Saturday, June 23, 2012

Self Publishing Mayhem

Is it just me or is self-publishing the new Y2K? Everybody is threatening each other, playing up the issue or playing it down, acting like publishing as we know it is terminal.

This is, of course, an over exaggeration but it holds some truth doesn't it?

I wasn't even aware of self publishing until last year when I started looking into getting a Kindle. It intrigued me but not enough to take a chance and buy many self published ebooks. I've read a few (of the best selling kind) and was pretty impressed. Sure there were some minor grammatical issues and the stories weren't as polished as I was used to.

But you know what? Those books were all refreshingly different from what you might find on the bookshelves at Barnes & Noble. I could go on for an entire blog post about the need for college aged YA (I probably will) but the point is I never took traditional publishing vs. self publishing seriously.

Until I read the prosecution and the defense. On her blog Shannon Hale wrote a post entitled "The self-publishing paradox; or, why I love my editor." Jessica Park wrote a piece for the Huffington Post called "How Amazon Saved My Life." Woah. For the first time I was able to see how the issue went far beyond quality. Both ladies have valid points and were very persuasive in their arguments. They are also on different ends of the spectrum, and tend to speak in absolutes that don't reflect the general population.

Hale and Park are very successful in the mode of publishing that they have chosen. They are not the norm. Most writers cannot live off of their earnings and must make ends meet other ways. Despite conceptions authors don't have a lot of control over what is published; from the cover to marketing. Not every book that is traditionally published is popular, innovative or widely read. But there is a trust in the population that these books are worthy of your time and money.
While there may be more "slush" self-published books (not well written, not worthy of your money) nobody can deny that sub-par books get published traditionally every year. BECAUSE IT ALL COMES DOWN TO TASTE.

It's hard to say what the general population will like, what book is going to touch that nerve. And it won't always be something "of substance."

Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey are good examples of this. Both are wildly popular and making their authors exorbitant amounts of money. And yet both books have been accused of being badly written with weak plots. People like what they like despite the quality (reality television comes to mind, I love me some 16 and Pregnant!). Sometimes we like escapism, something that is "bad" for us to break up the monotony.

This is what makes me sad: big publishing houses take on books that they think they are going to sell. Park's break-out Flat Out Love (which I read and really enjoyed) got turned down because it didn't fit nice and pretty in the YA market. But every publisher liked it, thought it was a strong piece of work. They didn't think it would make money but Parks proved them to be very, very wrong.

The elitist image the publishing houses are giving themselves is, I imagine, what is making many people resort to self-publishing. Good and bad more books than ever are finding their way into the world through this method. And getting a bad name because the slush hasn't been weeded out.

I ask you though: don't readers know best what they like? Look at all the best selling self published authors who got turned down for not writing something that fits in the market.

As a young writer all of this makes my head hurt a little. The big dream has always been the traditional route. Write a book, polish it up, get an agent, get a publisher, watch everything fall into place.

I'm honestly concerned though. The book I'm working on now doesn't fit into that neat, little picture of what YA "is". I like breaking the rules and I believe the story is the better for it. Its the kind of story I would want to read and I would like to think that readers will embrace it for its differences. But will agents and publishers see that? Or will they just see a marketing mess that could loose them money?

In conclusion: lets not be snobs about how a book gets into our hands. Judge it as a story not a product. Lets respect our fellow writers. Professional or amateur, successful or still slaving away.

Also in conclusion: I plan on working hard towards traditional publishing. That is my biggest dream. I really, really want it. But it is nice to know that self publishing is there for me if I need it. 

What do you think? Would you ever consider self-publishing? Are there any self-published books that you love?


  1. I think there are good and bad self published books and good and bad traditionally published books. Why? Reading is subjective. Yes, grammatical errors can come into play more with self-published books, but I've found formatting issues are pretty common whether books are traditionally published or self published. I think since ebooks are still kind of new, those issues are bound to appear.

    So basically, I say, read what you want. Who cares who published the story? If it's good, it's good.

