Are You a Do-It-Yourself Type?

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about self-publishing. My thoughts have been evolving – things are changing fast and sometimes our thinking has to change, too. Seems like these days, lots of people are into D-I-Y, and that includes the book world.

My latest (but still subject to change) opinion is this:

Self publishing is becoming an increasingly attractive and viable alternative to the typical commercial (royalty-paying, print-based) book deal.

As I’ve mentioned before, I believe this applies much more to non-fiction than fiction, because non-fiction often is targeted to a niche audience to whom the author can effectively promote from their personal platform. Self-published fiction is a much more difficult sell, since there usually isn’t an accompanying platform.

Here are some factors that have influenced my current position on self-publishing:

1. The haystack is growing. The number of people wanting to publish books seems to be getting larger all the time. Yet the traditional publishing industry is shrinking. Agents and editors are still always looking for that “needle in a haystack” but the haystack keeps getting bigger. Editor Alan Rinzler said in his Writers Digest webinar last week that publishers accept about 1 to 2% of the proposals that come in the door – and that includes everything submitted by agents. So after you’ve beaten the odds to get an agent, you have more odds to beat to get a the publisher. The reality of a growing haystack is that more authors will be turned away from traditional publishing, so it could serve you well to consider the viability of self-pub from the start.

2. Some self-pubbed books get traditional book deals. I’ve heard various estimates in the industry but it seems this happens with about 1% to 5% of self-pubbed books. If you can sell 5,000 to 10,000 copies and demonstrate that your market is still far from tapped, you might have a shot at getting a traditional book deal with it.

3. You can move quickly. In this age where ideas become irrelevant almost as fast as someone can write them down, you may not want to deal with the delays and layers involved in traditional publishing. As Seth Godin said in his Galley Cat interview, “I can’t abide the long wait, the filters, the big push at launch, the nudging to get people to go to a store…” Godin says he is moving to electronic publishing only. If you agree with his perspective, you may want to consider it too, but keep in mind that he has a gigantic platform. (I’ll be interested to see if Godin stays “finished” with traditional print publishing.)

4. You have to do the marketing either way. The amount of marketing publishers require of the author is one of the biggest and most talked-about changes in publishing over the last five years. It makes sense – the entire paradigm of book marketing is shifting. But if you are an author with a large enough platform to impress a publisher, consider whether or not you need a publisher. If you have not only the platform but the time and ability to produce your book and the means with which to sell it to large numbers of people, there may not be any downside to going it alone.

Caveat: The most important words in this paragraph are “the means with which to sell it to large numbers of people.” That’s a game changer. If you don’t have it, you won’t be able to sell your self-pubbed book.

So what am I saying here? I’m still a huge advocate and fan of the publishing industry, and will continue to focus my efforts in getting authors published the traditional way. But I’m also encouraging those of you who are entrepreneurial-minded to give the self-pub route serious thought. Assess the pros and cons for your own situation, and explore the options.

One final piece of advice: Don’t go the self-pub route out of a reactionary anger at the “system” or a way to circumvent all those arrogant agents who are trying to keep you down. Keep your emotions out of it, and make a business decision.

Q4U: Is the changing publishing landscape making you think differently about your own options?

P.S. A couple of notes: First, as an agent, my job is not to help people get self-published but to assist them in getting books traditionally published. So anything I say about self-publishing comes from that perspective. Second, for purposes of this discussion, by “self publishing” I am including the entire spectrum from fully self-produced e-books to POD to going through a vanity house.

(c) 2010 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


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  8. henya on August 25, 2010 at 10:00 AM

    >I have been spending endless hours reading the pros and cons on self or "traditional" publishing. I am learning a lot, enough to confuse me. In my quest, I've discovered that I'm taking a chunk of my writing time to read about publishing. I have yet to make up my mind whether I should forgo spending so much time on it and continue writing…or…

    Either way, as I can tell by your post, all the accecible avenues by which a writer could follow to reach their publishing goal, nothing is written in stone.

    Thanks, Rachelle, for extending yourself with your knowledge.

  9. Susan M. Boyer on August 25, 2010 at 9:44 AM

    >Yes–thanks so much for clarifying. I will sleep better tonight. 🙂

  10. Rachelle on August 25, 2010 at 9:41 AM

    >Susan, you're right, the math isn't clear and I probably should have explained it more fully or left it out of my post. I questioned Alan specifically on his estimate, asking him if it includes all proposals sent by agents and every other possible way of submitting, and he said yes, 2%.

