This post about self-publishing is from February, but new to me. It makes a persuasive case against self-publishing.
Professional editors of the level I work with now make money. Grown-up money that I cannot pay them, because I am not a rich person and never will be. Let alone copyediting, typsetting, and cover art (which is vastly important, don’t be fooled). I have zero interest in paying out $7000-$15000 before the book gets published, and almost certainly seeing minimal profit (especially since that 70% Amazon deal everyone’s so sweet on has a whole lot of strings attached). I like it when someone else does that. Publishers are risk-assesors, and they assume the risk, which is not insignificant, while I create the book. The “hire your own editor” handwaving strikes me as the strangest of this whole memescape. Really? Hire my own? With what money, without an advance?…
Publishers also, very importantly, pay me an advance. This is how I live and eat. I like advances. I don’t get big ones, but I still get them, and that’s damn important. I do not like paying the equivalent of an advance to others in order to publish my book. Because then I wouldn’t have any money with which to live while I write the book, see? Banks do not write checks to under-30 chicks who want to write about fairy tales. The idea that writers are going to make more money by getting Amazon’s royalty rate, when most ebooks a. sell a tiny fraction of what print books sell, and b. sell fewer than a hundred copies, when not backed by a publisher, is sort of hilarious. We are not even there technologically yet. Most people can’t afford a $300 machine on which to read books. And we’ll probably never be there culturally, where reading is held at such a premium that there’s millions to be made for everyone.
She makes some bad points too – “why isn’t publishing already dead, when ebooks have been available and viable for more than a decade.” Ebooks have been viable for about five minutes. The talk about self-publishing is about the future when ereaders are cheaper/most readers have one. This is going to happen. Yesterday, Amazon revealed that ebooks are now outselling hardcovers.
But I get her main point: money is nice. No argument there. And there’s no argument about having to foot the bill for editing/cover art/promotion etc. etc. is a drain. Anyone who argues that paying out of pocket is better than someone else paying the bill is pretty deluded – especially if the former means selling fewer books overall.
But that’s not the argument for self-publishing – at least for me. Everyone should acknowledge that self-publishing is difficult and has risks, but in this climate it is increasingly necessary. While it would be great for publishers to foot the bill, they are increasingly overlooking books that are worth publishing. I don’t delight in traditional publishing dying. It’s an awesome tool if done well. It’s just not done very well. This isn’t just a result of my own ego-bruising from stupid rejection letters, but seeing how many other writers are treated as well.
She says: “There’s a lot of kind of nasty subtext out there to the tune of: if the publishing industry doesn’t work for me, it doesn’t work at all.” There’s also a subtext of: if it works for me, then it should work for everyone.
I don’t want traditional publishing to die. I want it to thrive. It’s a vital part of culture. But so is self-publishing. Is it easy? No. Is it sometimes necessary? Yes. Will it get a hell of a lot easier in the future? Definitely. The investment writers make will have a greater chance of being made back, so it’ll be less of a risk. The ability to do that won’t kill traditional publishing because they still offer valid services, but it will kill the argument that self-publishing isn’t viable.