Christopher Keelty is a writer and artist based outside New York City.
early airplane

Literary agent Colleen Lindsay this morning tweeted Laura Miller’s recent Salon article about how the future of literature will be shaped by e-book and on-demand print self-publishing services.  Miller observes that these services promote themselves as a means to circumvent the “elite literary gatekeepers,” and that their customers are really authors, not readers.  She points out, rightly, that the so-called gatekeepers provide a service to consumers, that removing them will drop the slush pile directly atop readers, and that this may have dramatic and unintended consequences.

For my part, I wonder whether these services won’t cost humanity more than one potentially-great book, when the author gives up on finding representation and self-publishes instead of going back for another polish.  See, personally I don’t view editors and literary agents as gatekeepers.  I see them as the laws of physics.

That may require further explanation.  I assume most people are familiar with the classic film images of early attempts at flight, outlandish contraptions that all looked like they might fly until they were pushed off a ramp or the side of a cliff and smashed to pieces on the rocks below.  If you’re not familiar, there’s a sample at the end of this post.  That is the metaphorical image I most associate with a writer’s first attempts to get published.

The pilot (writer) has a pretty good idea what a plane should look like, so he builds one at home.  He has a couple of friends take a look (hopefully friends who know a little something about aerodynamics) and verify, “yep, that looks a lot like a plane.”  Then he takes that first big step and pushes the plane off the cliff – sends his book out to a few agents and publishers.  Sure, some planes fly on the very first try, but most fall straight to the rocks and smash.  If the pilot is lucky, maybe the plane stays airborne for a minute (the metaphorical equivalent of a partial request or helpful criticism), and he learns something about building a successful plane before the crash.  The pilot dusts himself off and decides whether he wants to go back and try another design, or go get a job as a patent clerk.

Now, let’s just say for the sake of argument that someone starts an on-demand plane catalog, and let’s say he’ll buy the rights to any plane design, and pay royalties to the designer when any customer orders their plane.  How many aspiring pilots, after a crash or two, would submit their designs to the catalog hoping to make a few bucks.  Worse yet, how many would just draw up a design and sell it completely untested?  How do you suppose the customer would feel who ordered one of those planes and tried to fly it?

Had there been such a catalog back in the early 1900s, might the Wright Brothers have gone that route instead?  To dispense with the metaphor here, how many great books might not exist, how many renowned authors might be unknowns, had someone at the time offered to publish their rough drafts?

Well, that crappy plane catalog exists today.  In fact, there are dozens of them, some better known than others.  My question for aspiring authors is this: even if you’re sure your plane can fly, do you think your best option is to list it in the same catalog with thousands of crappy non-functional designs?  If you’re so confident, give it a good solid push off that cliff, and see if it stays airborne.

I know my answer.  I’m not interested in selling my failures, and I refuse to blame the laws of physics when my planes don’t fly.  Frustrating as it may be, I’m going to keep testing and tinkering, and trying entirely new designs, until one of them finally takes flight.

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31 thoughts on “Self-publish, or learn to fly?”

  1. This is a REALLY good metephor. So good, It actually made me rethink my stance on this topic. I think its not a black and white issue, but i think there are times when this is 100% true. But I will add this – I think its okay to break the rules of physics once you UNDERSTAND the rules of physics.

  2. p.s. …remember, these same laws don’t apply in a vacuum. So there are always times when the rules can change,(this is not defending the 99% of people who take the lazy way out and won’t accept the truth of their work…but the 1% of the writing population that knew that they had an idea people would love if only given the chance that no one would risk on them. I’ve seen it work.

  3. It’s better that ten bad books go free, than that one good one suffer.

    The fans will decide with their pocketbooks. Even if it’s not up to “standards” it can still be loved. There is a whole “B” Movie industry out there for this purpose. Given the opportunity, I’d rather watch Bruce Campbell rather than Sir Laurence Olivier.