    But your math isn't taking everything into account. You can't extrapolate that 98% of agented authors don't get contracts, because:
    (1) We send each project to many publishers, not just one. So even though the odds at any one publisher may be slim, we still have a lot more chances to get a "yes."
    (2) If an agented author has a project that doesn't sell, we often don't stop there. We will work on another project with that client, and that one may sell.

    So even though one publisher may say "we accept only 2% of what comes in the door," my numbers are much different, because as an agent, I'm not dependent on that one publisher or on any one project. I have lots of publishers, lots of clients, and each client may have multiple projects.

    Most of my clients will eventually get a contract.

    Make sense?

  11. Susan M. Boyer on August 25, 2010 at 9:28 AM

    >Rachelle, thanks for the great post. I hope you're still looking at comments on yesterday's blog, because the Rinzler quote in point 1 has been bothering me.

    I feel like I'm missing something vital in this equation. I interpret this to say that of all the agented authors submitting to editors at NY houses, only 2% or less get contracts. I'm not good at math, but that leads me to the conclusion that 98% of agented authors don't get contracts. This sounds wrong to me–like how could agents make a living if that were the case, and with odds that long, why would authors ever try? What am I missing? Thanks!

  12. Jeff Emmerson on August 25, 2010 at 5:01 AM

    >INDIE PUBLISHING all the way!!

    Even Seth Godin has moved up!

    – Jeff Emmerson

  13. Gospel Girly on August 25, 2010 at 4:08 AM

    >Ideally I would love to get published through the Traditional way but it seems to be getting toucher and tougher.

    With that in mind, I have been considering e-publishing over the last few months and maybe that might become more popular with devices such as the Kindle, iPad and so on where people can read on the go.

    On a different note, Rachelle do you represent any UK based clients or do you stick to your side of the pond..?

  14. Robert Collings on August 25, 2010 at 2:25 AM

    >That would of course be they're not their … where's that edit button?

  15. Robert Collings on August 25, 2010 at 2:24 AM

    >Totally agree, except of course that 'self-publishing' is such a pejorative term.

    Anyone who chooses to publish their book independently and has the sense to engage professionals along the way, surely should be called INDEPENDENT.

    There are no self-musicians, no self-film makers. Publishing is the only creative industry that abuses indie practitioners in such a way.

    Time to call self-publishing dead.

    Except of course for those who do actually do everything themselves, and their either geniuses or insane 🙂

  16. Tessa Quin on August 25, 2010 at 2:19 AM

    >I'm glad that agents are starting to view self-publishing in a more positive way. First Nathan Bransford, and now you.

    Randy Ingermanson predicts that this is the way publishing will be in the future: Authors ePublish, agents pick up those that are selling well and take them to publishers.

    It's an easier job for the agents, I believe, and since, as you say, the author has to self-promote the book anyway, you'll see who's willing to do the job and who's not.

    I'm very open to self-publishing my novels. I got so excited about it a few weeks ago that my online friends had to tap my shoulder and calm me down. Of course I want to be trade-published, but I'm not ignoring the other possibility. If I want something, I go out and get it.

    Plus, my story idea is fabulous – but all writers say that 😉

  17. Susie Shaw on August 24, 2010 at 10:59 PM

    >I am so, so glad you wrote this piece. I have been wrestling with this area–wanting to submit to the process God may for me in revisions/agents/publishing while at the same time stewarding the message/my story and the various platforms already available to me. Gonna weigh my options. Thanks Rachelle!

  18. Anonymous on August 24, 2010 at 7:40 PM

    >I just commented on another blog about something along the lines of this post, and there seems to be something missing here, too.

    Why does everyone simply assume that authors have to just hop from traditional publishing right into self-publishing when there are many excellent e-publishers now who offer basically the same things traditional publishers offer authors and authors never have to pay a dime? They even get advances, quarterly royalty statements, and nice checks if their books sell. I know, I'm one of them.

    But more than that, there's a fan base from all over the world that can only be tapped into with e-books.

