Why Self-Publish?

I was going to be all smart-ass and just say “Why not?” – but really, there’s a lot more to it.
One of the big objections I hear a lot is that your book will get lost in a sea of self-published stuff. And that’s true. But that is also true of print books. Even before there was Amazon, the chances of a new book by an unknown author even making it to the chain stores was not that high.
Okay, say I was to get a print contract with a major imprint. But it’s going to be a mid-list title – they aren’t going to do more than the very standard, low-cost marketing stuff. Maybe, if my editor really likes me, there’ll be a colour photo in the catalogue and a little pressure on the sales reps to push it a bit. If I’m really lucky, they’ll do advance copies, but probably not.
Imagine yourself in the bookstore. You’re in the section of the store my book is in. If you’re like me, you go first to those authors you have already read and liked to see if they’ve got anything new, or an older title you’ve missed somehow. After that, you look for some other authors that you either sort of like or that friends have mentioned you might like, or that someone recommended on the radio or something. And then you might look at a few books by people you don’t know, based on the cover art or the title, but probably only the ones where the cover is face out, not spine out.

You sure as hell don’t methodically go through every single title from A to Z, carefully reading the blurbs on the back or sampling a few random pages in each one. You don’t. (If you do – don’t take this the wrong way, but you either need a job or some professional help.)

And ordering books on line? Basically, there are two ways you do those: either you already know what you want and you order that (and maybe only that) or you do what I do on KOBO and SmashWords and even Amazon: I pick a genre, and I cruise rapidly through based solely on cover art (teeny, teeny cover art) and title till something catches my eye. Then I read the blurb and a bit of the sample, and by then I’m either hooked or moving on.

So what’s the difference?

Okay: I don’t get a professional editor. I have a couple of people I trust absolutely who go through like the Grim Reaper, noting the overwriting and questioning anything that jars or makes no sense or seems stupid.(And catching typos and weird spelling errors.) And because they are pretty good at writing themselves, I’m fairly confident that I haven’t made too many really idiotic blunders.
Considering how many books published by well-known authors through famous houses appear not to have had anyone ever say “Whoa – that’s WAY too much information!” or all the other things an editor ought to say (Robert Jordan franchise: I am looking at you, yes) I think I’m not missing too terribly much. I’d love a professional editor, and if ever I can afford one, I’ll hire one, but meanwhile I’ll make do.

The third objection seems to be that the self-publishing market has flooded the world with books. And that’s true, but it’s a good thing.

Look: the traditional publishing world acted as gatekeepers, and in some ways, it might have been a good thing, but really, they never did and don’t care now about publishing good books. Otherwise, we would never see multi-million dollar advances for books by real-estate “entrepreneurs” who think they are philosopher kings, and no one would have ever chopped down a single tree for the sake of Jonathan Livingston Seagull.
They care about publishing books that they think will sell.
That means their publishing decisions are based on what they perceive the “trends” are. It means that if you aren’t writing the flavour of the month, you will not get plucked out of the slushpile. It also means that if your reading taste doesn’t match the trends, you won’t find very many books to buy. I think I went almost ten years without reading any fantasy at all, because the publishing houses weren’t publishing the kinds of fantasy I wanted to read.
Now, with self-published ebooks, things are wide open.
Yes, there’s a lot of crap out there. There always was. But now you can find exactly the kind of crap you want, at a price you’re willing to pay.
And as an added bonus, the author actually gets a decent share of that.


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