Think Hard Before Self-Publishing

I recently received an email from a guy who had self-published a book. He’d paid to print 500 hardcover copies, and was pursuing local and national bookstore chains and distributors. But he’d hit a brick wall, finding that most buyers and distributors were not interested in talking to him. He was flummoxed; he needed to sell his books, especially because he was already developing several more books after that first one. He was convinced that if people just looked at his book, they’d want to buy it; he’d already had many positive responses from acquaintances. But he had no idea where to go next.

This was hard for me because basically, I could not help the guy. I’m not a self-pub expert. But I told him that his problems getting distribution are the main reason self-publishing doesn’t work for many people. If you don’t have a channel through which YOU can sell your book, then self publishing usually isn’t a profitable option. And by a channel, I mean something you’re doing yourself: you’re out speaking and selling your book in the back of the room. You’re the pastor of a 10,000 member church and you sell it through your church bookstore. You have a terrific website or blog that gets 100,000 hits a month and your book is featured for sale there. Or something like that.

Trying to get your self-published book into traditional distribution channels can be an exercise in beating your head against the wall. It’s extremely difficult. In addition:

→ There are some kinds of promotions that only publishers can do; e.g. purchasing space on front & center tables in Barnes & Noble. Many promotions aren’t open to self-pubbed books.

→ Major book reviewers (People mag, etc.) don’t review self-pubbed books.

→ Editorial excellence & professional book design can be prohibitively expensive.

→ The odds of a self-pubbed book becoming NYT bestseller are staggeringly slim.

→ Selling your self-pubbed book can easily become your full time job if you want it to be successful.

Having said all that, I do recommend self-pubbing for authors whom I don’t believe are going to get a good commercial publishing deal (for whatever reason), and they have some decent channels through which to sell the book. Of course, if you don’t really care about selling a lot of copies, then none of this matters. Do whatcha want!

I think I’ve said everything I can possibly say about self-publishing by now, and I don’t plan to revisit the topic anytime soon. After all, that’s not the business I’m in, so I admit I don’t have many answers. But if self-pubbing interests you, you can read all my other posts on it here.

Q4U: Why do you think self-publishing is becoming so popular these days? Have you considered it?

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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  6. Geewiz387 on March 19, 2010 at 7:09 AM

    >I have read all the comments here and I guess I will be the fifth wheel. I have currently self-published two books. I noticed there were many wondering why someone would go that route. Many comments that it is because they don't have the patience or think they know better than the editors, and agents. Well for me this is not true. I created the covers, I created the website, I created a blog, I am on FaceBook, Twitter, Google, Blogger, and MySpace. Here is the reason I did all this myself.

    I had one book published and was charged over $3,000 just to get it edited and placed into PDF format. I then was told by the publisher that they did not distribute the books so I would have to place it somewhere like CreateSpace or do book signings myself. I now know you should NEVER have to pay a publisher but at the time I was thrilled that a publisher would even consider it.

    I have been a Master Proofreader for The Gutenberg project for years. I have an Associates Degree in Arts & Science. I am a computer "nerd" if you will and yet I was still positive that the publishers and agents had to know more than I do. I remind you that my first book had a publisher. It was a non-fiction and religious in content. I was told by more than one agent that it did not count because I had to "place it" (for lack of better wording) on CreateSpace and sell it myself. Yet the Publishers name is on the book. Needless to say I had to retire the book because the "perfect" publisher, editor did not catch the fact that the New Living Translation of the Bible had a copyright on it. I am now revising it and turning it into an autobiography.

    The two books I currently have online are Adult Fantasy or Erotica. The only thing I got from the agents and publishers was: it was not their cup of tea, they had no market for it, it sounds great but it's not for me, you have a wonderful story line but I am not into romance, etc…

    I have been insulted by agents and publishers alike just because I self-published a book that my publisher told me to put online and distribute myself. They want to know if you are a published author and I won't lie about the other book but when they find out it was on CreateSpace they flatly turn me down even though it is retired. I still get insults when I ask questions to try to get some idea of how to make my queries and submissions better. I join thier blogs and conversations. I try to be nice, decent, and respectful but one question and two or three of them go off on me.

    The quesiton I asked was would you consider a book that has been self-published if the book caught your eye. The responses were flat out NO. Then some of the same that I have seen here that it is just because the author is impatient or that I think I know more than they do. It took me ten years to write one of the books that I currently have online. I have been sending queries and submissions for two years. If I thought I knew more than they do I would not still be sending out the queries two years later.

    I am sorry about the length of this comment and there is so much more I could say but you have the jist of my reason for self-publishing.

  7. Nishant on March 15, 2010 at 5:03 AM

    >I agree with every point you made, and I might even tack on the idea of really reconsidering some small presses. Distributorship is key.
    work at home in india

  8. KC on March 13, 2010 at 4:18 AM

    >The reason that I 'self-pub' my non-fiction book is that I can make more money. The advances that most authors receive is far less than what I make selling my own books. Usually, I make about $50,000 more than my friends who go the traditional route. Having said that, you MUST have a platform. Without a platform, you will probably lose a lot of money.

  9. Dana Bryant on March 11, 2010 at 4:14 PM

    >I am praying it never comes to self publishing for me.

  10. Aaron Reddin on March 11, 2010 at 3:41 PM

    >I've given it a ton of thought. But I have since decided that I will exhaust all other options, or die trying, before I will self pub.

    Someone out there is crazy enough to try and sell my junk….I hope.

  11. JS on March 11, 2010 at 2:27 PM

    >Self publishing is still in its infancy

    A 400-year-old infancy?

    Self publishing has been around for centuries. It's true that today's technologies make it quicker and cheaper than before, and easier to promote and distribute, but to say that it's a new model doesn't make sense. At all.

    Google "Elbert Hubbard" for instance. Or read a biography of Mark Twain.

  12. KCameron on March 11, 2010 at 11:20 AM

    >I am self-publishing my non-fiction book as I would like to keep the rights to the spin-off products associated with it – the workbook and workshop.

    I also wrote my book as closure on a certain period of my life. I'm not interested in becoming a best-selling author, or even making a lot of money from it. I just wanted to tell my story. So it makes sense for me to self-publish.

    I do help authors through the process of self-publishing their non-fiction book, as it is easy to make costly mistakes if you don't know what you are doing.

    But for fiction, I would not recommend self-publishing. Self-publishing is an investment best suited for non-fiction, in my opinion.

  13. Zoe Winters on March 11, 2010 at 3:31 AM

    >Hi Rachelle, thank you for posting this honest and non-inflammatory post about self-publishing! I've taken the route Sue talks about with regards to setting up an imprint.

    There was a time when I thought romance novels weren't real books and self-published authors were deluded idiots. Now I'm a self-published romance author. Never say Never I guess. I love doing both things and don't think I'd trade the journey of being an indie author for anything.

    When I learned that most NY pubbed authors of fiction still have full time jobs because they STILL aren't making a living off their writing, I thought "screw that, I'll make my own way."

    I'm currently involved in a sprawling entrepreneurial plan of which self-published fiction is just a part.

