In defence of self-publishing

I’ve just read an article in Brian Keene’s World Domination 101 blog entitled “Self-Publishing Swine.” The title pretty much sums up Keene’s attitude to self-publishing. I’m a big defender of the self-publishing route, so I thought I’d give a rebuttal to Keene’s three main reasons for avoiding self-publishing.

Reason #1 not to self-publish: You need an editor

I agree with the point. Every author is his own worst editor. But there is nothing stopping any writer from paying a professional editor to give his manuscript the red-pen treatment. All right, I admit that most self-published authors don’t do this, and it gives rise to an ocean of sub-standard fiction, but the answer is not to avoid self-publishing. The answer is to get editorial input, make whatever improvements are needed, then self-publish. I have no doubt that Keene made this point because he observed that in 99% of cases a self-published work is an unedited work, but there’s nothing stopping any writer from being that other one percent.

Reason #2 not to self-publish: You need an audience

“How do you attract readers?” asks Keene. Well, you market your book, of course. That means you sit for an hour or two with the Yellow Pages in front of you and you phone bookstore after bookstore, and the next day you load up the car and make the deliveries. You contact your local newspapers and TV stations, and get them to do a piece on you. You do all the things that a publisher/publicist would do for you. Whatever it takes to get the sales moving. I’ll admit, 99% of the time self-published authors won’t do the work, or have unrealistic expectations about how much they’ll have to do. Like I said above, be the other one percent.

Reason #3 not to self-publish: You need to be taken seriously

Oh yes, I’ve heard about the stigma attached to self-publishing, that it’s not regarded as true publishing. But I’ve had very little experience of being at the butt end of this attitude – only self-inflicted experience. When I self-published my first novel, Ulterior, a few guest-invites for sci-fi conventions landed at my doorstep, and I turned them all down because I felt like a fake, even though no one was treating me like one. Nevertheless, I’ll admit that the stigma is real, and I’m not surprised it’s there, because, let’s face it, a lot of self-published novels are dung. But my experience of marketing my own novel has been universally positive. Nobody ever said, “Pah! You’re just one of those self-published writers.” It amazes me that you can be taken seriously as an independent artist or filmmaker, but for some reason there’s supposed to be something wrong with being an independent author.

In three years I sold my complete stock of 1,000 copies of Ulterior, an average of one book sale per day. Not exactly enough to make a living from, but then that was never the point. It’s a result, and it justifies everything I’ve been saying above. There are no shelves full of unsaleable books in my home. And I’m getting ready to do it all again.

The defence rests.

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