Self-Publishing Is Not The Minor Leagues

(This plays a little with the baseball metaphors dropped by Scalzi last week.)

Let’s all agree that self-publishing is a viable path.

It’s a real choice for authors.

You can, if that’s the type of person you are, be the publisher of your own work.

You are author-publisher. Behold your mighty yawp! Freeze-frame heel-kick high-five!

It is, overall, an equal choice to traditional publishing.

Let’s go ahead and just agree that. Even if you don’t agree — for now, nod and smile.

That means it’s time to stop treating self-publishing like it’s the fucking minor leagues.

See, here’s the thing. Though acting as author-publisher is a viable choice, it’s one that retains a stigma — lessened, these days, but still a stigma carried by other writers, by those in publishing, by bloggers, and in some cases by readers. The air, suffused with an eggy stink.

You want to get rid of the stigma once and for all? Clear the room of any bad smell?

Good.

Then it’s time to take a long look at the culture surrounding self-publishing. We’ve moved past the time where we need to champion the cause, okay? We’ve seen enough success in that space and have plenty of positive examples it’s time to stop acting as cheerleaders.

And it’s time to start acting as critics.

The attitude that pervades self-publishing is that it’s a good place to test your craft, to hone your work. We are reminded constantly that the cream floats to the top, that all the crappy self-publishing efforts have no effect on anything or anybody ever despite evidence to the contrary. The culture forgives and sometimes congratulates even the most meager of efforts because of how courageous someone is to take the plunge to publish their own work. The culture says, “Just click publish!” The culture criticizes the faults of traditional-publishing, but excuses (or celebrates) its own. And yet, sometime in the same breath, self-publishing gets painted as a path to traditional publishing, not as a path separate and scenic all its own.

The culture is full of contradictions.

“Traditional publishing screws you and you won’t get paid anything!” And then: “It’s okay to make $100 off your self-publishing because you just bought yourself dinner, now you’re living the high-life.” Well, which is it?

“Traditional publishing is just corporate control! Down with the Big Six! Er, Big Five! Big Four? Whatever!” But then: “Let’s hug and squeeze Amazon, a giant monolithic corporate entity kaiju who has changed the rules on us so many times our heads are whipping around wildly upon our necks! Amazon is the Big One! Yay lack of competition! Huzzah, all our eggs in a single basket! Woooooo corporations!” Wait, do we like corporate control or not?

“The readers are our gatekeepers, that’s who we care about.” Except: “Publish your first effort — it’s okay that it has errors, as long as people buy it! Who cares about readers as long as I’m satisfying myself?” Do we like readers, or do we wanna punish them with sub-par efforts?

“Self-publishing is a revolution! Traditional publishing is risk averse!” And then: you publish the safest, softest low-ball efforts that suggests it’s not a revolution but, rather, more of the same.

“Traditional publishing does it wrong!” And then: you do it worse. What the crap, people?

Get your head straight. Point north. Care about this thing you’re doing. You don’t want to be inferior to the books on the shelves at Barnes & Noble. This isn’t a garage sale. You want to be better than the books on the shelves at bookstores. You say those books have errors? Ugly cover or bad books or lack of risk? So go and do different! Do better, not worse.

Let me get ahead of this — someone somewhere, here in the comments or on another site, is going to accuse me of bashing self-publishing and its authors.

I am not.

Self-publishing is an amazing option. You can now write a novel however it is that the novel demands to be written. That book that lives in your heart? You can now crack open your breastbone, rip the book out and hold the throbbing crimson creature in front of readers and say, “This is the story I wanted to tell and nobody was able to stop me.” You can not only write it your way, but edit it, design it, market it — again, all your way. Nobody but readers can say “boo” about it. You’ll have no publisher telling you the material is too risky. You’ll have no publisher trying to put a cover on your book that you don’t feel represents the story you told. You won’t feel like the publisher has forgotten the book when it comes time to market it. If anybody fucks it up, it’s you.

