In The Beginning…

Many years ago, I self-published a book. It was horrible—the book, not the experience. Actually, the experience wasn’t that great either. But I learned a lot, so I count it as a plus.

I went into it thinking that my book was going to sell like hotcakes. Never mind that I didn’t hire a professional editor to help me revise it. And forget the fact that I designed the cover myself. I was sure that book would be a breakout wonder.

It didn’t. Nor did it deserve to.

I got caught up in the excitement of DIY. I could do it! If I didn’t know it, I could figure it out. I was smart, right? Why bother to hire professionals or jump through hoops to find a publisher when I could do it all myself.


I ended up feeling frustrated and bitter.

And I wasn’t alone. The vast majority of indie authors I know (and whom I love and respect and cherish) have been caught up in the same fervor and made similar mistakes with similar results.

Why Some Authors Go Indie

A lot of indie authors complain about the stigma associated with self-publishing. They feel this stigma is unfair.

I read a LOT of indie fiction and I hate to say it, but this stigma is largely earned. Too many indie authors self-publish before they’ve really learned their craft and don’t bother to hire editors and cover artists to polish the work. I’ve put down countless books because of clumsy prose, info dumps, bad grammar, cardboard characters and unnatural dialogue.

I ask indie authors why they self-publish. The answers I get back are because they wanted the greater freedom to write their own stories. They wanted to earn more per book. They wanted to see their books on Amazon now, not years down the line. They don’t want to have to bother crafting a query and a synopsis and sending it out over and over receiving one rejection after another.

Those are all valid reasons. Going the traditional route is time-consuming. And you don’t make nearly as much per book sold as you do going indie, especially if you don’t bother with hiring editors or artists.

But I wonder if a lot of them are choosing to go indie because they are afraid there work isn’t polished enough to pass the vetting process that is traditional publishing.

Don’t get me wrong. I have read some great indie fiction. But sadly it’s the exception rather than the rule.

And I’ve read some boring, awful traditionally published fiction. But again, it’s the exception rather than the rule.

So Why Did I Go Traditional This Time?

For one, I looked at the positives and negatives to both approaches. I wanted to produce a top-notch work. I wanted to be vetted. I wanted to work with professionals with a vested interest in my success. I wanted help marketing my work. I wanted the prestige of a big name publisher.

To get that, I had to accept the extra work associated with going traditional. I had to accept that there would be people who might want to change my work. I had to accept that I was not going to earn 70% of the cover price.

But what I’m not getting in earnings from the cover price, I’m getting in the form of a top notch editor who has made great suggestions for improving the story and a marketing team with years of experience in the industry.

Choices and Consequences

As a writer you get to choose which route you want to take. But whatever you choose, don’t whine that people taking the other path have it SO much easier.

If you choose traditional publishing, don’t whine about having to write a query letter and a synopsis and the rigmarole of querying dozens of agents.

If you choose self-publishing, don’t whine about the stigma of self-publishing or having to pay for editors and artists.

Make your choices and live with them. And if you can’t do that, maybe the writing profession isn’t for you.


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