Since Ernest Hemingway got his break when the enlightened owner of a small book shop published his first work, the concept of independent writing, as opposed to the preferred method of the large publishing houses (contract or book deal), has always been with us, as has self-publishing which has been around forever.
Don’t for one minute confuse self-publishing with a vanity press. The two are complete opposites. Self-publishing literally means what it implies. You publish your book using one of the many platforms currently available like Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing or Smashwords, to name just two of the many currently available.
The term Indie, used when talking about self-publishing, is only its latest identity in the twenty-first century. There is absolutely no doubt that Amazon and Smashwords freed up what had previously been the jealously guarded exclusive territory of the major publishing houses, their gate-keepers, editors, and literary agents.
And guess what, they hate the fact that novels they would not have even considered are now out there in the various eBook forms and paperback thanks to Amazon’s KDP and Createspace, Smashwords, and many others.
Over the many decades since Hemingway began, how many worthwhile novels hadn’t been published simply because an editor didn’t like it?
I suspect that the figure runs into the thousands. He or she is only one man or woman with one opinion after all. The time is long past when your manuscript, the product of all those hundreds, possibly thousands of hours you spent writing and agonising over it was simply dismissed at the first hurdle – the literary agent.
Or if he or she thought you might just have a story worth reading, they would offer it to an editor who might deign to look at it always providing it was to his or her taste.
Unfortunately for many writers who believe that the publishing houses are the only way, their manuscripts will inevitably wind up in an editor’s wastepaper basket, or won’t even get looked at.
Its not just you. Take a look at the number of times well-known writers’ famous works were rejected by sniffy opinionated editors. J.R.R Tolkien’s The Hobbit immediately springs to mind. And he was a professor of English for goodness sake!
There was a time when having been accepted into the fold by the publisher they undertook to print and promote your book. These days the publishers save money by insisting you the writer do all of the promoting and still find time to write that next contracted novel as well as attend the book signings.
Why writers still cling desperately to the deluded notion that they are better off as part of a publishing house’s stable simply boggles the mind. Whether it is one of the big six houses or one of the dozens of often cash-strapped small press, the thing is that you wrote the book and apart from having it ‘professionally edited and hopefully not changed too much by the editor, then printed, it’s all down to you to make your book stand out among the millions of books currently available.
Plus don’t forget your book may not appear when you would like it too because of publishing schedules. Most publishers, especially small press, have a finite number of books they put out each year.
So there you have it in a nutshell. Why self publish? I should have thought it’s glaringly obvious…
For myself, the knowledge of having to promote my own book whether done through a publisher or doing Indie was the deciding factor in going and staying self-published. My original book is still under contract, and the only revenue seen has been through my buying and reselling.
I would, as you said, have credible editing done before publishing to avoid the need of pulling and reissuing. Even if one is an editor, as a writer, the need for outside input is crucial. A missing period, comma, etc. easily slips by if only one person is involved.
Thanks for the article.
” Even if one is an editor, as a writer, the need for outside input is crucial. ” That’s where having four or five beta-readers really comes in handy Paula. 😉
Thank you Jack for supporting the new wave in publishing that has enabled many of us to begin to attract and audience for our efforts. However, once your book has been written, formatted and published an author must find her/his audience. And, marketing becomes the new focus in gaining readership. Unfortunately for many writers, self promotion isn’t an easy path. So I agree with your earlier comment that seeking professional help for this stage is often the make or break point in gaining an audience.
Jack, do you know if anyone has done a study that compares the average earnings of self-published authors with those who go through mainstream publishing?
I hear that some self-published authors have made some money. But when I talk to my non-writer friends, they’re all reading fiction from major authors, those with all the buzz and the Kirkus reviews, etc. Nobody ever tells me they’re reading self-published authors.
So, it would be interesting to know how the income averages out between the two paths.