Self-publishing is also great for traditionally-published authors. Acting as your own author-publisher is a way to put out material staggered with your other releases. It’s also great to have as an option for if the time comes when publishers don’t want your other work. They start giving you the we love it but can’t sell it story, all you have to say is, “Well, if you won’t publish it, I will.”

I will continue to exercise my own self-publishing options this year with a few releases.

I don’t just like the option. I fucking love the option. It has changed the game for authors. Anytime creative people have a new door carved into the giant wall in front of us — the wall separating our work from our audience — I’m going to cheer and gibber and wail and probably swallow a half-dozen gin-drinks and maybe rub an aromatic lotion into my beard and then summon dark entities from beyond and couple with them.

But that love can still come with a criticism of the culture. Just as my love of traditional publishing can be tempered by its own criticism, too.

In fact: I criticize because I care. Because I want to see the option done right. If I didn’t give a shit, I’d just point and laugh from the sidelines and snarkily snark with other smug, self-superior traditionally-published authors. (And just as that superiority isn’t attractive from them, it’s not attractive from the side of author-publishers, either, by the way.) The authors who often get held up as paragons of the form? They’re doing it right. They’re treating it like it’s a professional endeavor, not some also-ran half-ass effort. They’re acting like it’s the real deal — a trip to the Majors, not time spent in some Dirt League.

Self-publishing isn’t a lifestyle choice.

It isn’t a hobby.

It’s not a panacea. It’s not pox on your home.

It is neither revolution nor religion.

(Oh, and it damn sure isn’t a place to improve your craft. That’s called “writing.” Writing is how you improve your craft — by doing a whole lot of it, by reading, by having your work read by friends and family and by other writers and by editors. Publishing is not where you improve your craft. You don’t learn to pilot an airplane by taking a job with U.S. Airways. A job as an executive chef is not analogous to a cooking class. You wouldn’t expect that of other careers, so why are we okay with it when it comes to author-publishers?)

Self-publishing is a financial and creative decision.

Self-publishing has no gatekeepers. That is a feature, not a bug.

So you’re going to have to be your own gatekeepers.

You are your own quality control. You are your own best critic.

I’ve said before and I’ll say again: it’s time to put down the Pom-Poms and time to pick up a magnifying glass — or, for some, a mirror. Don’t celebrate mediocrity. Don’t encourage half-assing this thing for a couple of bucks. This is scrutiny time. This is time to not to say, “Here, you’re doing this wrong,” but “Here, let me help you do this better.” This is time for conversation and constructive critique, not empty applause and pedestal-building.

The culture will need to start asking tougher questions. If we’re going to admit that self-publishing is an equal choice, then it’s time to step up and act like it. It’s time to stop acting like the little brother trailing behind big sister. Time to be practical. And professional.

Defeat naysayers with quality and effort and awesomeness so blinding they cannot see past you.

To reiterate:

Fewer cheerleaders. More critics.

Self-publishing isn’t the minor leagues.

You’re in the majors, now. Which means:

It’s not time get hit with a pitch and expect a high-five for it just because you stepped to the plate.

It’s time to play hard or get off the field.

227 comments

  • To me, and this may only be me, an author can only see what they see. The job of an editor at a publishing house is to see what the reader can’t or doesn’t. The plot holes big enough to drive a semi-truck through, the characterization that doesn’t match from scene to scene, the tone that changes from beginning to end. These aren’t typos and they often aren’t things an author will ever see by themselves. They aren’t things that are enough to make the book a wall-banger but are significant enough that a reader might finish the book and say, “It was okay.” and honestly have no clue why they can’t seem to rave about it. In short, it won’t make a FAN out of a first-time buyer. I’m reminded of my first edit letter from the editor assigned to my book. Obviously, the book was good enough to attract an agent and a publisher. So I can’t begin to express my horror when the edit letter was 18 pages long, single spaced! The first line was, and I kid you not, “I really think this would be a stronger book if you changed from first to third person.” Um…say what? But the thing was, she was RIGHT. Now that I’m twenty books in, she was absolutely correct. But without her (and other editors I’ve worked with) guidance, it’s unlikely I would have ever learned that. Every book that’s gone through editing has made me grow as an author. I cringe now at what I considered my best a decade ago. Had I allowed that to be my best, without seeking out the harshest possible criticism, I wouldn’t be where I am now. Am I a millionaire? No. But I make more than my day job, and the quality is there now, so all that remains is the right story for the right moment to reach the next level. But there’s still more growing to do. There always is.

