Self publishing authors; a good or a bad thing?

On my facebook author page the other day, I wrote a post about how I had abandoned my experiment of doing review swaps with other authors.  My reason for this was that I felt with some of the books I was sent, (some were amazing…)  that I couldn’t give an honest review of their work without being somewhat critical. And as this was a tit-for-tat review thing, and the other authors had given my books glowing reviews,  I was put in a difficult situation. The other authors were self-published, e-book-only authors, and as I said then: The advantage of self publishing is that anyone can now be a published author.  The disadvantage of self publishing is that everyone can now, in theory, be a published author, and therein lies the problem. There is no one to tell them, kindly or more likely harshly: “This book isn’t something we feel we could successfully sell.  Go home and work on it, or on another book, and get yourself a literary agent, before trying again .”   (Literary agents will only take you on if they feel they can sell your work, so the acquisition of an agent is, in itself, a huge step forwards.)

Self published authors have to jump through none of these hoops. They write it, they go onto Amazon, and voila! It’s up there and for sale!

I know that one of the strongest arguments FOR self publishing, is that you avoid the snooty publishing houses who really only want to publish big name authors.  And that once they finally accept your manuscript, they could mangle it to suit their own needs and could, in theory, totally change it to something you don’t recognise.

I accept that argument. I really do. It is at least partly true.  But the other side of the coin is this.  If a publisher accepts your manuscript and doesn’t ask for you to invest your own money in it, (as some publishing houses now do, it’s called Author Invested publishing and is almost indistinguishable from self publishing except sometimes they do invest SOME of their own money in your book)….but if they are putting their money where their mouth is, then you can be confident that your book is worth publishing.  And I would even go so far as to say that any edits that they may suggest, within reason, should be accepted, for now at least.  You are an unknown…they are taking a chance on you.  I had this with my first novel “Working it Out”.  The excitement and high I felt on having it accepted was like nothing I had ever felt.  You will never get that feeling if you self publish.  I had to put up with a crappy cover, and some appalling edits, yes and even some total rewrites of a paragraph here and there, by a seemingly illiterate proof reader/copy editor on their staff. You would never get that with a self published book.  All the substance of your book is 100% yours; all the bad writing cannot be blamed upon anyone else.  You can’t blame the uninspiring cover on anyone else either.  Upside/Downside.

Once you have had one or two successes with your publisher, however, you are an established author with them.  Then you can start throwing your weight around a little.  “I don’t like the covers on the first two novels. Can I have more of a say in this third book?” Or: “I want all the rewrites and edits to be approved of and written by me, not by someone in house.  I’m quite happy to be told where editing is necessary, but you are NOT to do it yourselves.”  By the time you have half a dozen successful books under your belt, you can really call the shots.  They wouldn’t dare put out a cover you don’t like, or do any edits without your express approval.

Then, my friends, you are sitting pretty.  They are shouldering all the financial responsibility; the distribution, the marketing, the advertising.  You just sit back and rake in the royalties. They may even pay you an advance.

As my publishers were all Jewish and relatively small, I never had an advance, but I did earn quite good money, and one publisher in particular had a large print advertising budget, which was gratifying to see.

And don’t assume, just because you are an Established Author, that all your books will automatically be accepted, good, bad or indifferent.  Well, maybe some really big name authors might attain this lofty level. Not me, LOL.   But because you are a “Name”, if one publisher doesn’t think this book will do well, there are plenty others who know you and like what you do, who will take the book on.

You are home and dry.


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