self publishing · Writing

The Bias Against Self-publishing

Once upon a time self-publishing was seen as the option for the uniformed and writers who well, weren’t very good. These days self-publishing has become a much more viable option thanks to the internet, but the bias still lingers and drives writers away from it. Some traditionalists still hold that traditional publishing is the only path that has any merit, while some self-publishers think taking control of your writing is the best way to go. And let’s not forget about the growing numbers of hybrid authors who have published both ways. A lot of people on the traditional side seem to avoid discussing the topic, but I work with clients on both ends of the industry and I’ve personally worked with some great self-published authors.

Self-publishing wasn’t always as easy as it is today. While self-publishing used to be associated with scams in which houses forced authors to pay to be published, these days self-publishing often entails authors handling the publishing of the book themselves. While the publishing landscape has evolved, old biases still linger. With more authors self-publishing than ever before there have been heated debates on the topic of traditional publishing versus self-publishing.

Quality issues help feed the lingering bias, but authors who pay for  professional editing and cover services can match the quality of authors traditionally published. Not to mention big names are coming out of the indie side these days, including Hugh Howey, the author of Wool, and Andy Weir, author of The Martian. Once more readers start picking up indie books, there could be a bigger shift in the publishing landscape. One of the biggest issues indie authors face is getting their books in brick and mortar stores to reach a wider audience, but once that issue is solved self-publishing could become even more popular than it is today.

Let’s face it, it’s hard to get an agent and a book deal these days. Way harder than it used to be. Plus with houses putting more of the marketing burden on authors and the price of advances declining, part of the allure of the traditional side is dwindling for some writers. I’ve noticed more and more authors turning to paying for professional edits to get noticed in the slush, when a perk of traditional publishing is supposed to entail not paying for your own edits. However self-publishing can be overwhelming and for authors who don’t have the time or knowledge to handle everything themselves, they are better off with a team of people behind them on the traditional side. Without marketing, many self-published books languish with few sales and even fewer reviews. And once you self-publish a book, unless it gets stellar sales and reviews you won’t get a deal with an agent or house with it.

So why self-publish at all? Well for starters you get more control over your books. You get to pick which editors to work with and what kind of cover you want. You can even pick your release date yourself. You don’t split royalties with your agent and house, which means more money in your pocket with each book sold. However you have to pay the costs upfront yourself, but if you are a business-minded person you might do well self-publishing and being able to control every aspect of your book’s publication. Let’s not forget traditional publishing is extremely slow, but on the indie side you aren’t waiting on houses. So for writers who put out heavy volume, self-publishing can be the way to go. And for those who write in niche genres and can’t find an audience in agents or houses, they can connect to their audience via self-publishing.

Both ends of publishing have their allures and faults, and they can make for a difficult decision for some writers. But no matter which side you publish on you should always do your research. Self-publishing unprepared has high odds of failure, but on the traditional side you don’t want to get saddled with a terrible contract or an unprofessional agent.


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