    I've been around for long time and when I made the switch to e-publishers from traditional publishers, everyone laughed at me. But my books have sold more copies than I ever dreamed they would, and I've extended my fan base to places I never thought I could. And now, though I'm not getting any royalties from backlisted books being released as e-books because traditional publishers are sly that way, my e-books are helping to sell older print books that I've done as well.

  19. K Simmons on August 24, 2010 at 7:26 PM

    >I've seriously considered self-publishing, and I'll continue to do so as I edit and submit to agents. What it ends up coming down to is this, at least for me – I want the collaboration and support that would come with an agent and publishing house, at least for the paper versions. But for the e-books, I don't see the publishing houses as being able to move and adapt to the changing electronic world fast enough, and I don't see them taking my ideas and suggestions in that arena too kindly.

  20. Cheryl Linn Martin on August 24, 2010 at 6:16 PM

    >I enjoyed reading your thoughts, Rachelle. I've battled the urge to "just pack-it-in and go with self-pub, but then decided it wasn't the right choice. Now I'm agented and my work is out there, so maybe someday soon??!!

  21. Livia on August 24, 2010 at 5:22 PM

    >Your "final bit of advice" rings very true.

  22. author Christa Polkinhorn on August 24, 2010 at 3:53 PM

    >This discussion has become a little too serious, so what about some comic relief? Aside from being an author, I am also a translator. I translate from English into German. And since there is some discussion about the quality of books, whether self-published or otherwise, the quality of translations is a whole other issue. Not just publishers but also companies ordering translations try to cut corners and sometimes resort to machine translations. Here is a short text that was translated from German into English by Google. I am not listing the German original, since probably not too many people would understand it, but the English translation should give an idea what we translators have to struggle with sometimes. Have a good laugh!
    "Dear Christa. Well, how are you? Soon you're back at the pack and we can talk verbally. You sure know how crazy we play the weather. I fly on Thursday to my daughter, to guard children. I'll be pretty busy, but I'm also looking forward. See you soon and best wishes."

  23. Anonymous on August 24, 2010 at 3:25 PM

    >I agree with everything you've said. But there is one aspect that is not covered, and oddly, none of the commenters have mentioned it so far either.


    A self-published book is only one stage different from those countless novels in the agent's slush piles–the heaps that are getting so high and wide and deep that really good novels become needles in a haystack of horrid instead of needles in a pincushion.

    Yes,there are many team efforts of professionals that have promoted some real turkeys on the reading public. But the fact that several other people have to bet their money, and their stockholder's money, and their careers, on each work they put out does tend to increase the chances that the product will be readable. A self-published book has only its author's opinion. Hey, when I wrote my first novel as a teenager, I thought it was the best thing every written, and so did my mother. Everybody else was merely polite.

    I have self-published. It didn't cost much, it got me a readership, and the feedback was immensely educational. But I am not eager to read anybody else's self-published novel. I did put in my time reading some, in the name of reciprocation, and the 12 I have suffered through varied from 'badly needs an editor' to 'so awful, I don't know what to say.'

    Readers have liked my novel, but I cannot complain if a prospective reader looks at my work with a jaundiced eye from having read other self-published efforts. So I'm taking the valuable reader feedback and using it in writing something to be traditionally published.

  24. Erika Robuck on August 24, 2010 at 3:14 PM

    >I enjoy seeing balanced views, like yours, from people inside the traditional publishing industry.

    Traditional publishers needn't fear self-published books. Viral success of any book is a long shot, so most likely, self-publishing will further weed out submissions, and will help writers understand the value of traditional publishing.

    That said, I self-published my first book, and have had a really good experience with it, so far.

    You also inspired me to blog about the topic today.

    Great post!

    Erika Robuck

  25. Reena Jacobs on August 24, 2010 at 2:32 PM


    This post truly surprised me. I've seen so many outspoken against self-publishing it's nice to read a less biased view on the concept.

    Not every book can be the needle in the haystack. It's nice that there are alternative methods for those books which have the potential to great, but just weren't what agents/editors were looking for at the time.

  26. Brother Cysa Dime on August 24, 2010 at 2:12 PM

    >It is all a matter of economics. Royalty publishers are only interested in the mass market books. Everyone else has three choices. Vanity charges you ten thousand dollars and gives you ten percent of the profits. POD costs about two thousand and you get half the profits. Electronic costs one thousand and you get half the profits. My game plan on my third book is to do electronic and if the sales volume is high enough then go POD.