    If I decided to self-publish some works, I know I would recognize that outside eyes are critical to the book. That would mean paying for the service, and would definitely mean it was worth every penny I would pay. Because to me, self-publishing means taking the place of the publisher and that means paying the same up-front costs the big boys do. Cover art, editing, marketing, distribution. I would want to reach my same readers with the same product in the same markets that made them fans to begin with. Readers want pro level and they will only pay what they’ll pay for the privilege. It costs money to reach that point.

    The restaurant analogy is a good one. I live in a small town, and we often have restaurant turnover. The ones that fail are the ones that open shop in the same building and the same kitchen that failed before. They think, “As soon as I make some money, I’ll replace the stove with the missing burner, and replace the steam tables that don’t heat all the way, clean out the grease traps, throw on a coat of paint, replace the sign that’s badly hand-lettered, and maybe buy fresh food instead of frozen. Just as soon as I make enough from the customers to pay myself a living salary.” Except that’s why the last restaurant failed. Cutting corners doesn’t work well in retail sales. People notice. They might never tell you why they didn’t come back after the first visit, but they won’t be back. The lights might be on, the place is empty of customers.

    The people who go in with a plan, though, who gut the restaurant to the shell, get good equipment and clean, sturdy furniture, who scrub until everything shines, who pony up for quality product and advertise in a professional way in the same places as the bigger restaurants will more likely succeed. They KNOW that pouring in money at the front will mean returns at the back, and they will always make a living, in food and in books.

    Trade publishing got to the place it is now because it met reader expectations. Self-published authors would do well to look to the best parts of the trade business model as a goal, not as a process to be sneered at. Ultimately, free isn’t really free when the plan is to have a career at this business. As I say, just my humble opinion.

    Keep spreading the word, Chuck. It’ll help those who are in this for the long haul. :)

    • Hey Cathy – I did my homework as a self pub cookbook author. But then, had several trad. cookbooks behind me. I think if you check my cookbook out on Amazon you would see it got the full nine yards of editing, proofing, design, etc. (however modest) and yes, it’s a black and white cookbook. But the content is strong and the editing/production, equally so. With so many mid list authors crossing to the self publishing arena, you can be be assured we know what we are doing and will bring that quality, professionalism and experience to ALL our books. It’s a new day. Self publishing just means: another way to go. Not a lesser one.

    • You make some good points, but I will say that it varies from author to author. For you the structural editing your publisher provided was essential. But there are others who are either Self-aware” and can edit appropriately or they utilize beta readers or other authors to get the type of feedback that the house editor provides. I’ve had 9 books that have gone through some of the best editors in the business (Devi Pillai and Betsy Mitchell) and their changes have been very minor. But I do a LOT of work before submitting and even some market testing. So yeah, for some they can only see what they see, but that third party critique can be equally beneficial when it comes from other writers or beta readers.

  • Love the rebuttal, Chuck!

    I can admit to hesitantly accepting author-published work for my reading pleasure and for the reasons you outlined.
    – A lot of the material I encounter is of a shocking standard. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong places though! Also, editing has ruined me for glossing over average mistakes
    – The author is skittish and has serious hang ups in regard to traditional publishers and agents eg; they don’t like new authors

    I always find myself asking at this point:

    ‘How hard did you try? How many edits, how many beta reads, how many professionals looked at your work and said “this is worth paying money for, this is polished”, before you slapped it on Amazon for $0.99 and spammed my twitter feed with terrible ads?’

    That’s bitchy I know, but all the same, author-publishing is perceived to be the domain of hacks and half-arsers too keen on their work to give a rats about their potential consumers.

