Monday, December 5, 2011
Reasons not to Self-Publish?
By Clare Langley-Hawthorne
Last week I read a blog post by Edan Lepucki entitled Reasons not to Self-Publish and it prompted me, yet again, to consider the pros and cons of going it alone. As James Bell discussed in his TKZ blog post yesterday if you decide to go the 'indie' route be sure to start with your eyes wide open as not every adventure into the forest ends happily. But as Lepucki explains there are reasons why some authors decide to stick with the traditional route despite the positive experiences of some on the indie side.
At the risk of raising the ire of a few writers who have very determined opinions, I thought I'd explore some of the reasons that resonated with me. I suggest if you're interested you read the original post to see all eight items on her list (some of which are more controversial than others judging by the comments!). I have highlighted (and paraphrased) just some of Lepucki's reasons...those which speak to my own confusion/dilemma over the best road ahead... and apologies to Lepucki as I have also renamed her list items to accord with my own views)
1. A traditional publisher often gets it right...
The first reason on Lepucki's list is entitled "I guess I am not a hater" and like her, I guess I don't have any negativity towards the publishing industry. My experience has been very positive - with agents, editors and publicists all eager to do their very best for an author despite the business imperatives of the industry.
More controversially, Lepucki states "I want a reputable publishing house standing behind my book; I want them to tell you it's so good so that I don't have to." Now this may say a lot about my own self-confidence, but this statement did resonate with me. I understand her need for validation. It's what has always made me hesitant about self-publishing. Even though it's probably a bit dorky to admit it, I wonder how many other writers feel the same?
2. The conversation about self-publishing often ignores the role of smaller independent publishing houses.
Lupecki rightly points out that these independent presses offer a great option for authors. They tend to be well-respected and provide a specific brand and identity that can give an author an opportunity to get their work out there even if they don't meet the formula for a bigger house. Lupecki argues that these small presses provide a level of 'legitimacy' and quality control suggesting again the importance of having a traditional-style publisher backing an author.
In previous blog posts about the current publishing industry we haven't really touched on the role of these smaller presses (sadly, many of which have closed due to the harsh economics of running such an operation) so I would be interested in hearing opinions on the role and value of the small independent presses in the current market.
3. The conversation overlooks the value of the publishing community
Lupecki quotes Peter Straub's acknowledgement of the invaluable contributions made by editors and copy-editors to his books and goes on to describe how helpful some of the comments made by editors rejecting her first novel were. In many ways, much of what Lupecki argues comes down to the same issue of mentoring that James Bell discussed in his blog post yesterday.
I do think she asks an important question when it comes to writers hiring their own editors and copy editors: How is that role affected by the fact that they are being paid by the writer him/herself? What, Lupecki asks, if the hired editor told you not to publish?
Having only worked with editors from my publisher I don't know the answer to this - have any of you hired an editor only to have them recommend against publication as the work wasn't up to snuff? And if so, did you take their advice or go ahead and submit or self-publish it?
4. The e-reading conundrum
Lupecki argues that while she doesn't mind if Amazon is just one of the places to purchase her work she is worried about Amazon monopolizing the reading landscape. Her concern certainly resonates with me - I would hate to find the traditional publishers being replaced by a monolithic self-publisher either. But what do you think - is this a legitimate concern? While I would argue this isn't really a reason against self-publishing (there are other avenues available, after all, not just Amazon), I think her fear of Amazon's potential power in the marketplace is valid.
5. Is the self-publishing boom best for readers?
Now this is a tricky question and I think in many ways this goes back to Lupecki's need for validation - but as a reader I certainly don't want to wade through thousands of unfiltered self-published novels without any guide as to quality. I do think, however, (and TKZ have touched upon this in many previous blog posts), that as the digital industry matures, there will be more self-selection/review options which will help guide readers to quality work.
So what do you think about Lupecki's reasons against self-publishing?