  27. author Christa Polkinhorn on August 24, 2010 at 2:06 PM

    >Aamba. I agree, there are poorly written self-published books. However, I have read some pretty awful books, which were published the traditional way. But you are right, when you publish your book yourself, you are solely responsible for its quality. I think that as self-published authors we owe it to ourselves and, above all, to prospective readers to be as conscientious as we possibly can. And that means editing your book yourself AND having it edited by a reputable editor (because as authors we are often too close to the text and perhaps not objective enough). It also means investing some time to properly format the book or having someone experienced do it for us. We want to be proud of what we put out there, whether we do it through a traditional publisher or do it on our own.
    Christa Polkinhorn
    Love of a Stoneamson

  28. Aamba on August 24, 2010 at 1:35 PM

    >I'm happy that I self-published my first book. I needed a way to feel done with it.

    It was a tricky to market subject and was rejected by two hundred agents and publishers. But it was also edited and reviewed in my Master's Program, so I was confident it was as well written as I could get it.

    On the other side of the coin, you do have to watch out for certain things in self-publishing. When I was in school someone was giving out free copies of a book, so I took one because I love books.

    It was horrible. Terribly, terribly written. I investigated and found that it was self-published. I guess giving them away was supposed to be a marketing thing, but it backfired. I went on Amazon and found a bunch of harsh reviews and 99 used copies on sale for a penny.

    Even though I self-published the first book, I will still work hard (harder than before) to get "real" publication for my second.

  29. Scott Appleton on August 24, 2010 at 12:08 PM

    >Great post Rachelle,

    As someone who started off self-publishing a Fiction book, I must differ on one point with you. If an author of fiction takes the time to professionally produce their book (and by that I mean hires the editors and the designers) If that author then goes out and actively promotes their book they can make a go of it. I sold over 3,000 copies of my fantasy novel in just over a year.

    But on the other hand, I signed over that book and the sequels to AMG Publishers when they offered a contract this Spring. I believe the traditional publisher is necessary to success if I want to write full-time. Why? Handling the business end of things eats up time I could use to write and promote.

  30. T. Anne on August 24, 2010 at 11:51 AM

    >I'm glad there are so many options out there for writers. As for me, I still feel as though I need guidance. I'm watching from the sidelines as a few of my friends pursue the self-publishing option. In the least it's interesting to observe.I haven't witnessed anything that's dazzled me so far. But in truth, they seem to be only a little worse off than my friends who have published books through the traditional route.

  31. Rachelle on August 24, 2010 at 11:23 AM

    >Scott Nicholson, your comment made me laugh. As someone who has been in publishing since 1995 in a wide variety of positions, both self-employed and employed by others, I'm not the least bit worried that my skills and interests will become obsolete within my lifetime. I might be an agent right now, but I haven't always been, and obviously will not always be. The written word isn't going away any time soon, and therefore I'm pretty sure I'll always be able to find something to do with my time. (Not to mention that I'm 2/3 through my master's in clinical psychology. There are always options.)

  32. author Christa Polkinhorn on August 24, 2010 at 11:07 AM

    >Thank you for your balanced and informative post. I just went the self-pub way with my debut novel, Love of a Stonemason, so far with moderate success but I'm having a lot of fun. I much rather put time and effort into connecting with readers than waiting forever for a possible answer to my queries. Christa Polkinhorn

  33. The Scribe on August 24, 2010 at 11:07 AM

    >Yes, I am learning all I can about the changing climate in the publishing landscape. I have an interest in speculative fiction, but I am seeing that all you have supplied in this post can be beneficial.

    Also, the rise in availability of information from agents such as yourself through social media platforms and blogs has helped me obliterate ideas of "get-rich-and-famous-quick" and "overnight-success" to be replaced with working hard, having excellence as a craftsman, being business minded and courteous with agents, publishers, and authors, and continuing to be a student of the ever changing business publishing as well as willing to help others learn as I grow.

    Thank you Rachelle for this informative post.

  34. author Scott Nicholson on August 24, 2010 at 10:41 AM

    >Wow, it is very brave of you, Rachelle, to admit that your job may become unnecessary.

