‘The Overselling Of Self-Publishing': New Perspective

Image - iStockphoto: Inna Felker
Image – iStockphoto: Inna Felker

‘A Serious Epidemic Of Impatience’

 Here in New York City where BookExpo America (BEA) is holding the focus of many in the traditional publishing establishment, a friend and I were finishing lunch at Café Luxembourg when the waiter approached.

“I overheard you guys talking about publishing,” he said. “I wondered if you could give me any advice about self-publishing versus the regular way. What I really want to know is can I just go ahead and self-publish first?”

This question is so prevalent among writers, that another great friend and colleague, Jane Friedman, this week has addressed it.

Jane Friedman
Jane Friedman

Her write-up is How To Secure A Traditional Book Deal By Self-Publishing at Writer Unboxed. She’s a regular contributor at the site, as am I. She’ll also be speaking at BEA’s International Digital Publishing Forum’s Digital Book 2015 Conference Thursday, having kindly agreed to moderate, at my request, a panel on the rise of online social communities.

In her article at Writer Unboxed, Friedman reveals the chief inquiry she gets from writers who want to avail themselves of her services as a specialist in publishing today and as the former publisher of F+W Media’s Writer’s Digest:

By far, the No. 1 consulting request I receive is the author who has self-published and wants to switch to traditional publishing. Usually it’s because they’re disappointed with their sales or exposure; other times, that was their plan all along.

In terms of author politics, this is interesting.

We’ve been accustomed to hearing many earnest and respected proponents of self-publishing position it as something they want to do. Some, in fact, as we’ve discussed here, seem at times to be more interested in promoting self-publishing itself than in a given author’s specific needs or interests as creative people and careerists.

While Friedman doesn’t take on the political climate around the self-publishing debate, she does take on its effects, writing:

Today, with the overselling of self-publishing, too many authors either:

  1. Decide they won’t even try to traditionally publish, even if they have a viable commercial project, or

  2. Assume it’s best to self-publish first, and get an agent or publisher later.

Friedman, in fact, suggests that the stigma that self-publishers today like to say is disappearing from self-publishing might have been helpful:

Back in ye olden days of self-publishing (before ebooks), the message to authors was so much simpler: Don’t self-publish a book unless you intend to definitively say “no” to traditional publishing for that project. Yes, there was a stigma, and in some ways, it helped authors avoid a mistake or bad investment.

As Friedman is pointing out, such a  guard rail seems to be evaporating. The self-publishing route is considered by many to be the first option.

David Corbett
David Corbett

In comments, she gets quick agreement from author and editor David Corbett, too, another of our contributor-colleagues at Writer Unboxed:

I intend to save this and provide it to my editing clients, since so many of them feel too impatient to go the traditional publishing route, often without wanting to admit that agents and publishers have managed to resist their work so far for a perfectly understandable reason.

The idea that self-publishing first and getting an agent or publisher later, Friedman writes, “is one of the worst assumptions in the community right now.”

And to those who “decide they won’t even try to traditionally publish, even if they have a viable commercial project,” she writes: “We have a serious epidemic of  impatience.”

You see that everywhere in commentary between writers, continual chatter about how woefully slow the traditional publishing machine is to get something to market, how much faster it is to self-publish.

She’s right. Impatience. And it can cause you to circumvent a route that might have been a good one for you.

Read More


There’s more: Read the full story at Thought Catalog

By Porter Ander­son

Writing on the Ether:  ‘The Overselling Of Self-Publishing’: New Perspective

Originally published by Thought Catalog at www.ThoughtCatalog.com



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