Not Every Writer Wants To Be A Publisher

This is something I see often enough: an author talks about losing a series or having some difficulties with a publisher or whatever, and someone from the crowd eventually says, “You should self-publish. We want more of you, the money’s better, we’ll support you. Plus, so many options! Amazon! Kickstarter! Bookflipper! Pub-Burger!” Sometimes it’s a polite suggestion, sometimes it’s double-barrel proselytization and they start spouting off “facts and figures” along with a dose of venom against the oppression of the traditional system.

I like self-publishing. I like it as an option. I have explored it and will continue to explore it.

But it’s not exactly easy.

It’s not moving mountains or shitting pre-constructed Ikea furniture, but it takes a set of skills that are wholly separate from writing: marketing, design, coding, editing. Some of these skills are valuable to the writer regardless of which publishing road she walks, but that doesn’t mean every writer is eager to pick up every skill nor is it a guarantee she’ll be good at them.

To hazard the doofusly obvious: self-publishing isn’t about writing, it’s about publishing.

Some writers just want to be writers.

They don’t also want to be publishers.

It’s just that simple. Neither wrong nor right. It’s a personal and professional choice.

Further, despite what some feel are absolute guarantees, self-publishing is not automagically the way to MORE MONEY than you’d get with a traditional publisher. It is a fact that the actual royalties (if you want to call them that, as Amazon and other entities act as distributor to the self-published, not the publisher) are better. Once again to bludgeon you all with the Mallet of Obviousness, 70% (or thereabouts) is higher than 25% (or thereabouts).

The outcome of publishing, however, is more complicated than those percentages.

If traditional publishing yields more sales (also not a guarantee), then that advantage shifts — 70% of $100 is a helluva lot less than 25% of $1000. Plus: rights, sub-rights, blah blah blah.

As I’ve noted in the past, self-publishing is all risk. It’s the opportunity to make zero dollars or a million dollars and potentially burn down your chance of entering that novel into the traditional space because if your book lands with a poop-plop instead of a big money splash, it doesn’t matter how fucking amazetesticles your book is, because it’s done, game over, so sorry.

(I’m using that correctly, right? Amazetesticles?)

Self-publishing is an act separate from writing.

Not every writer has the time, the talent, or the interest.

Both writing and publishing take work. Self-publishing demands the work of both.

Worth it for some, tricky or undesirable for others.

This isn’t meant to dissuade any author from going that route. It’s more to dissuade everybody else from haranguing authors about self-publishing when it’s just not in their wheelhouse.

(We’re still saying “wheelhouse,” right? Can we change it? Howzabout “primate house?” I like that one better. “Sorry, Bob, I don’t think I’m the man for the dildo salesman job. It’s just not in my primate house.” Though maybe dildos and primate houses don’t mix.)

The great thing about being a writer in the year 2013 is that there exists no one path to success. But each writer has to find the path that works for her — we all have our tunnel in the mountain, our path through the jungle, our needle to thread.

We just have to find it and let other writers find theirs, in turn.

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