East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

14 Common Misconceptions About Self-Publishing

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I was in a lot of discussion, these last few days about self-publishing.
Now, I am actually what’s called a hybrid author – meaning that like the Gill man in Creature from the Black Lagoon, I live in two worlds: some of my stuff (such as The Ministry of Thunder, or all of my gaming-related writing) is traditionally published, while other stories (like the Aculeo & Amunet adventures) I publish myself.


Being a hybrid offers a number of perks…

I actually like this situation, and find it conductive to the right mix of creative freedom and professionalism.

So, we were talking about this topics, here in the Old C Block of the blogsphere, shaking our heads and sighing for the amount of prejudice and silliness that still gets attached to self-publishing. And I thought… why not make a list?
Lists are good, right?

1 . self-publishing is the last chance of those that can’t find a proper publisher

Sorry, no.
Self publishing is a pondered choice – or should be.
Anyone considering self-publishing as a last beach sort of thing deserves whatever they get.

2 . self-published books are poorly written/edited

Again, no.
Some may be – indeed, many think they can get away with poor writing or absent editing. They are fools, and they are damaging the whole community (both the readers and the good writers). And on the other hand, viewing traditional publishers as quality certifiers is equally dubious.

3 . self-publishing is killing literature

No more than tape cassette recorders killed music.

4 . self-publishing is easy

Think again.
Being a self-publisher means taking care of a lot of things a traditionally published writer would never take into account: all those things (like the physical production of the book, the marketing and the distribution) that usually fall in the lap of the publisher

5 . anyone can self-publish

Yes and no – see previous point.
Not everybody feels ok about all that work that comes after the writing of the book – and might find self-publishing too stressful or time-consuming.

6 . self-publishers do it all alone

Maybe someone is that good – but most of us need a lot of help: graphic artists, editors, proofers, beta readers… and all those great guys that review our books and spread the word.

7 . self-publishing means ebooks

Not necessarily.
You can easily produce your work as a paper book (I hate the definition “real book”), and distribute it through various channels. Is it economically convenient? Maybe.

8 . self-publishing costs nothing

Self publishing can be damn cheap (there’s a web-course, by writer Holly Lisle, called How to self-publish when broke), but it does have its costs, and some expenses cannot be avoided (editors, cover artists, e.g.). Costs can be calculated in cash, or in time (as sometimes you can trade services).

9 . self-publishing is expensive

See previous entry.

10 . self-publishing is a good way to find a proper publisher

But if you are self-publishing just to attract a traditional publisher (and not to tell your readers a good story), you are probably doing it wrong.

11 . if you self publish, you’ll never work with a traditional publisher

Can’t see why.
If your work is solid, if people like what you write, traditional publishers will be interested.
And considering that publishing (self or traditional) is a choice, at that point it’s up to you.

12 . self-publishing means working for Amazon for a pittance

Firstly, because Amazon is only one of the possible platforms for distributing your books (even if, admittedly, it’s the major player in the field), and secondly because as with all platforms, one hopes to work withthem, and not for them.
As for actual rates paid, you can check out the deals before you sign your contract.

13 . self-publishing requires high outputs to grant high earnings

Possibly, but it is not a given.
A big catalog might mean a higher volume of sales, but as in any other field, quality and quantity go hand in hand; dropping one for the other is not a good strategy.

14 . self-publishing lacks the marketing leverage a traditional publisher can provide

Possibly, if we are talking about major publishers.
On the other hand, it may be a good idea to think about self-publishing as a different model of business compared to traditional publishing – one where micromanagement, fast response to audience requests and flexibility compensate large numbers and massive leverages.

Now, is there something I forgot?
The comments are open!

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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