The Road to Self-Publishing (series, 3)

Here’s the latest installment of Mr. UT’s work on developing my book cover. He’s been a little slack on the production line this week. Maybe I’m not paying him enough…

To continue my rambling thoughts about some of the reasons given against authors self-publishing their work, let me pick up the thread from point B.

As a reminder, the three biggest reasons I hear are, A) there’s an endemic belief that if your book was not successful enough to get offered representation by an agent, it just wasn’t that good, B) if you self-publish, publishing houses won’t take you seriously later on, and C) you won’t make as much money self-pubbing as going the traditional route.

I can’t remember the sources from which I’ve heard the strange notion that a publishing house (or agent) will automatically disregard your work if they know you self-published something. The obvious would be, if you self-published something AND it was reviewed by myriads of people who thought it was horrid, well yeah, that specific piece of work will never be taken seriously. Not because it was self-published, but because it wasn’t any good.

A bad self-published book should not be conflated with the idea of self-publishing in general. Because if you put a book out on your own and it’s read and highly regarded by these myriads, any publisher or agent with even the tiniest inkling of succeeding in business will snap you up in a second. If your work has proven itself, of course it will be taken seriously. When people know something is good they’ll want it, if they know it’s bad, they won’t, simple as that.

The idea that self-published books aren’t “real” books comes from the old publishing model of the vanity press where many people just wanted to see their own work in print and would pay to do it. They put a lot of money into creating a few dozen, or hundred copies, and passed them out among friends, family, and in some cases, potential markets. The reality was that many of these authors really weren’t  “serious” about becoming a success (where success is defined in terms of the works broad exposure and money-making potential) so much of their work didn’t have the professional polish of a market-minded author. In those days, it may have been more valid for publishers to think self-published authors would not make the best gamble for the simple reason that many of these authors weren’t willing or interested in putting in the “miles” to be the kind of author that has hundreds of copies of their books sitting on bookstore shelves nationwide.

But the model has changed.

Self-published authors are still composed of the type listed above, but there are many, many others who are hardworking, talented, and willing to put in those necessary miles to achieve success (as defined above). And, here’s the kicker, the publishing monopolies are no longer the gatekeepers who get to decide who’s books are worthy of being exposed to the world.

Self-published authors have changed from being the old model of hopeful writer just looking for any chance to get their foot in the door. Self-published authors in current times realize there is NO door. Readers are out there, and readers are willing to put their money down to get a chance to read the books that most appeal to them, especially if they’re cheap and easy to come by. The exact qualities of an e-book. Self-published authors are now taking it upon themselves to provide these without accepting the limitations of overworked, under-capitalized publishing houses. It’s a win-win for the author and the reader, and of course, these are the two most important players in the literary world. Or they should be. And with the digital mediums now available and the easy of distributing this type of book, it is finally feasible for authors to be their own publisher.

For a more thoughtful discussion of how the cream will rise to the top, thus saving readers the headache of sifting through lots of bad works before finding the good works, read JA Konrath’s blog post on this subject.

Despite how easy it now is to self-publish a book, it’s still obviously important that a writer’s work is good. If it is and you put your book out on your own and do the work necessary to get it noticed, it will be a success. And publishers take success seriously.

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