Self-Publishing Is Not a Shortcut

Many roads will get you there, but they're all up hill. Both ways. In the snow. Wear a coat and boots. Also pants.

The publishing landscape has changed. The path to publication isn’t as clear as it used to be. In the past, there were two choices: traditional or vanity.

Traditional publishing is every bit as difficult to break into as it used to be, possibly more so. Vanity publishing isn’t called that anymore, and has taken on a legitimacy that didn’t previously exist.

But wait—a wealth of boutique publishers has cropped up, giving a more accessible option to authors. And e-publishing, whether through a digital publisher or as a DIY offers options that didn’t exist a few years ago.

After a brief, frustrating trip down the agent-querying path, I took matters into my own hands. I submitted my novel to a digital-first publisher. They didn’t require an agent to submit to them. Now, you have to understand, I researched the hell out of them first. Their authors were publicly happy. Their marketing department was top notch, and their editors were highly qualified. They made me an offer, and every step so far has reinforced that I made the correct decision. It doesn’t hurt that Carina Press is an imprint of Harlequin. I got a boutique publisher feel with the backing of a traditional publisher.

But we’re talking about self-publishing, not the other options out there.

A lot of people are making a decent living by cutting out all the middlemen and putting their work out themselves for reasonable prices. A few have made themselves rich. But many more put their work out there and make few, if any, sales.

I’ve read some self-published books. Some were good. Some were so poorly thought out and/or so badly edited that my eyes bled and my Kindle was in mortal danger of hitting the wall across the room.

I think we all know what went wrong with those. I’m not going to lecture on quality here today. Even traditional publishers can put out poor quality from time to time. All I’m going to say is that if you’ve written a novel and you publish it yourself, for the love of the Red Pen of God, please get somebody qualified to at least look over it before you throw it out to the world.

For me, the issue is more than the need to garner the approval of the “gatekeepers.” I am a writer. I want to write. I am not a cover artist. I am not an editor. I am not a marketer. I don’t want to spend time making a crappy cover, formatting my novel for a gazillion different platforms, and I don’t want to spam the entire Internet to get my name out there. While I’m happy to do what I can to market my work, I want a marketing department behind me.

Self-publishing is not a shortcut. In fact, if it’s done properly, it’s more work than going a traditional route. So, no, I can’t bring myself to condemn it outright.

But to the people out there half-assing it as a way to feed their own egos instead of giving people good stories:

Quit trying to cheat the system. You’re making it difficult for the people who are doing it right.

Rachel is the author of the urban fantasy Monster Haven series from Carina Press. She believes in magic, the power of love, good cheese, lucky socks, and putting things off until stress gets them done faster at the last minute. Her home is Disneyland, despite her current location in Kansas.

1 Trackback

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.