    I think it's a very challenging thing to do, but it's worth doing. I've met a lot of amazing indie authors and continue to discover more. Every time I read a self-produced book that is just awesome, I'm proud to be a part of this growing community of indies who care about quality and are working hard to achieve it.

    And I also agree with the people who have brought up the fact that readers don't care who published a book. They really don't. Outside of the publishing community, I never hear about the "stigma" of self-publishing. I've not once ever had a reader make any kind of negative comment about me being self-published.

    On the few occasions when they assumed I was traditionally published and asked me a question, I honestly responded by telling them I'm an independent author, I produce my own work. Without fail, every single reader has emailed me back with something along the lines of: "Oh wow, that's really cool! Sort of like indie musicians?"

    Yup. Sort of like indie musicians. At some point the publishing community may catch up with readers.

  14. Statement Creative on March 10, 2010 at 10:56 PM

    >Self publishing is still in its infancy and it's easy to get misdirected through its maze. I've been helping first-time authors through the process for two years and can recommend a few things to consider. First, find a real copy editor to review your manuscript. And I don't mean someone to proofread it. These are two very different things, and the editing is first and foremost. Second, hire a professional book designer to create your cover and the layout for the book's interior. This will put your title on par with the NYT bestsellers and any big NY trade publisher's titles. Most readers can detect a "home grown" design from more than a few feet away.

    The other revelation is that any self publisher will need to do his or her own marketing. NO publisher will provide this for anyone short of the NYT top ten authors. There are many ways to create your "platform"—some at no cost—so search the web for advice from those who have done it.

    Self-publishing will turn into just "publishing" in a very short timeframe. Content is content. Text is Text. Readers will find what they want to read and the format is of no consequence. Publish on!

  15. . on March 10, 2010 at 10:39 PM

    >"He'd paid to print 500 hardcover copies, and was pursuing local and national bookstore chains and distributors."

    This alone says the writer is naive and hasn't a clue. I can't imagine the writing. Nonetheless, I SPd my first novel A HEART LIES WITHIN US and sold it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc., without any expectation of shooting stars. I decided this time, this was the route.

    My next novel will go the traditional agent/publisher route. I enjoyed my experience with SP through Createspace, and believe for what I did it was perfect, and not expensive. I've sold a good number and the e-book series is crazy big, so no complaints. Is it for everyone? Nope, not at all.

    Steven LaBree

  16. Samantha Rose on March 10, 2010 at 9:39 PM

    >Wow, this is a really important point for young authors. I don't know this much about publishing, and it's good I found this bit of information out here and now!

  17. Kaitlyne on March 10, 2010 at 7:33 PM

    >Oh, I just wanted to tack something on. I've currently got a book on sub to agents, and I have two friends who are just your average person without much knowledge of the publishing industry. Both have suggested self-publishing to me. They didn't say "You should try this self-publishing company," but pointing me toward pay-to-play outfits and what not. They were both surprised when I said I didn't want to go with anything I had to pay for–I wanted to be paid instead.

  18. patriciazell on March 10, 2010 at 7:33 PM

    >I don't have the time or money to self-publish. Early this summer, I plan to put together a proposal for the book I've been writing on my blog. If I don't find an agent or a publisher, I might create a bigger website. Of course, I will do everything I can to market my book after it's published. I want to take advantage of the know-how an agent and publisher would bring to the table. Here's hoping and praying!

  19. Kaitlyne on March 10, 2010 at 7:26 PM

    >I haven't read all the comments, so this is probably repetitive, but it seems that there is a *lot* of false information out there and that one of the big assumptions from people is that it's impossible for a new author to break into commercial publishing and/or that the only way to succeed is to self-publish. There are plenty of sources out there basically saying exactly this.

    I think you hit the nail on the head with the, "he thought if people saw it they would want to buy it" thing. I think many authors feel that their work is fine and don't recognize that maybe they just don't have something that's good enough for a commercial publisher yet. They get a few rejections and rather than look at their work and trying to find ways to improve, they see the problem as on the outside–those publishers don't even read it, you can only get in if you're famous or already published, etc. There are also a couple of stories of self-published authors going on to be big, so it's easy for an author to think they'll be the exception to the rule and if they print up a few hundred books Random House will be knocking on their door and they'll be offered a contract.

    Obviously some self-publishers go into it completely aware and with realistic expectations and are making a good choice, but I imagine the majority are people who are misinformed or unwilling to recognize that maybe they're the problem and not the rest of the world.

  20. Catherine on March 10, 2010 at 7:14 PM

    >I have not considered self-publishing an option unless I could not get it published at all and had exhausted all avenues. Even then I'd probably only do a POD publisher and print copies for friends and loved ones that were interested in reading the book, my motivation would never be to make money.

    I'm an organizer of a writers group and I've found that those who self-publish are rarely any good at their craft and very often are living in a fantasy land that they will sell copies and attract the eye of a big publishing house. Those in my group (and in other groups I've attended) who have real talent want to sharpen their pencils, put their nose to the grindstone and work hard enough to earn publication. I don't think it is a matter of laziness, but just a matter of self-awareness and a willingness to have a teachable spirit. However, there are always exceptions. But they're EXCEPTIONS, and I don't want to live my life and pursue my dream of publication based on those odds.

  21. Sue Collier on March 10, 2010 at 6:24 PM

    >Rachel–In checking the publisher, does this mean you won't read a book by a publisher you don't recognize? The point of my earlier post is that authors who start up an independent publishing company and obtain their own set of ISBNs, then go on to have their books well edited and well designed–well, how would you know those books are self-published? They certainly don't look self-published. And they may well be sitting on the bookstore shelf if the author/publisher is doing what needs to be done to create demand. I suppose you could assume maybe they are, since they are not published by Random House or one of the other big houses.

    I don't feel that these authors are lazy or impatient. Frequently, they are professionals who want their books out there and they want to maintain control. They invest a lot of time, effort, and sometimes money into publishing their books.

  22. Rachel on March 10, 2010 at 6:09 PM

    >Timothy, I check the publisher of every single book I read. I may not be typical in that regard, but the publishing house communicates something to me about the book I'm considering reading. I care a lot.

  23. Ronald Riddle on March 10, 2010 at 5:28 PM

    >What you said makes a lot of sense, but sometimes going the road of self-publishing is the way to go.

    I disagree with some of the writers who either say self-publishing is a scam or that the writer is somehow lazy or just impatient.

    I self-published my first novel because I was unable to find Christian agents that would take on a first-time author. I'm sure they existed, but I couldn't find them. Also, I didn't realize the amount of work marketing would require without an agent.

    And the self publishing industry has produced some winning titles. Some successful authors got their start that way.

    Being self-published was very difficult, but also very instructive. I learned first hand the difficulties that you described. And it served to motivate me to continue my writing and energize my search for agents. It would be nice if there was a clearing house for Christian authors where we could have access to numerous agencies. Something like Writer's Digest does for self published authors.

    Last year I discovered Word Serve Literary and you! So I have great hopes there.

