Once again, the lovely Margaret Yang stops by to help illuminate a writing topic. This week, she’s tackling publishing myths, especially as they relate to ebooks. Take it away!
Maybe it’s because of the media hype around writers like Amanda Hocking and John Locke. Maybe it’s because writers have spent so many years learning traditional publishing, they can’t accept a new business model. Maybe it’s because there’s too much information on the internet, most of it contradictory.
Whatever the reason, there are a lot of myths about self-publishing. Here’s a look at the eight biggest ones—most of them easily busted, a few somewhat plausible.
1. All self-published books are crap. Editors serve as gatekeepers, keeping out the flood of bad books.
If editors can always spot a great book, why did so many of them reject Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone before it was finally published? Editors don’t choose the best books, they choose the books they think will make a profit. That is why Simon and Schuster published two horrible books by “Snooki.” Sometimes editors protect us from crap, sometimes they sell crap to us.
The popularity of self-publishing means more total books published, and yes, some of those books are really, really bad. Readers have to dig through the bad books to find the good books. Just like they’ve always done.
2. Self-published authors have sour grapes. They’re angry because they can’t get a traditional publishing deal.
Many authors self-publish after years of trying to break into traditional publishing. They desperately want to reach readers, which means they are embracing a new business model that lets them do so. Most self-published writers never mention the traditional publishing system, because it’s become irrelevant to them. On the other hand, some of the most vocal critics of traditional publishing are writers who had traditional book deals and walked away from them.
3. Everyone should self-publish. Who needs traditional publishers anyway?
While self-publishing is great for some kinds of books, like fiction for adults and general non-fiction, it doesn’t make sense for others, such as children’s books or specialized reference. Traditional publishing is also the best alternative for superstar authors, the ones who are household names. The huge advances and marketing support these authors get makes traditional publishing a good deal for them.
Successful self-publishers write amazing books that millions of people want to read and they work extremely hard at marketing and they are lucky. In other words, the things that make a self-published book a success are the same things that make any book a success.
4. There are huge upfront costs to self-publishing.
To self-publish a book, a writer needs to edit it, proofread it, format it, make a cover, and upload it. Each of those steps will cost a writer something. She will either have to spend money to hire those jobs out, or she will have to spend time and energy to do them herself. It is possible (but rare) for a writer to spend absolutely no money out-of-pocket to produce a finished book.
5. Self-publishing is difficult, therefore I’d better hire a consultant, facilitator, or agent to shepherd my book through the process, paying them with a percentage of my earnings.
There are a lot of details to take care of when you self-publish, but all of it is easy to learn, or you can hire those jobs out for a flat fee. If someone, no matter how reputable, wants a percentage of your earnings for the rest of the life of the book, just walk away.
6. Self-publishing hurts my chances of getting a traditional book deal later on.
On the contrary, self-publishing has become the new slush pile. Traditional publishers contact the most successful self-published authors, trying to get them into the traditional publishing system. And if your self-published book is not successful, you can remove it from sale, and start fresh with a new book. Editors and agents do not care about your failed self-publishing effort and you need not mention it.
7. I already know everything there is to know about self-publishing.
Things are changing fast, and information that was accurate two years ago is out of date now. There is something new in publishing every single day. No one can keep up with it all, but try to stay as current as you can by reading blogs, looking at industry news, and talking to other writers.
8. With all the publishing options I have, there has never been a better time to be a writer.
Actually, this one is true.
Margaret Yang is the co-author (under the name M.H. Mead) of Fate’s Mirror, Good Fences and other short fiction. You can visit her at www.yangandcampion.com.