    Ultimately, all consumers vote with their wallets, and badly written, poorly edited work won’t get you a following. Readers aren’t there to be your cheer squad. They are squawking chicks in a nest demanding more food for their happy reader brains. If you, as the author, produce shithouse work, these little chickies will fly the roost.

  • Hmmm. Other well known authors encourage publishing. Not putting out your first draft of course, but publishing never-the-less. Often. Write, clean it up, publish. Weekly if you can do it. Like any writing advise, publish less, publish more, we author-publishers need to find our own way.

  • January 28, 2014 at 9:48 AM // Reply

    Excellent article, chuck.

    I still receive that look from ‘friends’ and family. You know the one: eyes roll to the ceiling, head shakes. Then come the comments. “Self-publishing again?” – and the hidden meaning: “Can’t be good enough, can you.”
    Then the ‘encouraging': “Don’t worry you’ll find a real publisher one day”

    Sod ‘em.

    The big wide world still looks upon the self-pubber as a writer who’s failed to land a ‘proper’ publishing contract. And the truth is, there is a load of dross out there self-published by people who really can’t write very well. They bring the industry into disrepute, but, I guess, have as much right as anyone to publish.

    For me, self-publishing is a valid way of passing your work to readers. The struggle comes with letting the readers know of your existence (hence the link below).

    Keep up the good work, Chuck and please forgive the blatant advertising.

    Kerry J Donovan

    http://www.amazon.com/DCI-Jones-Casebook-Ellis-Flynn-ebook/dp/B00GXHWTV2/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1390920142&sr=1-2&keywords=the+dci+jones+casebook

  • Agree with you 110%, Chuck. It’s all fine and dandy being eager to get the story out there – but it has to be the most polished it can be, and so many self-pubbed works fall short because the author can’t/won’t take the author/publisher role seriously enough. And I’m not just talking about words – it’s a whole package. I won’t inflict my work on anyone until it’s the absolute best I think it can be…

  • Hmm. Self-publishing is the business of selling books. Writing is the art/craft of storytelling/creation using the written word. Part of the big problem is that a book selling business requires a host of skills to come into play that have nothing at all with being a competent writer.

    As an author, your job is to write the best damned book you can, using your storytelling skill, your knowledge of craft, your scintillating prose and sparkling wit. Super. Congrats on that.

    Now you must take off the author hat, put it in the closet, and put on the publisher/book seller hat. That hat requires that you have a business plan that addresses all the mundanities of product creation and distribution: packaging (pro cover), quality control (editing, proofreading), branding, marketing (blurb creation, website, social media presence, interviews, blogs) and promotions (advertising, sales, cross promo), competitive pricing.

    As you view the two skill sets, you might notice that the writer skill set has virtually zero in common with the publisher/book seller skill set.

    That’s because they couldn’t be more different.

    Self-publishing is where you not only are the author, but you also assume the role of the publisher/book seller, with all its attendant demands. Most choose to skip that part and go straight to uploading their work to Amazon.

    Contrary to calls for more or better gatekeepers, I say let people publish as they like. Because in all businesses, those that lack one or more of the essential skills will usually fail. If an author wants to ignore the publishing/book selling demands of determining whether a product has appeal, determining how to position it within a genre, targeting an audience, investing in professional services to ensure high quality (editing, proofreading, formatting, pro cover), creating a business plan for launching the product and getting it visibility… Hey, that’s called evolution. That’s called a publishing/book selling business that doesn’t make it out of the tar pits. It doesn’t affect my publishing/book selling business an iota, any more than the universe of crappy blogs out there impacts the quality or popularity of mine.

    You can offer counsel on what folks need to do to make their offerings of reasonable quality, and tell them what a reasonable business plan for their publishing company should look like, but you can’t force people to alter their view and see that when they start asking customers to pay for their work, they are in a commercial enterprise where they’re producing and selling a product, and that they must take full responsibility for that product at every step.

    I say it’s all good. The info is out there to tell those interested in upping their game how to do it. To the percentage that choose not to, because operating a publishing/book selling business in a responsible and conscientious manner is too hard, or costs too much, or takes too much time? There’s a word for that in business: Failure.

