Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Self-Publishing: A Respectable Way to Get Published

 I belong to a number of writing groups on social media. I interact with a lot of writers, both published and working toward publication. Much discussion circles around the avenues one might take to becoming a published author. And one thing I repeatedly find is a negative view (often critical and caustic) of those who self-publish.

I've been around the block several times having had agent representation (that netted no results), working with four legitimate small presses. Each of those experiences taught me a great deal about writing and publishing as a business.

So let me clear the air on this topic up front. No, I did not get a contract via agent representation. I gave that one year, then ended the relationship. No fault on either part. It just didn't work for me. No, I've not been published by one of the "Big Five" (now Big Four) publishers that might put me on the NYT Bestsellers List or at least get me a six-figure advance. That all being said, it does not negate my talent as a writer nor my skill with writing and publishing my own work.

I'm not here to negate the experience of writers who choose the more traditional path of writing the book, finding an agent, then getting a contract with an advance. Bravo! I applaud your tenacity.

I'm also not here to defend self-publishing as a legitimate route to getting your book published. It's time to put down the pitchforks and stop beating down the writers who choose to take the reins and manager their own work. To those of you who have self-published the 'right way', bravo!

As with anything, there is a right and wrong way to pursue self-publishing. I admit there are self-published works on sites such as Amazon that, in my opinion, should never see daylight. There are writers who spit out words and throw them up for publication when they're far from ready for human consumption. This has given self-publishing a bad name. I don't suffer those fools kindly.

One of the biggest differences between traditional publishing and self-publishing is the gatekeeper. Another is, no doubt, financial. Unfortunately, many self-published authors go unnoticed and untried because someone has had a bad experience with one self-published book or has had the attitude drilled into them that someone who self-publishes is not really a published author.

Then there are the writers who take their responsibility as both writer and publisher seriously. We write the book ourselves. We make sure the book has proper editing and proofing (something that can be costly, but that's a business expense). We contract one or more beta readers to test our book for us. We find decent cover art (another business expense). We publish the book ourselves.

Then the fun begins. Because now we have to switch hats and become a marketer and promoter. We have to sell ourselves and our books to readers who most likely never heard of us. We don't have an advertising department--we ARE the advertising department.

Can a self-published author reach a modicum of success, both financially and in cultivating a readership? It's been known to happen. But it takes three things, in my opinion: Great writing, hard work, and a fair measure of good luck.

Some will say that self-publishing is for those who "can't get their book published any other way," or "want to take the easy way out," or "aren't good enough." And for some people, that may be the case. But let's not color all self-publishing writers with the same crayon. Because the majority of the self-publishing writers I'm privileged to know do the work, and the work is hard. It's a matter of owning your own business and wearing all the hats and contracting help that's needed.

If someone opened a hamburger joint in your neighborhood--because they can--and sold food that was uncooked or overcooked, tasteless, or downright sickening--you'd not go there. You'd steer your friends away and recommend another place that gave you a quality meal for your money. You wouldn't say, "I'm never eating a hamburger again because all these places are sub-standard." (My vegan friends will need to supply their own analogy. Sadly, I don't speak vegan, but you get my point.)

So, let's stop beating up on self-publishing. Let's recognize the work that authors put into their efforts. Get to know the self-published authors who produce quality and give you your money's worth, who clearly take pride in what they produce. Follow them. Buy their books. Review their books. Recommend their books to others.

To those readers who follow me and support my work, I truly thank you.


**Please note: There are vanity presses out there who will offer to publish a book for $$$$. They are not publishers. They are scammers. There are companies that offer services to authors for a fee to help you publish. Many are legitimate and, though their services might be costly, provide what they say they'll provide. Writers--beware and do your diligence in knowing one from another and what you expect to get for your money.

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