    It is a difficult road to travel, but I am glad I did. I think I appreciate the idea of an agent much more than before. And instead of depressing me, it motivated me to get better at my craft.

  24. Sue T on March 10, 2010 at 5:11 PM

    >"Increasingly, there is recognition that there are worthy stories out there that are just not getting picked up by the mainstream. I even read somewhere that the Richard Curtis Agency is exploring ways to capitalize on all the manuscripts it has that don’t get sold. And one perplexing part of this crazy landscape is that just as there are a lot of good books that don’t get picked up by agents or publishers for some reason, there are a lot of really bad or mediocre books that do!"

    Hear, hear sharonbially! This is exactly why I'm considering self-publishing. And really, on Richard Curtis Agency? Wouldn't that shake things up a bit?

  25. Anonymous on March 10, 2010 at 4:58 PM

    >Sure, I'd love an agent but how long do we have to wait for them to respond to: 1.)Queries 2.)Partials 3.)Fulls? As the months and years fly by, I can see why writers get frustrated.

    If I don't get an agent soon (after 6 requests for fulls), then I'll approach editors at small pubs directly–after I do my homework and make sure they take unagented submissions. Many top-notch presses do in both the mystery & romance field so why not try, especially with such low advances these days..can't hurt!

  26. sharonbially on March 10, 2010 at 4:32 PM

    >Rachelle, I think you’ve overlooked the fact that the self-publishing landscape is rapidly evolving in tandem with the changing publishing and media worlds, and that nowadays there are more and more self-published books getting picked up by traditional publishers – which reflects certain flaws in the traditional publishing industry and its selection process. Look at Lisa Genova for example (originally self-published author of Still Alice, now in talks with Hollywood about a movie from what I’ve heard) and AmazonEncore, the new Amazon affiliate publishing originally self-published books. Increasingly, there is recognition that there are worthy stories out there that are just not getting picked up by the mainstream. I even read somewhere that the Richard Curtis Agency is exploring ways to capitalize on all the manuscripts it has that don’t get sold. And one perplexing part of this crazy landscape is that just as there are a lot of good books that don’t get picked up by agents or publishers for some reason, there are a lot of really bad or mediocre books that do!

  27. Sue T on March 10, 2010 at 4:06 PM

    >While one poster said that God is taking her in a direction away from self-publishing, I'm wondering if He's leading to self-publish. At least to start. And why I believe this is an answer to your question.

    Until recently, it NEVER cross my mind. Not once. Not even epublishing despite the fact that in 2007 I did publish something on a reputable epublisher. But after a year and a half of devoting time and energy to wooing agents for my paranormal romance and getting the lackluster, you-are-a-talented-writer-and-have-an-interesting-concept-I-just-didn't-love-it-enough spiel is disheartening to put it politely. I wouldn't worry about it except the book has done very well in contests (firsts) and received great comments from readers (not family or friends) and yet, I can't get an agent. I know all about the business – I'm comfortable with the knowledge of how this works. It's this knowledge and experiences that are making me, for the first time ever, think about self-publishing this book. The one that has done so well yet, for whatever reason, an agent won't pick it up. And I've been going the agent route because I believe (believed?) in them. Not to say the ones I've met aren't great – they truly are – but I'm starting to think of them as HR staff in companies whose sole purpose is to put up barriers to prevent me from getting the "job." I've done all the research and work to polish my story and craft. Obviously, I'm missing something but since I can't get someone to tell me what that is – someone reliable in the profession, I'm at a loss and yet, my heart tells me this book will do well.

    Okay, I guess this is enough. I could certainly wax on about it somemore.

    Rachelle, your blog is terrific. Thanks for letting us talk, er, vent. Now I'm going to go and sign up for your webinar 'cause I'd love to have you read some pages. 😀

  28. Timothy Fish on March 10, 2010 at 4:05 PM

    >My experience has been that the general reading public doesn't care whether a book is self-published or not. Most don't pay any attention to the publisher and all they care about is whether the book is good or not. I have yet to meet anyone outside of the publishing community who has said, "I don't read self-published books." I've had people who thought they wouldn't like my books for other reasons. I ran into a guy who just this week said about Searching For Mom, "I didn't think I would like it, but it moves along rather nicely." He didn't say a word about it being self-published.

  29. D.J. Morel on March 10, 2010 at 3:52 PM

    >I think the rise in self-publishing interest is due to two things. First, the advent of print on demand and ebooks have made it easier. Second, a lot of writers work in fast paced industries that make the glacial pace of publishing an utter mystery.

    Though after thinking and blogging and reading about self publishing a great deal, I've decided it's not for me. Just because getting a book out there is easy, doesn't mean self publishing is. Getting a self-published book noticed is a whole lot more work/time than finding a publisher the old fashioned way. When I took a few steps back and reread all my rejections, I saw that they're both encouraging (i.e. please try us again) and have helped me grow and become a stronger writer. The process, glacial as it may be, works.

    That said, if my efforts to bring my work out in a traditional way ultimately fail, it is good to have self publishing as a fallback option. It helps the writing itself make sense, keep it from feeling like it will forever happen in a vacuum.

  30. Anonymous on March 10, 2010 at 3:24 PM

    >Technology is changing the world so fast that people and institutions cannot keep paceand I think that the reality of self-publishing is changing just as fast. A few years back it may have been a place for people who aren't good enough to get published, but that probably isn't the case anymore and will be less so in the future. Everybody needs to look at how much things have changed in the past 10 years, and extrapolate that rate of change into the future. I can easily see a time where all books are self-published e-books and paper books are novelty items. If you want to self publish, read up and go for it! You might just be riding the wave of the future!

  31. Susan Helene Gottfried on March 10, 2010 at 3:14 PM

    >Hey, all you who assume that people self-pub ONLY because they can't write, or that all self-pubbed books are badly edited.

    I'd like to invite those of you who use e-readers to download one (or both) of my story anthologies from Smashwords. They are free until Sunday, thanks to Read an E-Book Week.

    You might be surprised at what you see.

  32. SonshineMusic on March 10, 2010 at 3:13 PM

    >My sister and I are considering self-publishing a series of novellas we are co-writing. For several different reasons, one of the main ones being that they are novellas and from everything I've seen those are nearly impossible to sell to publishers. We're still in the creating stage, but it's definitely something we are considering.

  33. Aimee LS on March 10, 2010 at 2:42 PM

    >My background is in business and branding, where there's one mantra:

    Product is perception.

    Whether we like or not, whether it's true or not, the perception of the self-pubbed book is that it wasn't good enough for traditional publishing.

    As long as that perception persists agents, publishers and most of the reading public won't pay real money for a self-pubbed book.

  34. Jason on March 10, 2010 at 2:36 PM

    >Self publishing has never appealed to me, but I respect people who pursue it so long as they enter it knowing the facts, meaning that they know that statistically they're never going to make their money back.

    The greatest advancements in any society are often made by the people who couldn't or didn't want to go the traditional route (in whatever field). That's one reason I like–it's just a different route for writes to get exposure.

    Can you imagine if Steve Jobs/Bill Gates had believed the traditional powers of their generation when they didn't think the average person wanted a personal computer? Wow!

