be some good Indie titles, some that could have used some more editing, some that make people who like the written word go all twitchy, and some that will blow traditional books away. It's called a bell curve and it's apparent in just about every group of anything in life (yes, I took statistics in college).

So, now that I've established I am in no way anti-Indie, there are two big reasons I'm not doing it.

1) I want my butt kicked by an editor/agent
2) The work involved

The first reason, because it's the biggest one, is that I want to be edited. I want to go through the process of a professional revision letter. I know it might sound masochistic, but I want to be a better writer than I am now and though I'm doing everything I can to improve, I want that experience.

The second reason is that unless you already have a solid reader base, making self-publishing work for you is a lot of work. You have to format your book, design your cover and make sure it isn't shudderingly horrible, upload your book to Amazon/Smashwords/whatever other places there are, and then do the initial marketing push -- all by yourself. You could hire professionals to help you with these different aspects, of course, but then you are the one footing the entire bill.

I found a fantastic guest blog post by Tracy Marchini on Nathan Bransford's blog called "The Real Skinny About Indie Publishing." To quote her, Indie authors have to be:

-- excellent writers and moderately good marketers
-- moderately good writers and excellent marketers
-- zombies who don’t ever sleep, and are both excellent writers and marketers

(Image from "Plants vs. Zombies" game.)

And I'm not ready to do that. In fact, just writing about it makes me feel tired. So hats off to all you indomitable spirits tackling that monumental challenge.

And hey, zombies are "in" right now you know.


Julie Daines said...

I'm pretty sure you won't need to go that direction anyway, oh genius writer! But if you change your mind, I'll make all my friends buy your book! That should bump your sales up at least by three.

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

I applaud your desire to improve your writing by working with an editor or agent. That said, as an indie writer, I do go ahead and hire an editor for developmental and copy edits. She didn't ask for a lot of revisions on my first project, but she did catch some things that needed to be changed and helped me add more tension to the end, so I think it was a worthwhile investment. The latest project I sent her has been through fewer revisions, so I may get more butt-kicking on it. ;)

As for the other work involved, I do work with a cover designer, but formatting and uploading is doable on your own. It was tricky getting the format right for Smashwords, but now I understand the process, it should be easier. I still have a lot to learn about marketing, but my story isn't being pulled from Amazon after a month, so it has time to find an audience. Yes, the upfront costs of an editor and
cover designer are significant, but I see them as investments in my writing and my business that will pay back over time.

No matter whether authors use traditional or indie publishing, we now have more control over our careers than we did before. If you feel traditional is best for you, then that's great, and I wish you all the best with it.

Stephanie said...

I am right there with you.

ALL book need editing...professional editing services. I have learned so much from my editor...I would not be where I am without her.

If I'd gone out and self published, I'd have had to pay someone for editing, and I just do not have the money to pay an editor. Plus the fees for everything else....

I'm published with a small, primarily digital house, Lyrical Press, and even though they are small (but growing) I have the entire house to support and back me.

Shallee said...

I feel the same way you do about indie publishing. I have an immense amount of respect for those who do it, because in some ways, it's more work than the traditional route. I just don't have the energy to do it myself!

Stephanie McGee said...

Everyone's path to publication is different. And there are different paths to suit every writer. Choosing the traditional route doesn't mean you're anti-indie, it just means you know what will work best for you and the situation you're in.

I think it depends on the project, too.

Yamile said...

Wonderful, valid reasons, Jaime. I'm also right there with you. Just the writing part drains me of all my energy, and although every author has to market their books in one way or another, I don't have the kind of personality to do everything going Indie implies: cover design, formatting, editing, public appearances, etc. My respect to those who can do it all.

Nisa said...

Great post! I'm not ready to be uber successful so self publishing sounds okay to me. Most people probably don't feel that way, though.

Luisa Perkins said...

Your reasons are good one--ones that I have considered myself. But I may still go indie early next year. We'll see.

Josi said...

Great post, Jaime and very well said. I wish you the very, very best and have no doubt that you'll do a great job and add more wonderful reading to the industry. To the moon!

loricmusic said...

It's the exact same way as an Indie musician. TONS and TONS of work.

Jenny said...

I agree! But I still feel the temptation at times.

Valerie Ipson said...

Loved your post. Totally agree with it. For me, serious editing is the answer.

Nichole Giles said...

I'm with you, for very much the same reason. Good luck getting an agent to kick your butt! Maybe we'll both get our butts kicked this year.

And, you know, the whole query thing is no worse than running a marathon. It just takes a little longer.

David P. King said...

I'm with you, too! :)

Rachel Rossano said...

I completely understand your point-of-view and would have agreed with you years ago. However, having now tried both, sort of, I lean more indie every year for my personal writing.

My main reason for choosing indie is the control. Before you get the idea that I am a control freak, I want to clarify that I am not. I don't have to lean over the printer's shoulder to make sure he doesn't smear the ink. It is just that after having been burned once and waiting seven years to get the rights back on my first manuscript, I am leery of handing another over to a publisher. I want to be certain they will do a better job than I can do, working at this part-time.

I believe there is plenty of room in the market for both camps and we can work together to bring the best reading material to the readership that feeds us all.

I wish you the best in your pursuit of publication. :)

Dean K Miller said...

The guise that self publishing is easy-breezy won't go away. Sure it can be made relatively painless, and your sales will most likely reflect that.

Still can't figure out why one would write, revise, write, edit (maybe) and then push something out there that has not been looked at by someone other than family or friends.

Reputations can last a life time, and though we shouldn't care what others think about us, a bad one can make it tougher in this business than it already is.

Time may come when I'll consider a self-pub route. For now, I'd rather keep my self in the pub, and let a professional have their fun.