    Which is as it should be. I have no problem with that.

  • Awesome job of saying it right, Chuck! As a self supporting career author now turned literary midwife, I spend a LOT of time trying to educate aspiring authors to the fact that ‘doing it’ is not the same as ‘doing it professionally’ and that sales are not awarded for good intentions. But every time you open your browser window, the publishing sharks encourage that ‘get it up there and it will sell’ mindset. As do a couple of popular bloggers. This mindset, alas, is one that too many of those aspiring authors are willing to embrace…and then they feel like failures when they only sell 25 books in the first year.

    Don’t get off the soapbox! We need more people chanting QUALITY FIRST in this field.

    You’re also one of the few people besides myself that seems to be concerned about turning Amazon.com into the new gatekeeper to replace the Big Four. Bravo for that, too!

  • Right On! You’ve hit it!. Self-publishing works, so let’s treat like it is – a writing profession. I don’t mind being criticized and held to task. If I screw up, I deserve it.
    Many of we self-publishers have done what other have only dreamed of. We began and finished a complete work. We sat our butts in the seat, and pounded out the words, page by page, until it was done. Then we started again, finding the errors, poor word choice, plot holes, flat characters, and other writing mistakes, to revise and edit until we had a satisfactory work.
    We did the hard work so we’re no different than anyone else. We need to be judged on our merits (or lack of them) like any other writer.

  • The problem is… there are lots of people out there who will self-publish anything they write, unedited and with crap covers because they are hobby writers. This will not change and nothing we can do or say will make them stop or make them spend money on editing/covers. What we need is a way to separate these people from the professional writers (who get their shit edited and spend time/money on creating a good cover).

    • I agree with you that there are a lot of people doing this…but I don’t think you need a way to separate them out. The readers do that for you. Those producing crap truly do sink into obscurity. For a book to rise to the top it needs word of mouth and it gets word of mouth by producing a work that others love enough to tell their friends and family about.

  • Damn right it’s not the minor leagues. Where else can you go from making enough for pizza to landing on the USA Today Bestsellers list. I’ve been writing full time since September. The perception of self published authors still need to change. Why would you avoid a self published book vs a traditionally published book? I’ve seen some god awful covers on traditionally published books. Us indies tolerate tons of negatives, but we continue to write for the people that count, our fans, the readers who follow the series we write. Most self published authors hire editors. We trust these people and sometime are let down. My most recent book I hired two separate editors and a proofreader. I have a great cover artist and she has helped me find my way onto bestsellers lists. We’re not all the same and shouldn’t be judged that way. We can do what no big six writer can do, publish more books.

  • I totally agree with you. If you are a professional writer, you never stop honing your craft. And you are never satisfied that your plot is tight enough, your characterization is creative enough, your prose are fresh enough. If you continue to feel that way, you are reaching for the pentacle of your calling.

    And writing is as much a calling as it is a job.

    There are books I’ve written in the past that are my tools of learning. They will forever remain under my bed and no other eyes than my own will ever see them. Which is a blessing. I probably penned the worst Harlequin romance ever written when you children were young. Thank God I never submitted it. I may have been blackballed forever.

    I’ve been published traditionally and now self-published, but whenever I feel the least bit of arrogance creeping in, I put another chapter before my critique group and they are quick to show me that I haven’t as of yet, reached the pentacle of my craft, not without help. Perhaps that is the answer. To look forever for the humility a good critique partner or group can dish out. Because they aren’t just writers they are readers.

    And above all else, once your book is finished, hire a good editor who knows the craft who can line edit and will not hold back if there’s a hole in your plot, or your characters have not grown, or you’ve somehow lost your conflict along the way. (Some things that become completely obvious to you, if you’ve studied your craft.) But also is obvious to the reader if you haven’t done your job.

    And it is your job to make certain you’ve produced a quality product that will satisfy them. And if you haven’t you’ll end up reading horrible reviews that will crush your creative spirit.