    There is a lot of frustration among writers who feel like their voice isn't being heard, but as an optimist, I believe some good will come out of it–and it'll be good for the whole industry.

  35. Lisa on March 10, 2010 at 1:59 PM

    >I spent years in a career where my "clients" never quite understood the value of having professional staff with experience in that specific field. It was frustrating not just to me as a professional, but also to see them waste a lot of time and energy trying to do things that the staff ultimately ended up doing, often in a clean up the mess mode.

    At the risk of sounding like a complete suck up, I understand exactly the value in following the traditional publishing route. Here's hoping that a few months from now, I'll be part of the process.

  36. Beverly on March 10, 2010 at 1:51 PM

    >After I wrote my first book I became an independent publisher and published it. I found a great company in New York City that helped me through the process but allowed me to provide my own cover (done by me artist grandson) and book design. I also purchased my own ISBN. I had the first half of the book edited by a professional Christian editor who provided great help. From readers I get feedback that the book is a page turner and they ask when my next book is coming out. I'm working on it. Marketing, of course, is the biggest problem with this route and I'm still trying to get a handle on that but in talking to authors who've had their book published through the publishing house route, many confess they are expected to do much of the marketing and the books don't stay on bookstore shelves for much more than a month or so. My book received a glowing review by Alisha Gee of Sunpiper Book Review without even my knowledge. I think it is a personal decision which route to take and wish it weren't so disparaged by those in the publishing industry.

  37. Reesha on March 10, 2010 at 1:44 PM

    >Wow. So many great perspectives.
    I'd be highly interested in reading a guest post by Sue Collier as well.

    Thanks for the discussions, Rachelle!

  38. 80sMom on March 10, 2010 at 1:30 PM

    >Thanks for your post. It is a joy to peruse your interesting blog.

    I am not interested in self publishing, although I can see an application for this among those who are not so much interested in making an income on their writing, but who instead derive a simple personal satisfaction from seeing their work in print (I guess that's 'vanity' printing at its best!). I would guess it depends on an author's goal. I can tell you that if I were an aspiring writer who could look into a crystal ball and know that i would never be published in the traditional way, I would still want to see my writing in print. Even if it were only one copy, sold to my grandmother! One aspect of feeling you have something to say is that it requires this: a listener.

    Thanks so much, I will be returning here as I work on my current project.

  39. Stephen on March 10, 2010 at 12:57 PM

    >I am an 'independent' publisher as defined by your commenter Sue Collier.

    I was a magazine publisher for ten years; for my own works I established a new publishing company, went through Baker & Taylor, and did targeted marketing to a niche tourist market with a mystery novel with a unique hook of a real treasure hunt built within the plot. The book has sold 8,000 copies to date without a national marketing push.

    The learning curve has produced these observations.

    1. I still am pursuing the NYC publisher because my local niche books would sell well with national exposure.

    2. I do not have the best opinion of literary agents having the best opinion about the growing independent (self) publishig market. Most literary agents seem to go for herd thinking and vilify 'self-publishing' when they should be looking for a few diamonds in the rough to take to a new level.

    I went to setting up my own publishing company after my agent presented my manuscript to be considered as a mass paperback to medium range publishers. I could do better and knew how I wanted the product presented.

    3. Our complete effort after all is a business, the goal to sell books, and many literary agents are too absorbed in the how-to-follow the tried and true rituals of query, rejection suffering, and the luck of the draw. A true independent(self)-publisher is first and foremost a salesman. He skips the waiting period of the publshing cycle and goes for the self-satisfaction of creation of product.

    However, the independent publisher must possess a marketing plan and determination.

    I believe many of the independent publishers are the visionaries (along with the experimenters in new technologies) that the established publishing world must realize are building new audiences. And they should be taken seriously.


  40. JaneGS on March 10, 2010 at 12:33 PM

    >Why did I self-publish? Because I want people to read my stories and they won't if my manuscript sits on the shelf for years while I beg an agent/publisher to consider reading it.

    Most authors published by mainstream publishers don't make a decent living anyway, so going the mainstream route makes no sense unless you're established already.

    I have no regrets–I went totally print on demand, and the cash outlay has been minimal. I thnk I spend more on Starbucks in a year than I do on marketing my books, and my sales are healthy, my reviews in the blogosphere are mostly positive, and I am happy and encouraged by my small success.

  41. Anonymous on March 10, 2010 at 12:29 PM

    >This is the same Anonymous who posted in last week's What Do You Write blog, not the previous "Anonymous" of today, if that could not be more confusing — I agree with and support the above comment by AnnieO 100%, she is stone cold dead on. It IS a snobby country club, unwilling and/or incapable of recognizing new talent especially when it far outstrips that of the existing "club members." This is why self-pubbing is so attractive and such a threat to the traditional industry, and why the traditional industry is doing every single thing it can to limit its potential. Thanks, AnnieO!

  42. Timothy Fish on March 10, 2010 at 12:27 PM

    >Max brings up a good point, if not somewhat ironic. Some of the people who have turned their noses up at self-published books are self-publishing on a daily basis when they post to their blogs. As readers of blogs, we make some judgment about whether a blogger has enough knowledge of the subject to provide meaningful information. We do the same when we purchase books, no matter who publishes them. But not all of the stuff that makes for good blog posts will also make for information that can be marketed in a book. Ultimately, that is the only real difference between self and traditional publishing. The traditional publisher must look for material that people will buy. The self-publisher can publish anything that he thinks should be in a book.

  43. AnnieO on March 10, 2010 at 12:07 PM

    >Most of those I've spoken with who are thinking about self-publishing have reached the conclusion that the publishing world is an elite closed system, hostile to and impossible for a new writer to break into, sort of like a snobby country club. They deeply believe they have something important to say and that self-publishing seems the only way in. I'm not saying I agree, just that that's what I'm hearing.

  44. Jordan on March 10, 2010 at 12:03 PM

    >Self-publishing can be tricky because it's such a compromised industry; a few companies stagger forward with truly excellent books and quality standards while fighting the stigma of POD and poorer outfits of the 90s. Companies like Lulu, Xlibris, and a whole slew of others are often owned by the same parent company, so OF COURSE they're more interested in quantity than quality. It's a scam.

    That said, there are a few self-publishers who have a stringent review process and produce some high-quality stuff. They have access to major channels and the books are professional and the content is edited well. seems pretty legit; I'm sure there are more out there too.

  45. worstwriterever on March 10, 2010 at 11:46 AM

    >Definitely interested in self publishing, thank you for your honest take on it.

    It's not turning your nose down on self pubbing but rather presenting the challenges of it.

    It's like an episode of Teen Mom…warning me that self pubbing is not the easy road I thought it would be.

  46. Anonymous on March 10, 2010 at 11:40 AM

    >Well said, Max!

  47. Max on March 10, 2010 at 11:31 AM

    >Interesting comments, all, though I'm surprised by what seems to me a dismissive response from some commentators here towards the impulse to respond to the trend of DIY ethics and decentralization in the rest of the media world.

