Five Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Self-Publish
Five important reasons not to self-publish.
Let me be clear, I am a self-published author. I have no regrets, and I will continue to self-publish in the future, however, I strongly advise against taking this route. It takes a special kind of crazy to do this to yourself, so turn back now if you can. Here are my five reasons why you should be a good girl/boy and cry yourself to sleep every night while reading your rejection letters, until you can finally get picked up by a traditional publisher. When that day comes, you can justifiably dance naked around a bonfire of those freshly printed rejection correspondences.
Doesn’t that sound nice? Of course it does. Because it’s surely better than what you get if you self-publish, or rather, what you don’t.
Reason 5: The reputation.
There is a stigma with self-publishing. It says you’re a quitter, your work is subpar, it’s unpolished, unsophisticated, it’s unprofessional, it’s base, it’s crap…basically, it’s shit. That’s what everyone thinks. Let’s say it how it really is. And I don’t apologize for my language. If you are a traditional author, you can raise your head high and flaunt that, but if you are a self-published author, you sorta mutter it softly and hope people only catch wind of the ‘author’ part.
And it’s probably true. Let’s be honest, you are now in a market, in the POOL—if you will—of unpolished works. So before this baby is even out of the womb, it’s been born into a crime family with a bad reputation. You’ve had your baby with a meth addict is what I’m saying. In a meth lab, with a meth addict, and now you’ve got to tell this kid he can be president. Can he really? Um… sure. If ma and pa have the time, then jr. can. If not, then yeah chances are, this kid won’t make it past the sidewalk before a mean ‘tell it like it is’ troll comes by and snaps him/her up.
There now that I’ve convinced you to go look for a good STABLE individual to raise your child with, I won’t need to go on to the other four reasons. So go on now, run don’t walk to write up yet another letter to an agent. This rough life isn’t the life for you. Go, shoo.
Why are you still here?
Fine, you haven’t heard enough. I haven’t scared you straight yet?
Reason 4: The Quality.
No matter what you say, it won’t be on par with other traditionally published works. BEFORE you click on that ‘send email button’ to flame me, let me explain why. Don’t blame me, blame reason number 5. This is the reason why. Even if you get it polished so much that it shines, clean the gunk outta her eyes, brush her teeth thoroughly and send her off into the world, there’s that big ‘self-published’ scarlet letter on her forehead and nobody’s going to want to sit with her at lunch. I’m sorry. Don’t blame me, blame reason 5. And here’s the kicker, reason 4, actually goes hand-in-hand with reason 5. It’s like they feed each other.
As you might know, it’s quite easy to push the ‘publish’ button, and some people do. They’ve got a dream and a hope and authors like EL James and the other one EL James fanficked have made it big, and apparently without much polish. So of course, some self-published artist hope they can too. But it’s not just that, polishing a work is expensive, and time consuming and not all indie authors can afford it. Even if you can, and you do, there is just the problem that the stigma is there.
Say what you will about traditional publishing houses, that they are strict, or heartless, and bitter, and jaded, and mean, and out of touch… they’re bastards, that’s what I’m saying. OK. Let’s call a bastard a bastard. But why? Because they have things to do, and too many poor works to wade through. That’s going to make anyone short and quick to pass up anything that looks potentially trite. There is just not enough time in the day to do otherwise. You have to be pretty good to get their attention. So you go back to the drawing board OFTEN. You beat your work, again, and again, and again, to the point where you’re crying at the thought of how much you have to beat it. The PROSPECT of beating it is making you cringe because seriously, how much more can the poor thing take?
OK, now that I’ve got you questioning my parenting skills, let me say this. That is a good thing. The rejection level is high and it hurts. It stings when people give you the ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ rejection in email form. I mean, bad enough you get it in real life (maybe) now you gotta get it from some nobody who doesn’t know you and might not have even read you. It’s tough, but here’s the thing, the market is tough too. So the tough vetting process does help weed out the weaker achievers. It’s not bullet proof, and crap still seeps through, but if anything else, at least try because it’ll make you a better (tougher) author. By the time you’ve made it, you’ve been shat on so much that you can handle some bad reviews when the time comes. Self-published authors are not really that fortunate. Very few have thick enough skins and they will usually get defensive and down right put their fingers in their ears and say ‘lalalalalala’ instead of hearing anything negative.
Seriously, we’re kind of wussy.
By now, surely you are convinced to turn back? What? Your stuff is different and you are sure of it? *sigh* OK, fine, I didn’t want to say it but you are forcing me to bring out the big guns…
Reason 3: The Cost
The utter soul-crushing cost. By the time self-publishing is done with you, you won’t know what the hell you spend your mula on. And it won’t be instantaneous where you can see it right away. It’ll be slowly, insidiously…it’ll happen over time and when you tally it up (should you have the balls of platinum to do so), you’ll look at it and shake your head. Can you make that money back? Of course you want to say yes with a twinkle in your eye, but let me tell you the reality, you probably won’t. Now, don’t go crying, or get defensive, you really probably won’t. If you want to get something high quality out there, then chances are, you will pay, and that’s not the worst part, you’ll pay often, for EVERYTHING. A publishing house will probably make you promote too, hey, all us selling ourselves have to eventually walk the streets like good little whores, right? The money you spend will put a crack in your clear heels.