    I have been published in mass market, small press, and indie and have worked with five or six different agents on various things. And indie publishing has by far been the most lucrative and artistically satisfying of it all. I did everything by the book for a long time–never self-publish, learn the agents, wait at the right door–but nothing is as exciting as the uncertainty of the wonderful new horizons and the one reader I will connect with today.

    I work harder but I am more energized than ever. And I no longer have to wait for permission. My dreams are as large as I want them to be.

    Scott Nicholson
    Kindle Giveaway Blog Tour

  35. 80s Queen on August 24, 2010 at 10:29 AM

    >I self-published a book back in 2006. I don't think I was prepared for the amount of time it took to get through the process and then how much work it would be once I got it published. It definitely helps to have a marketing plan and a niche. It is also very helpful to have the support of local bookstores (which I did).

  36. Angie Ledbetter on August 24, 2010 at 10:14 AM

    >Self-pubbing has its positives and negatives, just like EVERY publishing venue. We were extremely happy to be in the first wave of POD printing back in 2003 with our inspirational non-fic book, and have options now and in the future if we were to ever decide to shop it around the traditional route. With the recent e-book explosion and proliferation of indie publishers, there's something for everyone out there now.

  37. Winslow Eliot on August 24, 2010 at 9:37 AM

    >Loved reading this – thanks! I've switched from traditional to indie and it would take a heck of a sweet deal to entice me back to trad. And I'm a fiction writer! I love the idea that a writer's success hinges on readers loving one's books (or not, I guess). One thing I do think is crucial, tho, which is too often overlooked: indie writers need to go through the publishing process as professionally as trad. publishers do, especially in the area of editing. Hire an editor! Even the best writers are edited, copy-edited, and proofread.

  38. Erin MacPherson on August 24, 2010 at 9:29 AM

    >Hi Rachelle! Thanks for this advice. For me, the idea of self-publishing really scares me. (And sorry if I offend someone by saying this.) The whole idea of putting a lot of time and money into something that industry experts are hesitant to do the same for is a bit scary to me. I feel like I have to trust the expertise of agents and publishers and if they aren't buying my idea, then I may need to rework it. That said, when I went to the marketing boot camp this weekend and met authors with tremendous platforms and speaking audiences, I guess I see how some people can sell books.

  39. sharonbially on August 24, 2010 at 9:28 AM

    >Rachelle, Thank you for this excellent post. Times do change, and so must our approaches. The internet and the (growing)ability to build and reach an audience without the backing of a publisher has really changed everything. While it's great when a publisher can vet a book, I believe a book's real value lies with those who read it. So an audience can vet it just as well. And as you said, authors have to do so much themselves as it is — why not go all the way?

    Something else on this, too: whether in fiction or non-fiction, authors must increasingly play the role of entrepreneur in order to get their books into the hands of readers. For many, the idea of having a publisher behind them can actually reduce the motivation to do this. Kind of like having a nice, comfy day job. Many writers, by nature, would prefer to just sit quietly and write. Yet take away that comfy day job and innovation becomes a necessity. Creativity flourishes. New initiatives — and progress — are born.

  40. Teenage Bride on August 24, 2010 at 9:21 AM

    >Wow. Thank you for the good advice regarding self publishing. I have always shyed away from it because … well I was afraid of it. Thank you for this fabulous post.

  41. Ben Woodard on August 24, 2010 at 9:18 AM


    Gutsy post. Many in the industry still look down on self publishing. My goal is to be traditionally published. I know I'm not good enough yet, but I'm working toward it. However, I have a short story vetted by two editors that I will self publish as an ebook and iPhone/iPad app. My background is marketing so that will help. I expect this to be a fun experiment.
    Thanks for your comments.

  42. AlexOngNYC on August 24, 2010 at 9:05 AM

    >As someone struggling with the traditional vs. self publishing routes, it's good to hear pragmatic advice from someone so close to the industry. Thank you!


  43. Lisa on August 24, 2010 at 8:54 AM

    >I still have my fingers crossed about getting published the traditional way. I don't know what I would do if no one in the entire publishing world was interested in my YA novel. Maybe self-publish… or just shelve the idea and start to work on something else?

    I'm not to that point yet and maybe I never will be. Who knows?

  44. steeleweed on August 24, 2010 at 8:46 AM

    >I will be self-publishing via POD – probably Lightning Source – three out-of-print books whose copyright I own. These have an identifiable and well-defined market, so a platform is really not relevant for these. I will probably also POD two of my own novels and will have to build a platform and do my own marketing. I may also do Ebooks – haven't decided about that yet.