    Webcomics are an interesting parallel: the old-line syndicates (like UFS) are seen by many young cartoonists as restrictive, bound by their bottom line, and part of a contracting industry. The web allows creators to publish and monetize content without syndicates. Many of these entrepreneurs don't support themselves with their work, but a surprising number succeed at least enough to make some pocket change and build a small community of readers, which is all many people want to see from their creative work (and all most traditionally published novelists receive, as I gather).

    I too see potential problems with self-publishing, but outside of the lack of QC, which market pressure will take care of — bad writing won't be read in the future much more (or much less) than it is today — most spring from the current lack of a coherent business model & online delivery stream for plaintext fiction rather than from the inherent advantages of traditional publishers. The internet is the gorilla in the room, not old model pay-for-publishing systems. For comparison, witness the renaissance in nonfiction and memoir that has come from the rise of the blog: what is a blog, after all, but a delivery system for self-published nonfiction? Where is the novelist's counterpart?

    (To show my hand, lest speculation muddy the waters: fiction writer w/ published short stories, unpublished at novel length and confidently querying, dedicated reviser, technophile and cautious optimist.)

  48. Anonymous on March 10, 2010 at 11:28 AM

    >I am interested in exploring self-publishing. Actually, Amazon's createspace doesn't look like such a bad deal. They have a package that includes editorial review, cover design, and other extras. I won't do it yet, but it is in the back of my mind. I want to give the traditional route some time, but I figure I only have so much time and if I really want to publish this book, I need to at some point just do it and move on. Createspace books have a wonderful sales channel through the Amazon web site. It is a new model, but the old model is a little broken down – at least clunky sometimes (the time it takes to get it to an agent, then publisher, then market) and then you have to bite the bullet and get out and do everything you can to sell it yourself anyway. So why not. I've bought two self-pubbed books through Amazon. One was a technical manual which was well worth the price and the other was kind of a memoir that was too short (70-80 pages) for traditional publishing. Both didn't look as professional as a regular book, but they were self-published a few years ago. I think technology is catching up to what is possible. I am just waiting for the moment that the next JK Rowling or Stephenie Meyer self-pubs and knocks the whole publishing world on its head. It can happen in this age.

  49. Office Pantau Foundation on March 10, 2010 at 11:26 AM

    >I self-published two books in the USA though I was a published writer in a few countries for years. I wanted to see how my books would do in the USA. I contacted a US publisher who signed me to have one title published next year. So it did work out for me to get a foot on the ground in the USA. Having said that, I would never self-publish again unless I have a million loyal fans.

  50. Michael N. Marcus on March 10, 2010 at 11:16 AM

    >>>He'd paid to print 500 hardcover copies, and was pursuing local and national bookstore chains and distributors.<<

    That's three big mistakes.

    For most self-pubbers it makes much more sense to print on demand, and sell through Amazon and other online booksellers. This way there's much less cost and much less risk.

    Michael N. Marcus

    — president of the Independent Self-Publishers Alliance,

    — author of "Become a Real Self-Publisher: Don’t be a Victim of a Vanity Press,"

    — author of "Stupid, Sloppy, Sleazy. The Strange Story of Vanity Publisher Outskirts Press. How do they stay in business?"

    — author of "Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults)," coming 4/1/10.

  51. Arabella on March 10, 2010 at 10:53 AM

    >Self publishing has a long history, but the model was a little different in the early days. For example, Jane Austen paid a standard publisher to publish her first novel. After the book sold well, the publisher paid her.

    I like the idea of self-publishing, simply because it is so independent. I can't do it, though; I really can't.

    I went to a poetry reading the other day of a self-pubbed author, whose book was absolutely gorgeous. She paid a lot of money to publish her book, and she's getting readings everywhere because she has connections with universities and Hispanic cultural centers. If I were her, I would have self-pubbed, too.

  52. Jill on March 10, 2010 at 10:31 AM

    >These comments have been really insightful and helpful! Although my own projects are nowhere near the submission stage, after reading a couple of self-published books, I'm going to try to go the traditional route, even if it means a lot of rejection.

    The first self-published book I read was poorly written. It felt to me like this book was born from many people telling the author, "You've had such an interesting life. You should write a book about it!" However, the author couldn't write well and couldn't discern what was important about her life to make an interesting story. I have no idea if this author tried to get a traditional publisher, but I could understand why this book would've gotten soundly rejected.

    The second book I bought was from an author's own imprint. The writing is much better, and many parts are really great; however, it could still use a little help from an editor. I believe this author just got tired of the constant rejection and no one willing to take a chance on her. She really wanted her work out there, which is why she self-published.

    Both books have been interesting reading/learning experiences for me as a writer and have made me think long and hard about story construction.

  53. Rachel on March 10, 2010 at 10:25 AM

    >I run a big book review blog (Home Girl's Book Blog). I will review a self-published book with a strong platform, but I will not review vanity publications at all. However, many, many of my fellow book reviewers are chomping at the bit to review and help market self-published books. I was surprised, recently, by the negative response I received by making an official statement about my unwillingness to read/review vanity publications. By the other reviewers, who are not writers! If I were a self-published author, I'd definitely exploit the book blog community.

  54. The Daring Novelist on March 10, 2010 at 10:18 AM

    >Self-publishing is not actually more popular these days (there were always authors who wanted to do it) it's just easier and cheaper.

    As the audience for ebooks grows, it will get cheaper yet.

    I haven't done it myself yet, but since I've been interested in online business and publishing for a while, I'll probably start an experiment this summer with a non-commercial book of mine.

  55. EmilyBryan on March 10, 2010 at 10:16 AM

    >Since my goal is a writing career in fiction, I promised myself I'd never self-publish. For one thing, I don't have enough ego to believe I know better than editors who pick and choose who to publish for a living.

    Then there's the distribution, cover art, the list of tasks involved in a successful book goes on. Writing the book and promoting my brand is enough adventure for me.

  56. Sandra Rose Hughes on March 10, 2010 at 10:11 AM

    >When you don't know anyone in the publishing world and all you get from your query letters is form rejection letters that never in any way tell you why…self-publishing starts to look pretty darn good.

    That being said, it's good for some people, not good for others. I think Walt Whitman did some self-publishing…but he was Walt Whitman. I don't think it sold well for him either.

  57. Richard Gibson on March 10, 2010 at 10:03 AM

    >The front end may be easier (and more attractive) today, with all the online options. But marketing and distribution are just as hard as ever, harder if you include the "possible scam" factors. I self-published a niche book in 1994 when everything was up to me except the printing and binding. I'm happy with that experience, but I have no desire to do it again.

  58. Aleksandr Voinov on March 10, 2010 at 9:52 AM

    >@Shawn: Thanks. You're right on the money.

  59. Shawn Smucker on March 10, 2010 at 9:36 AM

    >I haven't self-published but I would consider it.

    I always find it interesting that so many published authors or authors aspiring to be published through the traditional avenues almost take offense at self-publishing, as if it is somehow cheating the system. A few comments here have said as much, expressing fear, sarcasm or thinly-veiled loathing for a process in which the author would have sole responsibility for the finished product.

