These are the reasons why I've heard you should not self-publish. (And my answers to them.)
Reason: You'll publish crap. You'll get a reputation for bad writing and no one will buy your books.
Answer: Don't publish crap. Seriously, it's that easy. You have total control over this aspect.
Reason: But writers are too close to their work to realize they can't write worth a darn. It takes years of submitting and getting rejection letters to figure out you need to improve.
Answer: Don't use agents and publishers as your sounding board. Join a critique group. Get specific advice from veteran writers. Critique others, you'll see what isn't working in other work more easily than your own. Pick up some books on the craft of writing fiction, and study them. Take the time to do it right. There's nothing magical about getting rejection letters that makes you a better writer. That's just silly.
Reason: Self-published books are riddled with typos and errors. Do you really want to be lumped in with those?
Answer: Don't publish a book that is riddled with typos and errors. If your book is clean, no one will lump it in with the ones full of errors. Hire an editor. Utilize beta readers. Get as many eyes on the book as you can before you click to publish. And if (heaven forbid) you find an error after you publish, fix it and upload the file again.
Reason: You'll never sell any books, and you'll die in obscurity.
Answer: Why would you not sell any books? If you really believe your book isn't good enough to sell, you probably shouldn't self-publish, or even query agents. There are plenty of other authors selling well on the Kindle/Nook. You literally have millions of potential customers who can purchase your book with one click. And as more ereaders sell, the potential audience increases.
Reason: But ebooks are only 8%* of the market. (*Or substitute whatever % is currently being used.)
Answer: Which traditionally published author sells to 100% of the market? There are over 8 million Kindles out there, not to mention the Nook and all of the other ereaders, or the people reading ebooks on their phones and ipads. If you sold to 1% of just the Kindle owners, you'd sell 80,000 books. In fact, I just crossed that mark. Believe me, if that's all you ever sold, that will be more than a lot of traditionally published authors.
Reason: You won't earn enough to make a living.
Answer: Some indie authors are actually earning a living on their books. Some are not. The same can be said for traditionally published authors. I took an unscientific poll over on Kindleboards and asked how many indies were earning a living on their self-published works. 110 people took the pole. 19 of those people said they were earning a living. That's 17.3%. Here's what's even more encouraging. 12 more people said they were almost earning a living. That equals 28.2% who are either earning a living or almost earning a living. And on average ebook sales continue to grow. Plus writers usually are working on more novels to put up for sale. These percentages will only get better as time goes on.
Reason: If you self-publish, you give up your first rights.
Answer: If you traditionally publish, you give up your first rights too. The question is, which way will actually bring in more money? At the end of this month, I'll have made over $30,000 on one 99 cent book. And that's not the end of the road. I can sell my book for years to come. Does giving up your first rights mean you won't ever be able to sell your book to a traditional publisher if that's what you want? No. Just look at DB Henson, Michael Sullivan, Boyd Morrison, and all the other authors who have sold their books after self-publishing.
Reason: If your book doesn't sell, you'll have ruined your chances for traditional publishing.
Answer: First off, why do you keep insisting the book won't sell? If it's not good enough to sell, go back to the beginning of this post and read about making your book better. If the book is good, I mean really good, but it's still not selling then get some advice about the cover/blurb/price. Does the cover fit the genre? Does it look like other covers from the traditional market? Does the blurb pull you in, and make you want to read more? Is the price too high? The best thing about self-publishing an ebook is you have total control over these things. And if all of these things are perfect, maybe you're not marketing the book in an effective way. How many book bloggers have reviewed the book? Have you done blog interviews? Are you active on social media websites? Even if your book languishes in a trickle of sales for months, that doesn't mean it has to stay that way forever. Just one person posting that they enjoyed your book on their blog could spur a floodgate of sales. And if you sell well, you could get a traditional publishing contract, like the authors mentioned above.
Reason: You'll spend money on hiring a cover artist and an editor that you won't ever make back.
Answer: Forever is a long time to sell something. If you spent $500 on cover art and an editor, you'll have to sell 1,429 books at 99 cents each to earn that money back. If you sell your book for a year, that equals roughly 4 sales a day. If you sell it for two years, that's only 2 sales a day. And most books are selling more and more each month. Honestly this one goes back to believing in the sales potential of your book again.
Reason: You'll never get the recognition that you deserve if you self-publish.
Answer: Do you want recognition or sales/income? (By the way, I'm not so sure that assumption is correct. I made the USA Today and the NYT's best seller lists with my self-published ebook. That was pretty good recognition for me. And I've seen other self-published books crop up on there too.)
Reason: There's no prestige with self-publishing.
Answer: There's no prestige with cleaning toilets either, but I did that for a while to pay the bills.
Reason: You never addressed the fact that if you jump the gun and publish crap you'll ruin your name.
Answer: Okay, I admit, some self-published books need work. However, most of them don't sell well. How does selling a few copies a month of your book ruin your name? No one knows who you are and no one knows you published a poorly written book. And if for some reason you sell four million copies of your utter garbage, and everyone knows you as a hack, you just became a millionaire. You can afford to take time off and learn to write better, and publish future books under a pen name.
After having said all that, I will add that I don't think traditional publishing is bad. There are great reasons why someone would go that route. If you have an offer from a publisher, you have choices and that's fantastic. The more choices you have the better off you are. But 99% of the writers out there won't have the choice to traditionally publish. Their choice is to query agents and publishers for years and gather up piles of rejections, or self-publish. (Or pay a lot of money to vanity publish, but we won't go into that today.) The hard truth is there are just too many good books out there to all find homes with agents and publishers. So I'm not against traditional publishing. I'm for taking your future into your own hands and making something of yourself.
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