Let’s say you have the cash and you don’t care about the money? (Yeah, crackpots like these exist…I’m kinda one of them *cough*) fine, but to what end? You are now responsible for everything under the sun:
- Book cover (and not the crappy sort which will shame your family)
- Editing (no, your friends can’t just ‘read through it’ for you. Proper real editing from people who know wtf a comma is for)
- Proofreading (because apparently, editors are human too and they miss things)
- Website and web building (hey, I for one think anything designed via notepad is good enough. Sadly, the INTERNET DOESN’T agree)
Before you jump up and say “I can do that!” NO, no you can’t. The very reason why you can’t is because you’re not a real publisher. Turns out, Book Covers have an actual method to them. Who the hell knew? I am still very much unaware of these methods myself but the way a book cover is presented and made is very important. A professional can judge it best, you can’t. And a book cover will cost you. If it’s done by a publisher, you can’t be tempted to change your cover. (Me, personally, I’m an expert at self-control, so my cover has only changed about 6 times).
Editing, oh, the awful hell that is editing. Sure, you have to revise when you are with a publisher, but at least a publisher will be brutally honest with you (to a point) because they are also invested in making money too. Indie editors don’t give a crap about you. (These people are too overworked to give a crap unless you pay them hourly and with that, they still aren’t giving 100 percent of their crap giving skills to you alone, they have other clients). Indie editors are very methodical. You hire them to do one task, they do that task and walk. Which is fine, if you know that, but because they are indies too, you never really know what you get and they cost. If you go the cheap route, they might make things worse and you’ve gotta hire someone more expensive to fix it, only to find that the fixer is actually a fixer-up-er him/herself.
In short, you are going to get robbed. I don’t care who you are. You are going to get robbed, at least once. At least once.
Then after you go through all that, keep in mind that your return could diminish even more depending on where you live. If you are not in the US but plan to use US businesses, as most must, you might be taxed as much as 30% of your royalties. Keep in mind the fees for publishing. If you do the calculations, you can probably surmise that the potential for a low return on your investment is probably the only thing high.
OK, so you see, you need to get the heck out of this bad idea, right? Don’t take your kid to school via a bicycle-for-one. Just go ahead and keep looking for a potential match with a nice Toyota who will drive you there in HEAT in the winter and AC in the summer. It’s rough out there, honest, get out.
…still here? God help me—fine. Fine. Here we go.
Reason 2: Marketing
Say goodbye to yourself. No, you’re not getting married and buying the mini-van. You’re dying, you’re officially dead now. There. I said it. When you self-publish, you die. Nobody told you? Well, you are marketing yourself constantly. Presenting yourself CONSTANTLY, and you are representing yourself c… you get the picture. You’ve gotta be fake nice, that’s what I’m saying. You are always promoting and nobody really wants to be around you anymore. (True story). And if you are hotheaded like some of the other crazies, you don’t make a good impression…not really. But here is the other problem, you can’t really have an opinion, or at least you’ve gotta be careful what you say. Sure, real (yeah, I said real) authors are the same, but usually there is a cushion between them and the real world. (Wait, is that true?) For you, it’s all you, all the time. Everything you say matters and can be taken out of context. If you piss off the right people, you’ve now got a following…of book-blood thirsty trolls. You’ve gotta learn to lurk a lot. A LOT. I happen to swear often, so I think I’ve done well with monitoring myself, but seriously, sometimes I’d like to tell a few people to eat a dick. (I really would) but I can’t do that. I want to be taken seriously as a professional author. Can you imagine? If people come to my site, or to my blog or maybe google me and found out that I tell people I dislike, “yo, eat a dick?” It would be really be a bad image to put forward. So if you go the self-publishing route, you lose more of your anonymity. SURE, you can go the extra mile to be someone else, but for some, who are simply lazy or too old for that crap, you’re going to have a tough time.
Right, I can see that I can’t convince you so easily, so I’m bringing out the big, BIG guns. Reason 1 why you shouldn’t self-publish…
Reason 1, the number ONE reason why you shouldn’t self-publish…
You’re giving me a hard time. Okay, this isn’t about you, you think it is because it’s called ‘self-publishing,’ publishing but turns out, myself considers myself more important than yourself. Chances are, you’ll screw the pooch somewhere and it’ll be out in the open for all to see and then the rest of us self-pubs are going to have to go into hiding and/or defend you, *eyeroll* again. Stop being so selfish, quit already!
On a serious note: If you really want to self-publish, I can only wish you good luck. It’s an experience and no matter how it turns out, you’ll be stronger for it. But whatever you do, give your book the respect it deserves. The same for yourself.
P.S. feel free to check out a post about Traditional Publishing Myths, courtesy of Robert Emmitt.