August 26, 2010 by Renee
So, the romance contest it officially sliding down the tube into…failure. Meh. That’s okay. I’ll give the prize to me. I can use a new book.
In other writing news, I’ve noticed that self publishing is on the upswing again. Several blogs I follow and writing groups I participate in show many jumping on the ‘fuck traditional publishing’ bandwagon. Sorry about the f-bomb, but it’s pretty much the attitude out in the writing world at the moment.
This makes me sad in some ways. First, let me clarify something. I do NOT feel self publishing is evil or bad or wrong. If it is right for you and you’ve planned and schemed and plotted your decision, then yay for you and good luck. You have a good chance at success. Now that’s out of the way, I don’t like that people (writers) are boasting about the benefits of self publishing without listing the possible flaws to this decision. The most obvious; money and time.
On one blog a commenter replied to my warning about cost by saying that we all have talented friends who can help us do things like editing and marketing for free. (big sigh) No, we don’t all have those friends and even if we did, to assume they’ll do that work for us is kind of…selfish? Unrealistic? The thing is, if you base your plan and your decision on others, you’re not going to go too far. The operative word in self publishing is SELF. You. One person. Alone. You are publishing your work and therefore you are responsible to make sure it is edited, well written, marketable and worth reading. You are responsible for getting it onto store shelves, into libraries, and online. You have to arrange signings, speaking engagements and you have to set up a website, blog and you have to network on sites like Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, etc. You. To assume that you’ll have help is pretty dicey. Friends, family and collegues may have good intentions but here’s the reality, Sunshine; your success isn’t their priority and if something important to them comes up, you and your book get bumped to the back of the line.
I am going the traditional route. I decided that long ago and I will not change my mind. I have stalked, harassed, and queried agents for a long time. So far I’ve had no luck. Am I frustrated? That’s an understatement. Am I pissed when I read books that are crappy published by major publishing houses? Yep. Am I getting anxious and slightly concerned I could be doing this for the next decade without seeing my work in print? Um…definitely. Why haven’t I self published and saved myself the trouble then?
Good question. I made the decision to traditionally publish the moment I put pen to paper in order to write ‘professionally’ rather than as a hobby. I have busted my ass to make my work publishable and to learn the million and one things a writer has to learn in order to do that. I have built my author platform slowly and steadily and I have worked hard to make contacts (who I am lucky enough to consider friends as well) and to get my name out there all for the sole purpose of having a publisher pick up my book and say “Wow. We want to help put this out there.” Yes, self publishing carries bigger royalties. Yes, I control everything with self publishing. Yes, I can be successful in either area if I work hard enough. Yes, my work is just as good (or bad) no matter how it is published. But, self publishing for ME is like giving up. It’s like throwing my hands up after all of that work and saying, “Fuck it. They aren’t going to notice so I’ll just do it myself.” Kind of like climbing half way up Everest and then hitching a ride the rest of the way with the news chopper that’s been following you the whole time.
Seasoned writers have a certain obligation to new or young writers in my opinion to be honest and realistic about this industry. For a writer published either way to spout the benefits of their publishing method without also listing the pitfalls is irresponsible.
I’m a long way from ‘seasoned’ but I have been around a while, so here’s my contribution.
Traditional publishing is a long process. It is frustrating, time consuming, and often somewhat soul destroying. It is an uphill climb full of rejection and full of depressing thankless work. Royalties are small, opportunities seem based on luck more than merit and it doesn’t work for everyone. You will most likely never get rich writing, and you will probably always need your ‘day job’. But, it’s a method that’s been proven to work if you can get your foot in the door. You have a team behind you rather than just little old you. A cheering section of sorts. You have editors, PR people and connections that you need to reach the bestseller list. Advances that help you find the time to write and work on your passion. If you continue to produce good writing, your chances at success increase with each book.
Self publishing has large royalties, fast returns and you control your work and your marketing. You can publish same day and have your book ‘out there’ immediately. Often it costs you nothing, you submit and the site or company charges you a fee per book. Still you make a larger royalty than traditional. You can have your book all over the internet and anyone can read it. But…you are responsible for editing. Can you self edit? Sorry folks, no one can. You have to market, promote and fight to get your book onto the other shelves, you know, the ones that aren’t virtual. You have to pay your other bills while doing this and there are no advances to help you along. Your success depends on you alone. You will never get rich writing, just as in traditional publishing, you will likely have to keep your day job for a long time.
There’s the facts in a nutshell. Pros and cons of both. I’ll keep climbing this hill toward traditional publishing but I wish the best of luck to those who decide to jump off and take another path. In the end, the important thing is the writing and giving your readers a product that’s worth the money they’ve paid out for it. Let’s not lose focus of that.