The Self-Publisher’s Dilemma

Tempting...very tempting...

Like everyone else, I’m very interested in how ebooks are going to change the publishing world, especially since I hope to be a part of that world in the near future.  Lately one of the things that has been coming up is the idea of self-publishing.  With ebooks on the rise, and easy-to-use self-publishing platforms readily available, why not just self-publish and cut out the middle man? That way, you make more money per book, and can sell your books for less.  Seems like a win-win-win situation.  But…

There’s always a but.  In fact, in this case there are two “buts” that I’ve noticed when it comes to self-publishing.

First, now that anyone can pretty much put anything up on the kindle, there is a lot out there.  And, I hate to say it, but a lot of it isn’t very good.  I have nothing against self-publishing; for some people, it’s a better way to get their stuff out there, and I’m sure there are a lot of great stories available that wouldn’t otherwise be.  But there’s also a lot of not-so-great stories available.  What this means is that trying to find a good self-published story in the murky sea of words out there is difficult.

True, there are some traditionally published books that aren’t so great, either.  I know I can think of several times I’ve read something and wondered how it got published.  On the other hand, writing is so subjective, that those same books were highly recommended by other readers, so again, personal opinion plays a large role here.  But, back to the point, with traditionally published books at least there’s some kind of filter.  With self-publishing, that filter has been torn off so it’s up to the reader to figure out what’s good and what isn’t.  Which is exciting, yes, but also difficult, and leads to my second issue:

How do you make your self-published book stand out from the rest? This is something I argue about with my husband all the time.  As I’m researching agents and working on my query letter, he’s asking me why I don’t try self-publishing and bypass all that, and the reason is, I know my own limitations.  Would I be good enough at marketing myself to become well-known? Probably not.  True, in today’s world authors are expected to market themselves anyways, but in going the traditional route, they have some help.  A lot of help, actually.  If you self-publish, you go it alone for everything.

This means marketing, finding an editor, scheduling your own book signings and talks, everything.  Amanda Hocking, one of the kindle millionaires that everyone has been buzzing about lately, says it best in her post here when she explains, “I am continuously overwhelmed by the amount of work I have to do that isn’t writing a book.”

On the other hand, it’s clear that times are changing.  There are some great comments on Nathan Bransford’s blog about all of this, and how mid-list authors will be the first to switch over.  Already Barnes and Noble announced it will welcome self published authors through its self-publishing platform, PubIt! Shari Lopatin took a look at this platform and the issues it raises over at her blog, if you want to check out her post.

As for me, I still want to go the traditional publishing route, if only to prove that yes, I was good enough to get in that way.  But I have a feeling that, as things change, more people will turn to self-publishing and not as a last resort, but as just another option.  What do you think?

Advertisements