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schieldenver's avatar

What's your position on self publishing?

Asked by schieldenver (5points) February 20th, 2010

Would you self publish if you owned all the publishing rights to your book. More and more people are now self publishing, even beatrix potter self published!

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12 Answers

ETpro's avatar

If you can’t find a for-profit publisher who thinks you work is worth the light of day, save your money and rewrite it till you can get it published. If you are a well known author and want to keep more of the pie for yourself, it may make some sense. But for an unknown, you need the marketing horsepower of a major publishing house of a huge marketing budget of your own and lots more book trade savvy than most of us have. Without that, your book will probably never cover the cost of printing.

TexasDude's avatar

I would do it if I had a lot of confidence in my ability to market something unmarketable.

Jeruba's avatar

I must respectfully disagree with @ETpro. The publishing world is in a state of flux and also confusion. Self-publishing is no longer stigmatized, Internet publishing has gained respectability, and publishing houses like everybody else are taking a whipping in these economic times. Big houses are eating small houses alive and at the same time small independent presses are springing up. So say my sources. So it’s anybody’s guess.

One author I know who successfully sold her first book is keeping her finished second in a box and not even submitting it right now, while working on her third. She doesn’t even want to send it out into the current maelstrom. Another that I heard of had a book accepted by a publisher who bought the rights and then folded before press time, leaving the unpublished work in limbo.

Common wisdom seems to be that if you can sell 5000 copies of a self-published work and you also have a strong “platform” (and you are eminently presentable for the talk show and PBS radio circuit and the infinite cycle of bookstore signings and conference appearances), you can get a commercial publisher to take an interest in your work.

The big down side that I see is that no author is capable of judging the print-readiness of his or her work. Commercial publishers put a book through a vetting process and don’t take it straight from raw ms. to press run. I have seen quantities of self-published work that had great promise but desperately needed the attentions of a competent editor. Unless you plan to pay for a real edit by a real editor, even before you get to the cost of printing, the labor of distribution, and the ceaseless effort of promotion, you might as well just pay a few dollars for a domain name and web hosting and upload it to your own website to share with your friends and make your mother proud.

Rarebear's avatar

I have a good friend who is a successful science fiction author and I once asked him about this. His comment to me was caveat emptor.

mrentropy's avatar

I read an article about this not too long ago. It was based more on self-published eBooks, which the author of the article thought was the way of future, than paper books. His final thought was that for an established author it was the way to go, but a new author would be better trying to get a publisher so they could handle the marketing and everything.

If I can find it, I’ll post the link but I’m not having much luck so far.

SuperMouse's avatar

Jim Trelease self-published the first edition of The Read-Aloud Handbook. He hasn’t done too bad for himself since then.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

I have boxes of unpublished manuscripts dating back 40 years. I assume that the rejection slips meant poor quality or the subject matter of too narrow interest. I don’t need the ego-stroke of having a book published, nor am I willing to do the public nonsense needed to market a book. I’m not a public figure and don’t wish to be.

My late wifes book was considered worthy of publication, but it will never see the light of day.

gottamakeart's avatar

I say go for it. it removes a lot of boundaries and “middle men” even releasing the material onto the internet is a good option if you favor exposure over profit.

steveTiano_bookdesigner's avatar

ETPro, I think you’re not taking into account that traditional publishers don’t do a hell of a lot of promotion for unknown authors. Either way, the author is smart to do his or her own promotion. So why not write the best book possible and engage real professionals to edit, design, and handle production for your book? If you believe in it (and here you need to really do soul-searching, because most self-published books don’t sell more than 500 copies) might as well make all the proceeds for yourself and have control over getting exactly the book you want out.

ETpro's avatar

@steveTiano_bookdesigner I’m sure you can mount a similar argument to mine about why not to open your own business, and here I am working in my own small business. There will never be a shortage of dreamers. But realistically, it takes years of work to write a good book. It takes money to get it professionally edited. If it needs indexing, that costs too, and is another arcane skill most writers botch if they do it themselves. And then it costs serious money to have a vanity press print it. If you only sell 500 copies, you are calculating how much that word, Vanity, really means in dollars lost.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

There is a line somewhere between self-publishing and vanity publishing.

When someone writes a “scientific report” that would never the survive peer review process because the methodology is unsound and the conclusions unwarranted, and so they choose to self-publish, I call that vanity publishing. It is shameless self-promotion despite the weakness of their ideas or their writing.

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