    Some authors look at (and often resent) agents/publishers as 'gatekeepers', but their value to me as a reader is that they publicize as well as publish. A Self-Publisher must do the publicizing.

  45. Sue Harrison on August 24, 2010 at 8:46 AM

    >Yes, things today have changed, but since I am one of those authors of old (My first book was published back in the
    1990s.), let me explain how it really was in those days.

    Although publishers did send us on book tours and arrange publicity, if you wanted to make it, you had to do a lot on your own. My husband is a pilot, so I had more options open to me. We would fly our plane (at our expense) across the country to a handy airport, rent a car and drive around the nearest three or four states, hitting every little bookstore we could find. In those days, you couldn't look up bookstores online for phone numbers, email addresses or locations. You had to rely on motel phonebooks and word of mouth. You know, that waitress at the local cafe. And then we'd leave her a free signed book to thank her for her help.

    When we found a store, we'd go in and introduce ourselves, talk to the manager, sign stock, talk to buyers and customers and go on to the next town. A few weeks later, when I got home, I'd drop them a note of appreciation, and add them to my Christmas card list. I did mass mailings to libraries and stores, because email wasn't available in those days. You had to buy stamps. I called libraries and organizations and writing groups and begged for speaking opportunities. I called friends and family members and asked about setting up signings in their local bookstores.

    I judged chili contests; I hawked books at boat shows and blueberry festivals; I spoke to church groups and at writers' conferences and college and high school commencements.

    We bought thousands of copies of my novels from my publishers (Doubleday, William Morrow, Avon, HarperCollins) and sold them at craft fairs and community gatherings, at local gas stations and restaurants and curio stores. I wrote to radio stations, hit up DJs I knew from my PR days and landed interviews. Hard work? You bet. Fun? Absolutely.

    Today – right now – 2010 – is a terrific time to be a writer. Technology gives us even more chances to connect and shout out our names. Opportunities abound! Believe it! Then go out and celebrate with a little hard work.

  46. Stephanie McGee on August 24, 2010 at 8:45 AM

    >I'm entirely accepting of people who want to self-publish. At the same time, I know it's not for me. I would much rather have someone in my corner who understands the nuances and the nitty-gritty side of the business of publishing.

  47. Jane Steen on August 24, 2010 at 8:43 AM

    >I'm completely OK with authors who self-publish. It's really not a new thing at all – the difference these days is that it's becoming affordable and easily available to produce your "slim volume."

    I predict a few things about the coming years: that poetry and short stories will experience a revival, that genre e-books will be highly popular, that (unfortunately) erotica/porn will be online bestsellers (that's already happened, apparently, but I think the market will quadruple).

    I also predict a booming market for independent editors, layout designers and book cover artists as the self-pubbing market gets increasingly competitive. I dare to dream that there may once again be a market for the beautiful bindings of the pre-WWI days, made to order by small artisans. As print books become rarer, they will be more appreciated and small bookstores will re-appear.

    In short, I embrace change! I really think that in five years' time, the "if you self-pub no-one will every take you seriously EVER AGAIN" threat that is constantly waved under writers' noses will have completely lost its power.

  48. Dan Holloway on August 24, 2010 at 8:26 AM

    >Rachelle, I agree with your non-fiction position because of the niche – for fiction though it can work either when there's a real niche again, or it can favour some genres (romance, for example, can really work).

    I completely understand your position as an agent with point 2, and I guess more and more people will see it as a way in, but as an avowed DIYer, I still think the very best way to get it right with self-publishing is if you believe it is the very best thing for your book, and stay absolutely focused on the task at hand.

    As for your question – my opinions haven't changed at all – I have been a DIYer for quite some time, and am absolutely loving it. Admittedly with Year Zero writers I'm part of a collective all of whom are self-publishers, many in "alternative" formats from zines to flyposters so I'm not on my own, but the underground spirit of the self-publishing scene – where it gets it right – is so vibrant at the moment (with amazing websites, fantastic videos, live events, zine fests springing up everywhere, genuinely cutting edge experimental literature, and most of all a sense of real possibility) it's hard to understand why anyone with a suitable book would want to try and get themselves involved in a traditional business that feels sluggish and introspective and as though it works by rehashing the same old.

