Let’s talk about self publishing.
As with the traditional route, there are pros and cons to self-publication.
The pros are:
You don’t have to deal with the traditional industry’s machinery and gatekeepers.
You have complete control of the book’s content, format and look.
You get all the profits.
Anyone can do it.
The cons are:
You don’t have the support of the traditional industry’s marketing resources.
You have complete responsibility for the book’s content, look and format.
You pay all the bills.
Anyone can do it.
It’s that last that gets me. I know there are self-published authors who produce well-edited, well-packaged books. I also know there are a lot of self-published writers whose attitude is “I don’t care about the writing – I only care about the story.”
Let’s be honest – reputation is huge. People are impressed when they hear I’ve published a children’s book, but they’re really impressed when they hear it was with Scholastic. Scholastic has a huge reputation in the kidlit industry, and making it past their gatekeepers did great things for my book, and for my own reputation as a writer. Making any kind of money in the writing business is tough enough – why would I deliberately shoot myself in the foot by associating with a branch of the publishing industry that already has some reputation for uneven quality?
I’m currently reading a YA novel to review for Bibliobuffet. It’s self-published and it shows. Two pages in I found this gem: “He through on a shirt.” I had to read it twice to be sure I wasn’t hallucinating. Two chapters in, I’m bored and frustrated by poor writing. I’m giving it one more chapter, and if it’s not suddenly a helluva story, I won’t finish. I have too little reading time to spend it on stuff like this. One of the reasons I’m not interested in self-publication is that I don’t want to be lumped in with it, either. If you lie down with dogs, you get up covered in dog hair. (For the record, I like dogs!)
When I started pitching The Swan Harp to agents, I’d already run it by my writers’ group. They told me it was good, and I know that these people, bless their hearts, will tell me if I’m falling on my ass. The agent who read the manuscript gave me two pages of suggestions that set me up for a year of work and a deeper, richer, better story.
I thought the second draft of The Swan Harp was damn good. I was wrong. I’m very glad I’m a hard-core traditional-route sort of a gal, because if I’d self-published that second draft, I’d have missed writing a much better story. Yes, I want The Swan Harp published, and my name on the cover. But before that, I want it to be the very best story it can be, and after that, I want it to have the best chance for success that it can have.
Self-publishing has its good points. It may well be your best or favourite option. Just watch out for the dog hair.