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Writers: TOP 10 Objections to Self-Publishing

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As I read the growing number of success stories about self-published authors, I’ve seen some of the same worries and objections pop up again and again. Let’s deal with some.

Objection 1: As self-publishing grows, who will be the gatekeepers to keep out all the self-published books that are gonna suck?

My answer: Who keeps all the awful books off your bookshelf now? You do. The people you trust help you curate your book collection. This is really a question of taste and quantity. Your taste is still yours. The variable is going to be quantity as we’re crushed under the weight of so much bad prose. Sure, as an indie author, it will be hard to be heard above the promotional din. It’s hard to stand out anyway. However, through social media, word about good books spreads faster. Readers curate. Sounds more democratic than a small faceless editorial and sales cabal determining your destiny from an office you’ll never see, doesn’t it?

Objection 2: Without traditional publishers, authors will have to promote their own books.

My answer: Most of them do that themselves now. In fact, Margaret Atwood recently suggested that, since authors are their own publicity department, they should get a cut. For instance, one solution would be: If you, the author, spends $10,000 on promotion, you don’t have to earn that $10,000 again before you start getting royalties. (Many savvy authors—if they can afford it—plow their advance right back into promotion.)

Objection 3: E-readers are selling much faster in the United States than they are in Canada. Can Canadian authors make any money from e-books?

My answer: When you upload to Amazon, or any other platform, there aren’t any flags on your book that say “This one’s from Canada and this one’s from Tunisia so ignore this shit.” The web makes us citizens of the world so you can sell to the vast US market. The British and Australian markets are pretty big, too. We live in an Age of Wonders. Borders? We don’t need no stinkin’ borders!

There’s a deeper and much more serious answer to Objection 3, but I’ll save that for tomorrow’s post because it will sound unpatriotic.

Objection 4: But self-publishing is expensive.

My answer: It used to be but that’s old data. You can start selling e-books for just about nothing down. And many e-publishers are now looking at the paper version of their product as a nice add-on, not a necessity. Also, beware of companies that call themselves indie, but they’re really working on the vanity press business model and are out to bleed you dry.

Objection 5: Self-publishing sucks because it’s not professionally edited.

My answer: That one’s mostly true (though you could argue a lot of traditionally published books also suffer this malady as agents edit more and big houses edit less.)

I’ll take the middle road: Unedited work gets savaged in the marketplace. Few people will buy, word will get around and even fewer will buy the next book. It’s such a losing strategy that it won’t survive. A lack of editing is really the main complaint I hear about self-publishing. I think people who are serious about it will get it. I’m optimistic that as we hammer away at that complaint, writers will see they need some professional objective input.

(And yes, I’m an editor, too, so take that into consideration as you weigh the validity of my uncharacteristic optimism on this point.)

Objection 6: You can only be a financial success with the Big  Six behind you.

My answer: Anyone, even if they have a steady-paying job, dreams of winning the lottery. (Me, too!) But getting recognized by an editor or agent and getting the full JK Rowling billion-dollar deal is like winning the lottery, but with lousier odds.

If you’re good at math, you see through this objection quickly. Most books—indie or trad—don’t sell. Most authors don’t live off their writing income. There are people who are making good passive income from selling books, short stories and novellas. They aren’t in the billionaire’s club though Amanda Hocking’s now a millionaire.

As a self-published author, you’re selling your books for prices which are the equivalent of couch cushion change, but you do get a much larger percentage of each sale. JA Konrath has done the math and proved you can hold on to your rights, work for yourself and make much more money than a traditionally published author. With time, the fallacy of this objection will sink into the consciousness.

Just like my daddy said, “You don’t get rich working for somebody else.” Just like my ma said, “The Man is out to get you. The only way to control your life is to seize the means of production.” Good old Black Panther Marxist Ma.

Objection 7: Self-publishing is for losers who wouldn’t get published traditionally.

My answer: Has been true. Less true as time passes. As more traditionally published authors jump to e-books (already happening) this impression will fade. (This ties into the curation worry in #1.) It also has to do with ego. As someone with a huge ego, I’ve struggled with this, too.

Objection 8: If I self-publish and wear all the hats, when will I have time to write?

My answer: When you find or make time, I guess. My rule is, I don’t indulge in social media when it interferes with writing time. Twitter is for winding down, breaks and commercials and when I feel like it. It’s not an obligation that cuts into otherwise productive time. I’m not unsympathetic to the problem, but it’s not a new one. As I said, most traditionally published authors are hustling their books on their own anyway, without assistance or input from their publishing house.

At least we have more leisure time than we’ve ever had in all of human history. You probably don’t have to chop wood, skin your own cow and make your own clothes and rope in addition to feeding yourself.

Maybe you need to stop making excuses and sit down to write. If you missed Tuesday’s kick-ass,  light-your-hair-on-fire, no-excuses, take-no-prisoners, no-apologies self-evaluation rant, you better read it here. You don’t like me now? Ha! You are going to hate me when you read that!

Objection 9: If  I go out into the world without an agent, who will plan my career?

My answer: Okay, I’ve phrased that objection facetiously and unfairly. A lot of agents do talk about planning their authors’ careers, though. Aside from encouraging you to write more books faster and write the best books you can, I’m dubious about advice that comes after those no-surprise generalities. (For more on that lunacy, read Dean Wesley Smith’s take on agents here.)