    Writing is a never ending struggle and learning experience. Whether you’ve been doing it for a year or thirty. And that’s what keeps it forever fresh to the writer and a never ending challenge.
    Teresa Reasor

  • Thanks for the great post, Chuck! Your words always get me energized and enthusiastic about the War of Art. :-)

    I’m really grateful to Amazon et al for opening up the publishing gates to everyone with a keyboard, because that’s how I got in. I’m also grateful that self-pubbed books are released into the general population with no visible scarlet letters. (Though the low price may be a giveaway.)

    I’ve been following your blog since 2011, when I was querying agents. Self-pub has come a long way! It’s always great to have options. And it probably reduces the amount of querying competition for people who don’t want to self-pub. Win-win!

  • Spot on!
    As a reader and a writer, it hurts to hold a story that an author rushed to publish, and be unable to review it because I’d feel so bad for giving the author’s effort only one or two (or zero) stars. I try to give that harsh feedback BEFORE publication, but I am too close to some authors (and feel writers shouldn’t publicly dump on each other) to spread criticism after it’s too late and the book is out there.
    BUT! My eyes are wide open to the reality that the traditional publishing industry may not love my book(s) as I do. I may one day stand at the front gate of the self-publishing side and seek admission. The gate won’t be locked and I will be able to nudge it open with one toe. And that’s what scares me the most.

  • Excellent post, and I couldn’t agree with you more.
    As self-published authors, we need to be our own worst critics and not accept putting out sub-standard work. But it doesn’t help that new authors are constantly being told that the succesful authors write a book a month and that quantity trumps quality.

  • Loved this post! You summed up all my reasons for not self-publishing (at this time) but also for considering it in the future (when I feel my books are polished enough). I’ve read self-pubbed work that made me want to stab my eyes out. And I’ve read self-pubbed work so well-written it made me gasp. You are very correct, however, that criticism with direction is so important for author-publishers at this time.

    I’m a teacher during the day and nothing irks me more than horrible teachers giving the rest of us a bad reputation. It’s nothing more than guilt by association. “Oh, you’re a teacher? I still have nightmares about my third grade teacher.” I want to look at them and say, “Really? Me too!” Duh. We all have those stories.

    The same is true for writing. I’ve read traditionally published work that was so horribly written I couldn’t believe it made it past an editor. And believe you me, I didn’t blame the author as much as I blamed the editor. I read it and wondered how it was possible that no one told that author, “Look, you were doing okay until you started talking about Chakras out of nowhere in chapter 19.” (Yes, that was from a real book. I mean it came out of NOWHERE.) And I’ve read traditionally published books that were so well-written that I carry those characters and worlds with me even today.

    It’s not about which path you take. It’s about how well you walk the path.

  • Great piece Chuck. I’ve published traditionally with Random House, Doubleday, Oxmoor House, Ten Speed Press and the New York Times (and more) but recently ‘had’ to self publish my first cookbook (after 6-7 great book contracts over the years). My new cookbook is less glossy but beautiful in its way and miraculously selling. But the afterglow of being a publisher/author has given me wings. I don’t care what self publishing looks like or what the perception is. I’ve never written….nor (more importantly) felt better. Btw, I used every penny I had to hire a great editor, proof readers, indexer, formatters, and cover designer – I treated my self-published book with the same kid glove editorial respect Random House would have given it. I couldn’t give myself, my book or my readers….less.

  • Cool rant but it comes down to money.
    I was approached by a publisher even being an indie.
    Liked my science fiction series so out came the sword the blades rang in the air.
    “Amazon pays decently meet me there “a gasp from the arena.
    “Peasant you should know your place in the world.”
    Ever hear of Spartacus I will not make the same mistake he did I will burn your establishment to the ground.

  • Self-publishing continues to suit many aspiring authors for the control and flexibility of the book-making process. Self-published authors have total rights to your work and own the entire process. Though it’s not as easy as other may have thought. Yes, it’s no longer a minor league! Great post!

  • It’s still the same game, you must raise yourself above the majority to get noticed. Self or traditional. At some point the game will be cleaned up and often, by those who are still interested in playing. Publish when ready and going through the process, as is pointed out in this post. Never before, unless of course your Mom says she loves it and it should be published…then by all means, slap it out of the park!