    I don't think it's any different than those who choose to record their own cd and sell their music on a website or out of their trunk.

    I think self-publishing is a wonderful revolution. Do I think most self-published books look or read as nice as traditionally published? No. Are they going to sell as many copies? Probably not. But I facilitate a lot of writing workshops and you know what? 99% of the people who come out to learn more about writing, and try to get better, and work really really hard, will never be published by a publishing house. Is it such a bad thing that these people who love to write now have the ability to bind their thoughts in a nice little package and sell 27 copies to family members and friends? No way. In fact, I think it's great.

  60. Beth on March 10, 2010 at 9:26 AM

    >I do not consider self-publishing, because it seems to be a place authors go when they can't produce the quality to attract an editor, they don't want to take the time to improve their craft to the level that would interest an editor, or their material doesn't hold appeal for a large enough audience to justify publication.

    I think people do it because it is technologically easier and cheaper than it used to be and many people want to be published authors.

    There are just a couple of instances in which I believe it has been a good idea for specific authors I know.

  61. Timothy Fish on March 10, 2010 at 9:22 AM

    >Isn’t it a little early in the morning for a cat fight? We all have the tendency to take the attitude that what I do is the best way to do it and anyone who does something different is a deluded fool. I don’t think it is very helpful to draw fine lines between one type of self-publishing and another for the purpose of saying that one is noble and the other isn’t. There’s a big enough argument between self-publishing and traditional publishing. We don’t need to make it worse by having an argument over what kind of printing press we use, who owns the ISBN, who does the cover design or any of that and yet that is essentially what these arguments are about. I don’t think anyone can disagree that the body of self-published works, taken as a whole, approximates the slush piles sitting in the offices of literary agents. Most of it is either junk or has very little market value. None of those fine lines we might draw will do anything to help us differentiate between the typical self-published book and the hidden jewels. (Well, unless we can say that the true Vanity Press puts out a slightly higher quality.) At the end of the day, the real question is whether they author is providing something of value to the reader. All the rest of it is just ways to say, “My level of incompetence is better than your level of incompetence.”

  62. Matilda McCloud on March 10, 2010 at 9:20 AM

    >I have considered self-publishing–I work for a printer, I have a friend who is a book cover designer, I've worked as a proofreader for years. I figure I could produce something professional. But I know it would mainly be to give copies to friends/family. It's hard to self-publish fiction successfully.

    Where I work, we always recommend that people start with a SMALL quantity of books to begin with–not more than a hundred. You can always reprint and you won't have to pay set-up costs again. You don't have to fill up your garage with unsold books anymore.

  63. Cynthia Schuerr on March 10, 2010 at 9:18 AM

    >I have considered it, but only if I can't get traditional publishing by the time I am ready to meet my maker. 🙂 Then I would love for my children to have a copy. Then, and only then, would I self publish.

    I'm sure there are reputable self-publishing company's out there, but for the most part, I would fear a scam. Like most writers, there is a sense of pride in what I write and while needing to be flexible in handling rejection, I think having someone tell me that my book is great enough to be published means a lot.

    Thanks you for this post and warm wishes to you.

  64. Gina on March 10, 2010 at 9:10 AM

    >"Why do you think self-publishing is becoming so popular these days?"

    Well, sitting here with a book that I put blood, toil, tears, and sweat into, and that's not going to sell, I can think of a reason . . .

  65. Rachelle on March 10, 2010 at 9:08 AM

    >Sue Collier: Email me if you'd like to do a guest post to help my readers understand what you're talking about.

  66. Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought on March 10, 2010 at 8:44 AM

    >Love the monkey and the word flummoxed!

    I have considered self-publishing. I'm an open-minded person. But after great consideration and research I've chosen a different path.

    I can't speak for those who do go the self-pub. route b/c I haven't, but my guess is they believe they can make it work and they believe in their story/proposal enough to give it a go. They also must have the financial resources and connections.

    I think there is something to be said for patience. I believe this word and this topic are intertwined.
    ~ Wendy

  67. Aleksandr Voinov on March 10, 2010 at 8:40 AM

    >@Sue: Thank you. Great point.

    I'm a little amused that I'm a "viable author" when I publish my stuff with Germany's biggest paperback publisher, Heyne, but a "self-deluded amateur looking for a way to quickly scratch that impatient itch" when I sell my stuff direct via Smashwords (release there: "Spoils of War") or Lulu ("Test of Faith").

    That ability and willingness to lump us all in with people who can't write one clear sentence to save their lives – that's hard to swallow. I do pursue more traditional print publishing and I'm seeking an agent for my English-language stuff (hence me coming upon this blog and reading up on how to do that), but I have a track record that's not exactly that of a self-deluded fool. It's sad that there are so many generalisations out – I dare assume that every self-published author has their own reasons to pursue reaching their audience how they see fit.

    In between my self-published stuff and my "commercially published" stuff, I see no difference in quality. If anything, I'm getting better over the years and that's what really counts for a writer.

  68. Marla Taviano on March 10, 2010 at 8:37 AM

    >If it comes to that, I'll self-publish the book I'm writing about our Big Zoo Trip. I know I can sell hundreds of copies to friends, family and blog readers. Plus, I speak to groups of women 2-5 times a month. Plus, I have at least 52 zoos (and probably many more) that have already said they'd stock the book in their gift shops.

    However, it's definitely a last resort. And I'll still be pursuing traditional publication for all future book projects.

    Great post, Rachelle!

  69. Jim Marr on March 10, 2010 at 8:32 AM

    >The reason I'm in the process of "custom publishing" my story is that my writing came about because of the story. I'm not otherwise motivated (at the moment at least) to keep writing. I'm not seeking to make a living at writing so my inspiration comes more from a ministry opportunity to share a message–and leave the rest to God. I agree 100% with Rachelle's points about self-publishing and pray that each of you keeps seeking that purpose that God has put before you!


  70. Sue Collier on March 10, 2010 at 8:31 AM

    >I have to disagree with much of this article from the standpoint of truly self-published authors. And by that, I mean authors who start up their own publishing company imprint, obtain their own ISBN prefix, and oversee that all aspects of editing and design are done professionally. Books published in this way cannot readily be identified as “self-published.” They are “independently” published. For authors who go the Lulu or iUniverse route—yes, much of this article is true; these books really don’t have a chance in the book marketplace, and they sell very few copies.

    Self-published authors who do it correctly CAN get into traditional distribution channels. Through membership in such groups as IBPA, independent publishers are able to work with Baker and Taylor, for instance. Of course, it is up to the publisher/author to create demand for their books from the consumer level because distributors/wholesalers do little to market books. Marketing and promotions by the author are key—whether books are self- or traditionally published. (It usually comes as a shock to traditionally published authors that publishers do little to market most of their titles.)

    As far as promotions publishers have access to—“purchasing space on front and center tables in Barnes & Noble—how many of their authors are getting this? The James Pattersons of the publishing world will get this treatment; the average midlist author likely will not anyway.

