Is Self Publishing for Everyone?

A self published author I know, a lively, go-getting character, posted on a Facebook I run about how fed up he is with the stigma around self publishing. He was published by a traditional publisher, but found he sold far more copies as a self published author. Yet he felt that self published authors like him were looked down upon for not being with an established publisher. Several self published authors then shared their positive experience of self publishing, and the general feeling was that self publishing was now a force to be reckoned with and snobbery should be set aside.

I would certainly agree with that. I self published copies of my novel after the publisher I had stopped printing copies. I did enjoy the control that came with self publishing, but I’ll still be trying for an established publisher next time. I still nurture fantasies of lunch with my editor in a swanky restaurant.


editor lunch
Toasting success with a future editor.

I regularly recommend self publishing as an option at my creative writing workshops. But I also believe it’s not for everyone. Here are three instances when I believe self publishing is not a good idea.

If you write literary fiction

I read an article in The Guardian which said that self publishing worked for most genres –  except delicate literary fiction. The trouble with literary fiction is that it’s quiet and understated, and needs the gentle push of  a publisher to make its voice heard. Also, unlike other genres, it doesn’t follow strict rules, so you’re creating each book from scratch. This takes up a lot of headspace. If that headspace is taken up with worries about how you’re going to get your book out, it will affect the quality of the work. Using an established publisher at least takes that concern away.

If selling gives you the shivers

Some authors are naturally quite commercially minded, and those authors tend to make very successful self publishers. As I said, you need to be able to shout loudly to be heard as a self published author. Some authors have neither the personality or the inclination needed to do that shouting. You do have to do your own publicity when you have an established publisher as well, but at least they will do the basics for you, and this gives you a leg up.

If you don’t have a specific audience

Self publishing works really well if you are writing for a defined audience. You can learn who that audience is, what they want and how to deliver it to them. You can narrow your focus and tailor your sales approach to that audience. If you write books that are very general, it will be hard for you to find people to target, and to compete with authors who know what readers they want to reach. Having an established publisher behind you gives you a platform to reach a wider audience, and from that experience, you may discover which readers favour your book.

What do you think? Is self publishing a go-to for every author? Or are there authors whose work is more suited to an established publishing model?


One thought on “Is Self Publishing for Everyone?

  1. I believe the option to self-publish if a good piece of writing can’t find a traditional publishing niche is an perfect opportunity to get the work out there; so in that respect, I’m all for choices. I’ve read a number of such excellent books.

    However, there are definitely authors whose work is not just suited to, but actually NEEDS, an established publishing model.

    Here’s where the rubber meets my road: as an inveterate reader who can devour a book in a few hours (and who has some 600 ebook titles on her iPad), I have a bone to pick with self-published authors who don’t bother to have their work edited by someone who knows what (s)he is doing prior to tossing it out there into an unsuspecting world of readers–for the most part, paying customers, I might add.

    The freedom to self-publish a book is not the freedom to settle for sloppy writing, poor grammar and a complete bypassing of the rules of punctuation just so you can say that you’re an author.

    I can’t tell you how many books I’ve waded through where the author’s IDEA may have had great potential, but whose actual writing needed intense remedial work. In these cases, slogging the work to traditional publishers might have resulted in a book that, after proper editing and rewriting, was as elegant as the original idea.

    Speaking solely as a reader, the way the self-publishing world is set up now, my word to the wise is this: caveat emptor!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s