    One of the real barriers to self-publishing is prize recognition – which was one of the reasons I set up eight cuts gallery press

    as an "antipress" imprint for the very best self-published alternative/transgressive fiction to sidestep that barrier – or at least force the prizes to turn us away, and bring the issue to teh fore that way.

  49. Rachel (Hounds in the Kitchen) on August 24, 2010 at 8:23 AM

    >I am considering self publishing an ebook to explore the depths of my network and determine interest in my subject, cooking with children. For me, it's one prong of marketing my brand and passions. If it happens to encourage a traditional deal, I would be consider that too.

  50. Summer Ross on August 24, 2010 at 8:15 AM

    >It makes me reassess the situation, specially when I watched a good friend self publish and now hes global with a hell of a promoter on his side and an agent picked him up after the fact, but I'm iffy still on self publishing. My friend told me that because I don't self publish I'm ruining my own chances at my dream. I disagree, I think its easier for some things to be self published than others, and my material isn't exactly made for self publishing.

  51. Anthony Harden on August 24, 2010 at 8:15 AM

    >From the other side of the fence, I posted a similar rambling rant on my blog six weeks ago. I self-published fiction and have been very happy with my choice so far. The process was fast, I retained complete control, the quality of the product was excellent and I'm making a nice return on every book. I would consider a traditional offer but it wouldn't be a "done deal".

  52. MJR on August 24, 2010 at 8:09 AM

    >I do think attitudes are changing about self-publishing. I read yesterday that Publishers Weekly is going to start accepting self-published books for review (you have to pay $150 when you send in, and no guarantee they will review it).

    But I'm still doubtful about self-publishing fiction.

  53. BK on August 24, 2010 at 7:43 AM

    >I had never before considered not going through a traditional publisher and I'm still wary. But the biggest reason I'd jump the traditional bandwagon is–we authors have to do all the work ourselves (marketing) so what ARE we hassling with traditional publishers for?

    But that's the downfall with non-traditional–still you have to do the marketing. I don't take it lightly.

    I want to be the author of old who sits around and does the creating, and than the publisher does the business side. Yes, that doesn't exist anymore.

    So the question for me is–do I want to publish so badly that I'm willing to suck it up and do something I hate (marketing). The honest answer right now is–no. That may change tomorrow, next week or 10 years from now.

    But there's also the faith element. If I'm supposed to write for more than my own amusement, the doors will be opened and my desire to market transformed at the right time.

  54. Bonita on August 24, 2010 at 7:35 AM

    >Thus far, I've published only curriculum so my story is a little different. I started out self-publishing, then a small publisher picked it up, then went out of business a couple of years later, and now I'm back to self-publishing.

    For my particular niche, it's the only way I'd even consider going now. I feel like I've gotten my feet wet and know a lot more about what I'm doing than I did the first time around. My profits are way more than with the publisher, but I also have an established platform in my particular field. I enjoy being in the driver's seat and having complete creative control. I don't necessarily like the administrative stuff, but that's why I have an assistant.

    I haven't completely knocked traditional publishing off the board. If I was writing fiction or stepping out of my specialty zone, I'd definitely lean that way, but for my current circumstances self-publishing is working and working well.

  55. Care on August 24, 2010 at 7:26 AM

    >Thank you again for such valuable information. You are a light in the dark for sure.

    My book is a memoir about the shattered pieces of my church experience.
    I plan to self publish when it is finished, though I must admit I am still grieving over the fact you will not be representing me. I will always opt for the traditional way of publishing through an agent.
    (by the way I connected with the picture of the dog digging a hole in yesterdays post, been there many times myself) and I am glad you are taking care of your needs at this time.

    I do understand that my specific target may be small… and self publishing is my route, but I will always dream big with the hope to alert the public on the darkness that goes on in some churches.

  56. Cliff Graham on August 24, 2010 at 6:53 AM

    >Good stuff, thanks for sharing an increasingly common truth. That's exactly what happened with me–non-traditionally published, then picked up by traditional. The other reason self publishing would be golden for some is the fact that you make 7 or 8 times as much money per book.