So what will you do when you’re looking for support? You’ll talk with your friends. You’ll reach out to your network of mentors and followers. You’ll get feedback from your beta readers. You’ll learn many of the things you need to know from fellow travelers, Google and YouTube.

Objection 10: But I hate reading on an e-reader!

My answer: You aren’t alone. Not everything is for everyone. But young consumers will take it for granted. That’s one of the reasons Young Adult e-reading is exploding. YA is also extremely popular because it’s the one genre where traditional publishing is open to cross-genre books; lots of adults read YA, too. Older people were the surprise e-reader buyers early on. As the price drops, more kids getting e-readers and the age ratio is shifting.

There is resistance to change. It’s not all bad and it’s not all good. Consider that, if you’re older, you remember someone who hated mandatory seat belts. Not an objection you hear much anymore. The New Normal is a dangerous concept, though I don’t think all the paranoia applies in this case.

Also, let’s get real: Many people who hate e-readers haven’t actually tried them yet. As I was reading mine, my 11-year-old stopped and touched the screen. “Oh!” she said. “I thought that was paper at first. I thought you had a piece of paper on top of your e-reader screen! Wow, that looks so real!”

Yup. I smiled.

These are my answers to objections to self-publishing.

Do you have some, too?

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Filed under: authors, Books, DIY, Editing, publishing, Top Ten, Useful writing links, Writers, writing tips, , ,

9 Responses

  1. Excellent article! I laughed aloud to your answer to #3. 🙂 One thing people overlook, and something Konrath points out, is that e-books have an indefinite shelf life. They can be there forever. You just keep adding more and more to your infinitely large shelf, and you can always have the potential to reach new readers. That bodes well for those of us indie authors just getting started. I have two titles up now with several more planned this year (one novel, a couple of novellas, and a few short stories, I hope). More titles=a bigger income snowball. 🙂

    Thanks for this great post!

  2. Melissa Romo says:

    I just finished a first novel and am about to query. But I go back and forth on the self-publishing question on a daily basis. Aside from all the arguments made, the idea if doing it myself (with very generous investments in editing and cover art) just sounds… fun.

  3. Some people still have a need to see their books on “real” shelves. What they don’t realise is that they’d be on those real shelves for maybe 3 weeks, and then within a year their books would be out of print.

    My biggest attraction to indie publishing (beyond the control of my own career) is how fast I can get books out. I have a professional editor and a bunch of beta readers and a proofreader, but even with those other people involved, my first indie book has gone from rough draft to ready-to-go in six months. That’s about 18 months faster than my traditionally published book.

  4. Okay you’ve convinced me about self publishing. I am looking for a credible e-publisher in cross genre- literary and science fiction for the book Going Out In Style.

    As baby boomers round the final corner, realize they’re not immortal
    after all, and try to figure out how to ‘do’ old age, the timing for
    this novel ‘Going Out In Style’ is prime. A near future literary read
    that tells a cross genre story. Once you know your expiry date
    (death), you are welcome on board the Luminous Liminality cruise.

    No longer satisfied by ‘coming of age’ stories, Zoomers crave ‘second
    coming of age’ materials that reflect concerns about their lives –
    aging and death. Haruki Murakami or Christopher Moore readers will
    appreciate this darkly comic ferry tale that crosses Shipping News
    with Six Feet Under.

    Sixty-eight year old Boris Schechter lives alone in the Vancouver home
    his illustrious dead lover Art, designed for him. The journey on this
    last-exit cruise is his life’s last chance.

    His doctor Dr. H requires proof of the cruise before he will provide
    the required expiry date in order to book a cabin, so Boris befriends
    Ms Gauge, a French Canadian living in Point Roberts. This deranged
    ex-passenger helps him get on the cruise and becomes his death coach.
    He, in turn, helps her to regain her life.

    The cruise is not what Boris expects; it challenges his current
    reality, and illuminates his past, as it changes his destiny. He falls
    in love with Patrick who has lived with his expiry date his short
    life. Boris’s ironic compass-true sense is revealed each time
    adversity strikes, particularly with the jealous Captain who works for
    the other side.

    You can read the first eight chapters of ‘Going Out In Style’ by A Zoomer
    are on Harper Collin UK website: http://www.authonomy.com and seven hundred and fifity writers comments. I belong to two professionally led
    critique groups and have had fiction and nonfiction stories published
    in magazines. Actively involved with Vancouver’s art scene, I publish
    short stories, and book reviews in magazines. I Heart Containers
    placed first for prose in the West End Writers Workshop contest, June
    2010.

    Thanks for your blog.
    paTricia Morris

  5. […] Writers: TOP 10 Objections to Self-Publishing (chazzwrites.wordpress.com) […]

  6. […] Writers: TOP 10 Objections to Self-Publishing (chazzwrites.wordpress.com) […]

  7. […] Writers: TOP 10 Objections to Self-Publishing (chazzwrites.wordpress.com) […]

  8. […] Writers: TOP 10 Objections to Self-Publishing (chazzwrites.wordpress.com) […]

  9. […] Writers: TOP 10 Objections to Self-Publishing (chazzwrites.wordpress.com) […]

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