Friday, August 19, 2011

Blog Chain: The Brave New World of Self-Publishing

What would they think of self-publishing?
Like everyone else, my views on self-publishing are evolving with the publishing industry itself. At WriteOnCon the past few days, I saw quite a few agents give a nod to self-publishing as a legitimate way to reach readers with novellas or niche market projects, even when you already have an agent and are going traditional with more commercially appealing novels.

I think this new openness is a good thing because it means authors (and the agents/editors who help them) have more options than ever before.

It's also a bad thing. Why do I say that? Because as a still developing writer, the temptation to put my work out there is pretty constant... and I'm not ready. And even if/when I do feel my work is ready for wide readership, there are still plenty of market considerations (complexities) that I don't fully grasp.

Most agents come to agenting through an internship or apprenticeship model, learning the ins and outs of contracts and marketing from more experienced agents. While this does perpetuate a sameness in the traditional publishing world that may block out innovative ideas, it's also probably the best possible way for the reins to pass hands in the publishing industry.

Like it or not, literary agents still know a lot more than the average author about publishing rights, international publishing, and even marketing (though authors are taking on more marketing responsibilities through social networking). And if you ever want to go from self-publishing into traditional publishing (which I think most of the authors I know still do), an agent is still a really handy team member to have.

These factors considered, I'm not against self-publishing at all. I know authors can study up on these complexities and become experts in their own rite. And amazon makes it so freaking easy to just upload your novel and start selling it for less than a dollar. It seems like you don't even need all that stuffy publishing industry knowledge.

In fact, I've considered as a way to make a quick buck. But I didn't consider it for very long. See, after looking at the steps involved, I realized I'm still not ready.

I'm not ready to fork out the money for a professional editor and a professional cover artist. I'm not ready to take on all the responsibility for selling my own work. I've tried selling a product in the past and I sucked at it. If the future is me having to stand on a corner and say, "Read my book, you'll love it," I'm pretty much screwed. Yeah, there's blogging, and that's a little different from the street corner approach. :) But still, self-marketing is much easier for me to imagine if I'm backed by a traditional publisher and a supportive agent who all want me to succeed, too.

So that's how I feel about me self-publishing. As far as you self-publishing, I say YOU GO, GIRL! or GUY! I've read two (yeah, that's it so far) incredible, polished, riveting self-published novels. They were put out by experienced authors, who both have agents, and are both still working toward traditional publishing success as well. They're happy with their choice. Meanwhile, their books are doing great! Because they're great books. They took their time. They did it right. And that rocks.

Are your feelings on this topic as convoluted as mine? 

Check out others on the blog chain: Kate before me, and Michelle H. up next. Previously, we heard from  Sandra and Matt on this super fun topic!

p.s. It's also my day to blog at Operation Awesome and I'm taking some funny/embarrassing stuff from my WriteOnCon forums experience to talk about world-building: No Really. Literally.


  1. Hi, Katrina! I agree with you, that being backed by a pro editor and trad pub house, gives much more confidence to the self-promotion aspect.
    As a self-pubber, i'd always be wondering if my work was good enough. I did self-pub a story as a special project for a teen self-esteem campaign, but did so under a pen name since it's a message book that I'm not looking to make profit on. You really have to be willing to market yourself, which I haven't been able to properly do since we're right in the middle of an epic house move.
    But I'm still seeking trad pub and an agent for my other stories. I don't rule out self-pubbing everything in the future, and know writers who have agents who've suggested they self-pub. But for now, I'll continue my search until the time is right to say trad is no longer for me. :)

  2. Oh, man is it ever tempting! But just like a traditionally published book, once you self-pub, your book represents you as a writer. I'd need a team of grammar monkeys (and a couple of publicity pandas) to make self-publishing work for me.

    Great post, Katrina!

  3. I'm not tempted because I want an actual hard back book I can hold in my hand. I would be tempted to sign with the wrong agent just to hold that book.

  4. Welcome to the blog chain, Katrina!

    There are many different ways to have a successful writing career, whether in self-publishing or traditional publishing. No matter which way you go, you still need to learn the ropes and figure out when your story is ready for self-publication or the submission process. Writers need to empower themselves and learn as much as they can about all aspects of the writing business.

  5. I hear you on the not wanting to push books on a street corner. I am not a salesperson at all and I just don't think I could deal with having my own sales skills being my only marketing option.

  6. 100000000% agree with you.

    I've never had the temptation to self-publish because, like you said, I fear I'm not equipped for that. Also, I tend to second guess everything I write, and publishing something without an agent or editor saying "Yes, this will totally sell!", I'd be freaking out 24/7. BUT I also know successful self-pubbed authors, and they ROCK. So yeah, it's all about personality and savvy.

    Great post!

  7. You make a great point about the temptation being a bad thing. It's hard to stay determined, and continue improving, when you've already worked on something for years.

  8. Both? All of the above?

    I'm self publishing one series, but have another being released by a publisher. For me, how it's released depends on what I'm writing. Some genres lend themselves to self publishing more than others. As you mentioned though, the trick is to find a good editor. Without one, you're toast.

    The best thing about this weird publishing time is that we have options.

  9. Yep, it is incredibly tempting. For me, the marketing aspect isn't that big of a deciding factor. Having had a book traditionally published, I know that a huge chunk of the marketing responsibility falls on my shoulders anyway. And I really like having that self-pub option open to me. But you are right - you definitely need to be educated about what you are doing and make sure you, and your book, are ready before you put anything out there :)

  10. Welcome to the blog chain! Self-publishing has become the new thing these days. Yet I believe traditional publishing will last. Plenty of changes...

  11. I don't think convoluted is a strong enough term to describe my feeling on the topic :P

    Thanks for a great post, Katrina. I take your points about the good and the bad, both traditional and self-publishing have their own eternally long pro-and-con lists...for me at least.

  12. It's definitely something you have to decide for yourself and there are so many factors to consider. Like you, marketing is not my thing and that factor alone will probably keep me from considering self-publishing as a real option for a long time. :) Great post!

    Welcome to the chain!

  13. Great response Katrina. You hit it on the head when you mention how much agents do and/or know about the publishing industry. This is the one fact that makes me shiver when I think about publishing something of my own (aside from the fact that my writing is far from ready, that is). Having said that, as we both progress there may come a time when we will be ready to jump off that veritable cliff. And I wish you luck (and a good parachute) when you do.

  14. Welcome to the chain! Great answer. I think a lot of authors are tempted to just put their work out their without getting it polished enough. I know that in the past when my work has been criticized, my first impulse was to stick my tongue out. What did they know? I'd publish it myself! But when I took the time to really think about it, I always came to the conclusion that they were right, and my work wasn't quite there yet.


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