Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Should "Real Authors" Steer Clear of Self-Publishing?

 A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about self-publishing vs. traditional publishing. I’m not counting traditional publishing out by any means, but I dislike all the brouhaha that is going on which seems to express indignation on the part of the publishers in reference to self-publishers. In short, I thought publishers were coming across as desperate, whiny and immature.

But then I read a blog post by author Jody Hedlund on the subject and she made some valid points. She is definitely pro-traditional publishing, saying, “The truth is, self-publishing marketing is NOT equal to the marketing done by traditional publishers. For all the talk about how ALL authors everywhere have to bear ALL the burden of marketing, it’s just NOT true.” I was initially shocked by that definitive statement and immediately felt rebellious! Lol But I continued to read and I’m glad I did!

                                 One thing in particular struck me, when she said that the publishing house’s contacts had been invaluable, stating, “My publisher, because of their size and reputation, could collectively accomplish SO much more than I could as one individual. They were able to get my book in most major book stores, distributors, and retailer catalogs. They were able to send out ARCs and books to key book buyers, reviewers, influencers, bloggers, etc.”   

Now, stubborn me, playing the devil’s advocate, I keep thinking, but isn’t that why I’m building a platform now? Couldn’t I do book give-aways and fish for beta readers? (no pun intended!) Isn’t that why I’m doing all this blogging and writing and tweeting and reading about craft?? So I can hopefully write a book that will encourage word-of-mouth recommendations and I can tweet about it and have people rush to buy it? Lol

Ok, I totally see her point, I know it’s not going to be that easy and I have read about authors who have said it was difficult getting their book into big name bookstores because the managers wouldn’t hear anything past, “I am a first time self-published author---“ They didn’t want self-published; they thought it was vanity publishing and turned them down flat. And the tiny independent bookstores, as helpful as they might be, just don’t produce the same sales numbers as a chain or Amazon potentially could. Even then, you’ve got to promote promote promote….take a breather and then promote some more.

HOWEVER, that almost sounds better to me then what I read on another of Jody’s posts, entitled, “Is the Query System Dying?” Her statistic is astounding, are you ready?

“My agent, Rachelle Gardner,” says Ms. Hedlund, “shared some statistics last week. This was one of them: ‘Queries received in 2010: around 10,000. New clients taken on from query (no referral): 0.’ “

I know. Pick your jaw up off the floor, you’re getting drool on your shirt.

That doesn’t exactly inspire optimism, does it??

Where the heck does a writer go from here? We are obviously inspired by the success of the likes of Amanda Hocking, (whom I’ve mentioned several times!) who was so defeated by the publishing system she self-pubbed both electronically and in print. Word of mouth helped her grassroots effort as did something else: the ability to provide people with the next in a series almost immediately! Ms. Hocking had written 6 books I believe and was able to release them within weeks of each other, satisfying the short attention span of the tweeting, media consuming public. She herself has mentioned that maybe that was helpful! I can see the logic of that.

But Ms. Hedlund suggests that books are getting published because of networking, that all of Ms. Gardner’s new accounts are from referrals from current clients, from within the publishing industry, etc.

So, the moral of the story is: keep tweeting. Keep blogging. Connect with your favorite writers, comment them, tweet them, get to know other up and coming authors and friend those agents! Because, apparently, it’s all in who you know, not in how well you write!


  1. Hi Lara!

    I really liked hearing your perspective on the whole issue! I think that the journey is definitely going to look different for each of us.

    However, I do want to say, that I don't agree with your very last statement. Even though networking is tremendously helpful, it won't help unless we have a book that can back it all up. We can connect with agents night and day, but unless we have a great writing skills coupled with a great story, they won't be interested in representing us. They may end up liking us, but that doesn't mean they'll take us on as a client. And even after we publish (whether self or trad), if our readers don't like our book or writing, then none of our platform-building will really matter.

    So, yes, for all the push to network, our BOOKS still matter most. I just recently wrote a post about the ONE thing that helped me most in my quest for publication. And that one thing wasn't who I knew, it was in WHAT I knew. Learning and studying and then putting it all into practice has helped me THE most. :-)

  2. You know Jody, I think to the best writers, how well written our stories are is the most important thing to US. But haven't you ever read a poorly written book and though, "how the heck did THIS get published??" Not to mention all the stories of books we love (JK Rowling's Potter series, Amanda Hocking's Trylle Trilogy, etc) that had the WORST time getting published?

    I'm sorry, but I have to respectfully disagree and stand by my statement: I think it has come to who you know, not what you write! :)

  3. I still can't pick my jaw up off the floor from that query statistic! It's true--there are so many varying viewpoints in terms of how to become a successful writer and the suitable route to take, that it makes it VERY hard for us to trust our own instincts. I'm finding that in building an author platform though, it's not just useful in building a following for your future writing endeavours, it also helps you to form your identity as a writer. Finding your niche, in a big way will also help you to find the path that suits you the most. It's a constant tug of war at first, but without my blog, I would be SO behind in terms of my personal growth and my growth as a writer. It gives you a safe haven to put all of these crazy stats into a perspective that suits you.

  4. I have learned first hand the ups and downs of traditional and self publishing. After sending 200 query letters out and getting no response I decided to self publish. I feel self publishing only works if you have a strong marketing platform and traditional publishing only works based on who you know.

  5. The more I read, learn, access information, and analyze the stats,the more convinced I become that it's all too overwhelming for my full-to-bursting-brain to fully try and figure it all out. I can only love what I'm doing, believe in the process that keeps me at the keyboard (and tweeting, and blogging, and all the rest), and find comfort in the truth that just like the writing itself, when it comes to marketing and publishing - one size does not fit all.


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