    I would also venture to say that the odds of any published book becoming a NYT bestseller are staggeringly slim. Most authors—whether self- or traditionally published—should have more realistic goals. And there are certainly plenty of other “bestseller lists” to which they can aspire.

    As far as selling a self-pubbed book becoming a full-time job—well, wouldn’t this be true for any book that needs to be marketed? Again, most publishers do little to promote the majority of the books on their list, focusing on the few moneymakers; it is primarily left up to the authors.

    I do agree with the recommendation for authors to self-publish if they have some decent channels through which to sell books—and if they’ve got a good platform already established. (Of course, platform is becoming more and more important to traditional publishers as well.)

    As someone who has worked with self-publishing authors for more than a decade (and who was involved in trade publishing for a decade before that), I am truly bothered by the fact that POD “self-publishing” is now being lumped together with true self-publishers. They are not one and the same—no matter how many times these “subsidy” presses say it is so. Paying to publish and publishing by starting one’s own publishing company are two different things. I work with authors who are doing the latter; these authors make thoughtful decisions about all aspects of production of their books, and these books stand up to any other on the bookstore shelf—because yes, their books are available in brick and mortar bookstores.

    As self-publishing continues to grow in popularity (and I believe it will), we must educate people so they understand the POD digital publishers are really just vanity publishers masquerading as self-publishers. Unfortunately, they are also trading on the respectable reputation legitimate self-publishers have created.

  71. Lisa Jordan on March 10, 2010 at 8:24 AM

    >Self-publishing works in certain situations such as publishing a family reunion cookbook, workbooks for a conference or retreat, or a family history for personal use. I've tried to read a few self-published novels, but struggled with the quality of the writing.

    Sometimes writers are too impatient to work toward publication. The writing road can be long and tiring, filled with discouragement and frustration, but if writers would stay the course to improve their writing, they will see the fruits of their labors.

  72. Matthew Sheehy on March 10, 2010 at 8:02 AM

    >Self-publishing has become popular for some writers because they don't see their flaws and think too highly of their skills. They think that the professionals cannot discern their talent, so they turn to self-publishing.

  73. Sharon A. Lavy on March 10, 2010 at 8:02 AM

    >Thank you for another thought provoking post, Rachelle.

  74. Timothy Fish on March 10, 2010 at 7:57 AM

    >While there are many reasons why an author might choose to self-publish, I believe the main reason that self-publishing has grown in popularity recently is because it is now easier and cheaper to self-publish than what it is to go through a traditional publisher. Not to mention much less stressful.

    It used to be that the self-publisher either had to have a few thousand dollars to pay someone who knew what he was doing to do the work or he had to know a thing or two about typesetting, preparing photo ready pages, choosing a printer, cover design, etc. At the end of the printing process, he would end up with a garage full of books that he had to get rid of somehow. He had to sell several hundred books to break even. But today, anyone can self-publish a book for as little as $8 and can break even by selling as few as 2 books (For a cost breakdown, see The Cost of the New CreateSpace). On top of that, he can still park his car in the garage.

    In comparison, we have traditional publishing which pretty much requires getting a literary agent, which is difficult in and of itself. Attending writers’ conferences appears to be almost a requirement, requiring the expenditure of several hundred dollars. Upon obtaining an agent, there is no guarantee that a publisher will be interested, but once a publisher is obtained and the book is in print, the author now has a requirement to sell several hundred or even several thousand copies because the publisher isn’t going to be very happy if the author doesn’t bring in enough to cover the advance. Then the book goes out of print, and the author may still end up with a garage full of books.

  75. rina_grant on March 10, 2010 at 7:57 AM

    >Thank you very much for such a concise explanation!

    I've just had a similar discussion in my blog and I was surprised how many aspiring writers believe that THEY KNOW BETTER than agents or editors. That really surprised and upset me. Obviously, there's a lot of people out here who think that editors look at everything from a marketing prospective and are not interested in truly "inspired" work because — surprise — it's not commercial enough. These are the people who are prepared to take the self-pub route (and are quite prepared to go and sell their book in the street, as one of them admitted) simply because they, in their arrogance, believe all that editors do is "stifle their muse".

    I'm afraid, as more computer-literate people get addicted to "creative writing", this tendency might grow.

  76. Aleksandr Voinov on March 10, 2010 at 7:54 AM

    >In the times of and, absolutely nobody has to pay to get published. I have design-savvy friends that can make me a good-looking cover, and I have very good editors and beta and a good track record. When moving form writing German to writing English, I had to completely re-start creating an audience, but I enjoy it, it's fun and I get to interact way more with readers this way. The life of a print published author in a niche market can be pretty lonely… these days, not a day passes that I'm not getting emails from my audience. I enjoy this far more, and like 99% of all writers, I have a rent-paying job. betting on "living off writing" seems to my like playing the lottery. Doesn't appeal to my rational nature, and I'm on the fringe and in an tiny, tiny niche anyway.

  77. Carradee on March 10, 2010 at 7:49 AM

    >I believe the other posters are hitting why people are seeking self-publishing. Also, for some reason—the companies involved market harder, perhaps?—many people apparently believe that you're supposed to pay to get published. Therefore, I've found myself telling everyone who tells me they're thinking about or actually writing their first book that they shouldn't pay for publication, and their response is usually "Really?".

    I've posted a short story and a few poems online—I'm actually in the process of redoing my website to have them there—but I also seek traditional publication. When I finish my novels, I'll seek traditional publication for most of them, too. There's one (series) that I'm seriously considering self-publishing, but if I do that, I'll blog it as a serial novel. (And use free/cheap tools to make the print and alternate electronic versions, if it does well enough to get that far.)

    My reason isn't to see it in publication now, but I'm curious how much of an audience a 'no-name' could build if she tried.

  78. Nicole on March 10, 2010 at 7:46 AM

    >It is popular and I have considered it briefly but it's not feasible for me. I don't have the cash flow or a way to sell it. I think publishing works better as a team effort: publisher, agent, author.

  79. Krista Phillips on March 10, 2010 at 7:46 AM

    >I've never considered self-publication, nor will I. It just doesn't fit my goal for writing, and isn't something I feel God leading me towards.

    I think sometimes we get impatient, frustrated with the whole traditional publishing scene. But for me, it would be giving up, or taking the matter into my own hands.

    SO I'll write, work hard, and keep plugging along as I am:-)

  80. Susan Helene Gottfried on March 10, 2010 at 7:45 AM

    >I'm hoping to have my third self-pubbed book out next month.

    I am lucky enough to fall into that grey area where publishers think I won't make them enough of a profit, yet I have those channels — and a readership who wants to read what I'm writing. (They demanded I bring them my books, in fact, or I'd still be trying to market them to agents/editors.)

    I won't say this is the perfect way to go. The advantages of the royalty-paying, cover-art-making, edit-providing, bookstore-contact-holding publishers are huge. But… so are the disadvantages (I've seen WAY too many good writers sunk due to perceptions of low sales, for instance).

    Yet on the other hand, I am having a great time participating in Read an e-Book Week. I've had great sales over the first three days. And I don't have to argue and plead my case to give away free copies of my books to deployed servicemen and -women via Operation e-Book Drop.