  57. Jim Marr on August 24, 2010 at 6:37 AM


    For me, the "custom publishing" route (self-pub with the bells and whistles of editing and marketing support from the publisher)is a perfect fit. I wasn't an aspiring writer (unless you like reading systems engineering technical documents!) before I wrote my book; and, unless God changes my heart, I don't feel a calling to continue writing.

    My primary motivation is certainly much different than most writers and I'll be content to just reach those few people for whom this story will be a true blessing in their lives. However, I have always had the desire to produce a high quality product to keep open the possibilities for "something bigger".

    You, Rachelle, provided great encouragement on the start of my publishing journey back in early 2008 and I continue to refer aspiring writers to your blog for an invaluable education in this publishing process.

    I'm now just a few days away from having this book in my hands and I pray that God will be glorified through the telling of these life experiences that He has given me the strength to grow through.

    Blessings to you and this always growing family of writers!


  58. Timothy Fish on August 24, 2010 at 6:22 AM

    >If we combine #1 and #2, it appears that the chances of getting a traditional publishing contract are twice as likely for a self-published book than for a book going through the agent route. I wouldn't have expected that.

  59. Marisa Birns on August 24, 2010 at 6:11 AM

    >The more I read on the subject the more I agree with you about the self-publishing option being a very good one for someone who has a NON-FICTION book.

    And, yes, if a writer does not have the means to sell to large numbers of people, then that self-publishing route leads to nowhere.

  60. Don Booker on August 24, 2010 at 6:10 AM

    >I recently changed my news feed on my blog to include articles in the world of publishing. From what I can see it seems there is indeed a shift in thinking and alternatives to mainstream publishing are now there and gaiing respect.

    I believe all writers just want to write and would love to be traditional and have a guiding light by way of an agent. Unfortunately the percentages are always against the writer. But that's life and the way of the world.

    I see little point self publishing unless you are going to market your book and in a way that's going to take up some part of your daily life. How writers do this and how will may very well determine in time how many actually read their work and perhaps have eyes run over it that may take on some of that work.

    As a filmmaker myself I see huge potential when it comes to marketing my first novel. So i'm doing something that i enjoy as much as writing. That's a bonus.
    Would I like a traditional publisher/agent ? Of course…

    If it doesn't happen will I put it into a lonely drawer. Not today, because today writers don't have to. That's kinda exciting. A creative age may be on the way, no longer limited to a few, but open to all who care for their art. The Age of the Independant as I've called it a few times on my blog.

  61. Heather Wright on August 24, 2010 at 5:52 AM

    >When I created my book, I felt I had no option but to self publish. My book, Writing Fiction: A Hands-On Guide for Teens, is based on 4 years of columns that I wrote for a Canadian magazine called What If?, 20 years of teaching, and a 5-year freelance writing career. My book fills a definite niche but I knew that without the platform of being a well-known YA author, my chances of a traditional publisher considering the book were nil. So I'm doing the marketing and getting the book out for review and doing most of the things I would probably do if a publisher had taken me on–and I produced Canadian and US editions, which a traditional publisher might not have done. I've been happy with the process and look forward to seeing the results of my work on what is really a labour/labor of love.

  62. squtopus on August 24, 2010 at 3:58 AM

    >Tor early for to talk about self publishing cause i,m so so newbies in this field and it doesn't mean i'm giveup already, for now, i,m just want to focus feed as more as knowledgement in writing and keep to develop my writing skills.Anyway, Thank u for your view and it was very useful for me as a newcomer.

  63. Marja on August 24, 2010 at 3:21 AM

    >Thank you Rachelle for this very useful information. I have never even considered self publishing, but your post made me think, really! I will definitely give it some thought in the near future. I have had some books published and another one will be released later this year, but it might be worth considering the pro's and cons you mentioned. Thanks as always for your useful advice.

  64. writer jim on August 24, 2010 at 2:38 AM


    That's nice of you to give such helpful advice–especially the fact that publishers want authors to do the marketing.

    For me, the changes in the publishing landscape haven't changed my plans.

    When several evangelical leaders read partials of my book and were eager to help promote it, I decided on my marketing plan: If I self-published I'd simultaneously send at least 1000 books to leaders in government, media, church, etc. If I got a big publisher, then I'd be able to send out 1000s.

    This should work great because my unique book concerns our nation's future…the vital interests of all Americans. But I bet other writers could do likewise on a smaller scale to promote their books by word of mouth. Just send free copies to those you think would influence others.