The Paradox of Self-Publishing

At AWP this spring, most of the agents and editors were not in favor of self-publication. The reason?  It provides the author with a track record and if your sales are poor, you’re less likely to be picked up by an agent or receive a conventional book contract.  But is that really the case?  And could self-publishing be any worse than publishing a book with a press that doesn’t do that well?

If the self-published book does well your options expand considerably.  Consider this from the LA Times:

“By the time a self-published author has made a success of his or her book,” [Laura] Miller observes, “all the hard stuff is done, not just writing the manuscript but editing and the all-important marketing. Instead of investing their money in unknown authors, then collaborating to make their books better and find them an audience, publishers can swoop in and pluck the juiciest fruits at the moment of maximum ripeness.”

So it seems that it’s just not enough to be a talented writer, one must either impress an agent and make it out of the slush pile or become a literary Don Draper and market your way to success.

Either way, it’s a slog.

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1 Comment

  1. I think there is still a long way to go even if you get picked up by a traditional publisher. It’s still not a done deal to get great sales of your book. In a way it’s more difficult as the book will cost more and there be more pressure on you to succeed.

    I think the days are long gone when the author wrote the book and sat back and waited. Traditional publishers expect you to do a lot of the work, the advertising budgets reserved for the more famous authors so you’ll still be expected to do the blogging and the signings (that you might have to organise yourself) the interviews etc.

    I can see why agents etc don’t like self-publishing. It cuts them out of the loop as well. Self-publishing all singing all dancing writers don’t need them on the initial stages of their journey either.

    Sorry, felt like a bit of a rant there :)

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