  • A pretty good post…If I were to have one criticism is that for whatever reason your pool of self-publishers and my pool seem to be a bit different. I think you’re pool contains too many people that don’t take it seriously and just hit publish because they can…not because they should. My pool is what I call he “professional” self-published. Those who treat it as a business and put out works indistinguishable from those through traditional publishing.

    When you say, “The attitude that pervades self-publishing is that it’s a good place to test your craft, to hone your work.” It brings to light the differences in our perspectives. People from my pool don’t work that way. They write the best damn novel they can…one that they think will be accepted by a reasonably sized audience…and then they decide whether self or traditional is the best route for it. It may be that they are turned down by traditional. But they KNOW it is a quality piece of fiction so they self-publish not because they want to “test it out” but because it is a work that they believe in. Even that belief may not be enough to make it a success. There are plenty of good books in both self and traditional that never “make it.” But I think the important thing to note…and what Chuck was saying in the first place. Is you don’t release something sub-standard. Always keep quality as your primary focus then you decide the route for getting that gem unto the market The crap you can leave in a drawer.

  • There aren’t many words that begin with “self” that don’t come with a whiff of narcissism, and “self-publishing” is certainly no exception. It may be that “self-publishing” is to “publishing” what “selfies” are to “portrait photography”. It’s also clear from the popularity of sites like Wattpad that many people are self-publishing more for fun than for profit. Those who are in it for money might want to consider organizing a concerted effort to re-brand themselves, call it Alt-Publishing perhaps, anything but Self. Just as gardeners don’t call themselves farmers, and guitar players don’t have to be rock stars, there is nothing wrong with self-publishing as an amateur and hobbyist.

    • Library of Alexandra did it have a publishing house?
      “Yes”
      Scribes would ask to borrow a self-published book do one copy then return it to the owner.
      Self-published was the normal until Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg allowed the mass production of printed books to be practical on a mass produced scale of economy.
      So the wheel turns the massive structures in place for publishing are falling apart do to business entropy.
      From Tom Graves:
      the more tightly the system is controlled, the fewer opportunities are available for reverse-entropy. Given ‘total control’, often the only option for the system to refresh itself is in a phase-change that’s often experienced as ‘catastrophic collapse’ or ‘revolution’.

      A lesser form of refresh can be created by going part-way towards ‘chaos’, leveraging different rates of decay between the components of a system versus the system as a whole: loose-coupling of elements enables greater opportunity for micro-refresh of the overall system. This is the fundamental principle behind service-oriented design: the system-components (services) are more stable than the system-as-a-whole (delivery of ‘business process’), hence we can refresh the system by reconfiguring the relationships between services, without changing the services themselves. This is, in effect, a return from non-useful order to useful order, where the only chaos element is in the process of reconfiguring of service-relationships, and perhaps also of specific services, rather than redesign of the entire system.

      My question is why waste energy and resources on a dying business when we can create our own business model.

  • You bring up some great points. Just because it’s easy to hit “publish” doesn’t mean that you should. You should go through the same editing, proofing, etc. process and make sure that the work is great. Too many people rush to put out poor quality work just to do it and it’s what is ruining the reputation of self-publishing.

  • Thanks for the timely pep talk! I found it after searching “treat self publishers like crap” in a moment of dispair. I’m a children’s author/illustrator and I was just feeling pretty down about how much time I’ve been spending trying to market my books to zoo/national park gift shops. I quit my day job to do this, somehow expecting to spend my days writing, researching, painting and designing. I’ve spent weeks now on marketing, watching money fly out of my pocket and running up against huge, corporate distributors that won’t give me the time of day. I’m doing my best to appear “big,” formed my own publishing co. Eternal Summers Press LLC, etc, but most of the time I feel painfully small and ignored. Strangely I’ve sold quite a few books on Etsy of all places, but not enough to cancel out what I’ve spent. Your words are a comforting reminder of why I’m doing this.

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