    Regardless of who is publishing my books, however, I'm reaching my audience — and watching it grow. This is, ultimately, what it's about. And I'm making money, too. Bonus.

  81. Aleksandr Voinov on March 10, 2010 at 7:39 AM

    >I've written a book I'm considering self-publishing, after my agent told me "brilliant book, great characters, great setting, really good writing – absolutely no mainstream market for it" and a publisher (the largest one in my tiny gay niche) told me "this is sooo depressing, the themes are so harsh, and the economy is so bad we won't publish anything that deals with casual drug taking and suicide attempts."

    (The funny bit is, casual drugs and suicides are part of the setting – financial thriller set in the financial scene in London, circa 2008…. sorry, but any book set there NOT dealing with sex, drugs and suicides is simply not "getting" the setting).

    But I disgress. I've sold plenty of stories to "proper" publishers – both print and ebook – but sometimes around comes a story that's simply not commercial. Rather than kill it or not write it, I'm using my website to sell it to my readers, who, hopefully come to my website/blog to check it out.

    I may only sell 200 copies of that book, but if I have to decide between killing the book and giving it to some people that will love it, I know how to get the book to them.

  82. Emily Ashton on March 10, 2010 at 7:36 AM

    >I agree with Amy Sue Nathan and a few others above.
    I think the world of YouTube, blogging and instant access to everything make self-publishing appealing.
    I deal with teenagers everyday. Their first instinct is to video something interesting and post it on youtube or blog about it. Everything is instant access. Like, photography for example. They have no idea what it is like to wait to see what the picture they just took looks like, it is right there on the camera, or the phone. With a few clicks, they can vastly improve the quality of a picture and turn it into a slide show everyone loves.
    I can see where it would carry over to a completed manuscript. The thought process of :
    "I wrote this. It is good. I edited it a few times. I want everyone to see it now. So, should I wait months or possibly years to see it in print or should I just do it myself now?"

  83. Amy Sue Nathan on March 10, 2010 at 7:10 AM

    >I think some people self-publish because many of us grew up in a "you can do anything" era. That's not a bad thing, but it also coincides with the culture of immediate gratification. So if a writer 'thinks' his or her book is good enough to be published – then it is. And he or she is going to publish it NOW.

    If I can't be published by a large publisher, I'll shoot for a small publisher. I'll try e-publishers after that. If that fails I'll make copies and pass it out to friends. To me, most self-publishing defeats the purpose of why I (it's personal, this is just me) want to be – and how I want to be – published.

  84. Talewright on March 10, 2010 at 6:44 AM

    >I finished a YA alternative world novel in 2007 featuring anthropomorphic animals. A friend of mine is PR director for a zoo, and the zoo was having a book fest featuring books that centered on animals.

    I was convinced to self-publish the book and did so.

    I spent two months on editing and design and was quite pleased with the design and such. I sold a few copies, but not enough to recoup my time and expense.

    To protect myself, I got a copyright and and ISBN.

    As I've tried to sell the novel over the past three years, I've received several responses from agents and editors telling me they don't consider books that have been self-published.

    I've seen that trend change in the past year. I now have two interested parties in my book and hope to hear good news soon.

    I won't self-publish again on such a large scale as I don't want to use my time and energy doing things that agents, editors, art directors, et al are best at doing.

    I want to spend my time and energy telling tales.

    I do self-publish small stuff–short stories for holidays or special occasions for family and fans. These are fun to do and not very time consuming. Perhaps some day they'll be collector's items.

    A successful self-publisher is uber-motivated, a salesman and promoter first and writer second–someone who makes a Toastmaster look shy.

    Most writers are not built this way and will best serve their craft writing good tales.

  85. Rik on March 10, 2010 at 5:01 AM

    >Wow – talk about serendipity. I did a post to my blog just yesterday announcing to the world (well, both my blog readers) that I've decided to 'independently publish' my book. I'll be blogging about the experience over the coming weeks.

    Yet everything Rachelle says about self-publishing is Good Advice. I'd strongly recommend people not to self-pub unless they really know what they're doing and – more importantly – why they're doing it.

  86. Ellen B on March 10, 2010 at 4:43 AM

    >I think that some writers start out seeing 'the system' (ie, traditional publishing and everyone who works in it, for it and close to it) as 'the enemy' because these people have the power to say no. So I think they believe anything that means they don't have to be evaluated, judged and potentially rejected is a good thing. I've come across young writers who say 'I won't even bother with traditional publishers, they don't give new writers a chance' without testing the hypothesis.

    Also, I think in other art forms, like music, there is a distribution network that doesn't involve the traditional producers (record labels) so people extrapolate from that and assume the same is true for writing. The DIY, artists-doing-it-for-themselves-and-retaining-control attitude is very attractive, and for good reason, and it works in some industries, but fiction writing doesn't seem to be one of them. Certainly not yet.

  87. writer jim on March 10, 2010 at 3:37 AM

    >From day one I knew I would self publish my book (it regards America's future) if I didn't find a publisher.
    I have spent over a decade gaining the trust of influencial leaders in government, large religious organizations, and the media–they have come to believe in my book, and tell me they'll help promote it.
    I figured I could selfpublish and distribute around 10,000 copies to the 10,000 most influencial people in America for about $50,000. Although I am not very wealthy, I could and would do this, out of love for my country.

  88. Andrew on March 10, 2010 at 2:50 AM

    >Considered self-pub, rejected same.

    Personally, I think it's a scam. You can't buy acceptance any more than you can buy a friend.

  89. The Alliterative Allomorph on March 10, 2010 at 2:41 AM

    >I can only go by what thoughts have crossed my mind about self publishing, but I'm pretty sure it has to do with writers not having the patience to seek agents/publishers and then wait for answers – or the fact that they have tried to find representation but have failed and haven't been able to accept the fact, that perhaps their book still needs polishing.

    They want their book published NOW. They want to see, what they've spent years perfecting in print NOW. No more waiting – can't wait anymore! But realistically, what I've come to realise is, so, what?, I've spent years perfecting my novel. The novel isn't going to run away if I wait another couple of years (or 20!) to get it published the old-fashioned way. Because in the meantime, I can strengthen my writing skills, write another book, then perhaps realise that I can make my first book so much better after having that extra couple of years of practice. After all, if you are a true writer, you don't do it for the fame and glory and wealth that some authors manage to succeed in acheiving – you do it becasue it's your passion, and you love it. And even if you have to find the time in between your day job, and the housekeeping, you still do find time, because it's what you love to do. Seeing your book, in print, and not getting distributed properly because you are impatient will not only end up depressing you, it will waste away the time that you could be writing more and getting better at it. At least that's how I look at it 🙂

  90. T. Anne on March 10, 2010 at 2:40 AM

    >Perhaps it's popular due to the highly competative climate of publishing right now. Not only that, but there are great websites that promise you the world and make it all sound so easy. Buyer beware.

    I agree with every point you made, and I might even tack on the idea of really reconsidering some small presses. Distributorship is key.