    1. Hey Kelly! Thanks of sharing your thoughts.

      You're right ebooks and self publishing are still pretty new. In 10, 20 or 50 years this tension will look rather silly.

      The important thing is good stories. Those (fingers crossed, pray to the heavens) aren't going anywhere.

  2. I can only express my own experience here. I wrote, queried, submitted manuscripts, and attended conferences for ten years believing that eventually my time would come as an author. What I found was that instead of things getting better, it was getting worse. Agents from conferences I attended didn't bother to acknowledge my queries. I always believed that a good book would get picked up, so I continually strived to write a better book. Still, no dice.

    I self-published because I have nothing to lose. I've gone the rounds, I've done the pitches, I've laid my work at agents and editors' feet only to be ignored. I don't want to wait another ten years to MAYBE get a chance to publish.

    Indie publishing requires a shift in thinking. Instead of waiting for a "big break" I think of it in terms of small business. I write books and sell them on a small scale. I enjoy it. My readers like my book. No New York stamp of approval needed.

    That said, now that I have indie published, it would be hard to go the traditional route because I have complete control over my work and I get a larger share of the profits. The success or failure of the book depends entirely on me. It's a lot of pressure, but at least it's all mine.

    1. Michelle, you are very inspirational!

      Tenacity and unfailing belief in your work are the markers a strong writer to me. I admire everyone who has taken that leap and gone the self publishing route. Despite what many people in the industry say you guys are innovators. In years to come self publishing will become the norm and you will be one of those pioneers.

      I admire you for your years of work and the fact that you made your dreams come true. On your own terms :D

  3. I have seriously considered self publishing. I have a short story I may self publish this year. It's been through a freelance editor so I'm not worried about grammatical issues.

    1. Hey Beth, that great to hear! Let me know when it comes out :)

  4. I'm with you, Megan. I don't see why so many people make self-pub vs trad-pub such an all or nothing deal. Many authors dabble in both -- so what? Self-pub is great for experimental stories, or stories that are in a non-standard format.

    I think people who say that traditional books are dead are overreacting a bit -- I think they're fading, but I think it's a format we'll still see for several more generations (just like some people still buy physical copies of music vs. only downloading mp3s).

    I think it's funny that self-publishing has gotten such a bad rap, and that self-pub authors are considered 'lazy'. For a self-pub author to be successful, they have to work so much harder, and be their own editor, marketer, and publisher. That's not a small task. I think the stigma of self-publishing will fade over time (hopefully).

    There's pros and cons to each. Big publishers = better distribution and better marketing, hands down. They have resources that are not available to individuals. But if your work doesn't fit what their marketing team has projected will sell, well, you won't be selling your work. And if you do get picked up by a publisher, it'll still be a year or two before you ever see your book on the shelf.

    Would I consider self-publishing? Well, absolutely. I just released a short story over the weekend (yay!), my very first self-pub. Since it's a short story, and since it is, admittedly, a WEIRD short story, I think I would have been hard pressed to publish it through a different avenue (you can download it free on Smashwords: I'm sure I'll continue to self-pub my short stories.

    I've read a couple of good self-pubbed books (I've also seen several absolutely terrible ones). If you're interested, I can lend you a copy via Amazon.

    1. As always Nickie your thoughts are awesome :DDD

      I agree with every one of your points. Either way its a hard road so we should just be respectful.

      Wow, you're published! Congratulations!!! I am definetly checking that out ;)

      You can share books via Amazon/Kindle??? Do tell me more! I would love that!

    2. Update: Read and loved it! I commented about it on your blog :)))

  5. I've published both ways. They both have their strong and weak points. yes, it's about the story not the delivery system.

  6. As a reader I still barely read self-pubbed books but that has a lot to do with the fact that I am very wary to buy a book I haven't read first and I use libraries for probably 89% of my reading and self-publishing just hasn't broken into that sort of market yet.

    That being said I wanted to ask, you mentioned wanting ore of a college age YA market, what do you think of the NA marketing that's been increasing recently Megan?