  4. I agree with everything said in this post.

    While I am a huge supporter of indie authors (many would argue that self-published and indie are two separate things), I have been getting more and more critical onto what makes it on my store shelves. I can honestly say the books we can been putting up are the best in indie publishing.

    There are some amazing indie authors out there, and I would say 99% of those are the ones that have taken those extra steps in getting professionally edited and critiqued. Being relatively new, people are apt to be wary of authors who publish their own work. And while some of it is horrid, it is a great pleasure when you find the books that are highly polished.

    {indie}pendent books

  5. I disagree, the true laws of physics is the economy, free market what have you. Agents and traditional publishing is the FAA. If you push your plane off the proverbial cliff and no one buys it, using the universal term, it has crashed and burned. The Agents are there to kick the tires verify that it should fly. They are the people who know the laws of physics (What people are willing to buy.) So when you push it off the cliff you are almost guaranteed some sort of flight. If you’re going the few fangled publishing route,you need to wear a helmet and expect to eat some dirt.

  6. I think you’re overlooking a key point. Traditional publishing is about marketing. Publishers have an eye on the bottom line when they’re considering which books to buy. If a book is not perceived as being hugely profitable (for which read “hot” and “trendy”)it will be passed over. But that doesn’t automatically make it a bad book.

    Are there bad self pubbed books out there? Absolutely. But that doesn’t mean all self published books are bad or nothing more than unpolished/unedited rough drafts.

    I think the indie-author trend is just as valid as indie-music or indie-film. Just because something isn’t “popular” (ie suitable for mass markets) doesn’t mean it’s a failure.

  7. That is a good way to explain it and I think for most people who go the self-publish route, that is a common problem.

    I’ve seen writers who, after one edit of a book writing during National Novel Writing Month, went the self-publish route and I couldn’t believe the decision. It seemed like the writer wasn’t even trying when I knew the goal was to be a published author from regular publishers but since there was an offer to have the self-publish option paid for by family members.

    On the other hand, I know of a writer who did many drafts, hired an editor to help make sure it was the best product he could create and then he self-published. But he knew his reasons for doing so and the book itself has a specific niche where he frequents and is able to sell.

    So, it can be the right decision for some people. But I do get your point. I think too many people go the route because they’re scared of rejection from agents/publishers and/or they aren’t willing to go that route for a variety of other reasons. Many of them should try and may regret their self-publish decision later on, if they want to make a living as an author.

  8. Thanks for the comments!

    @Ryan: I don’t think you’re wrong, but the hard question a writer must confront is whether ‘no one is taking a chance on them’ or they just haven’t worked hard enough yet – have they asked enough people, have they asked the right way, and is the work really finished. Notice I’ve dispensed with the metaphor here. I think the ratio of 99% to 1% is not far off, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s 99.999% either. I also wouldn’t accuse all of those writers of being lazy, necessarily – in many cases I think it’s more about emotion and ego defense than actual laziness. They’d rather assume that every editor or agent who has rejected them “just doesn’t get it” than accept that their work just isn’t marketable yet.

    @alphanitrate: I just don’t agree with the B-movie metaphor. Even B-movies have producers and backers, “gatekeepers” who have to approve the product before it reaches an audience. The POD self-publishing services aren’t analogous to B-movies, they are analogous to YouTube videos – uploaded with no filter, no one filtering out what is good and what’s not. Certainly there are mechanisms for the best YouTube videos to rise to the top, and perhaps that viral model is a preview of the way quality self-published fiction would emerge in a world with no gatekeepers. Here I reiterate my concern: even the very best YouTube video is rarely as good as the average B-movie, and YouTube offers nothing to compete with the best “financed” films.

    Several of you have drawn a parallel between self-published fiction and “indie” film and music, but I really don’t think that parallel is accurate. Even “indie” art, at least in the typical sense, comes through a producer and a distributor – a “gatekeeper” who decides in which bands/filmmakers/etc to invest their time and/or financing. The defining quality of “indie” art is that there is a smaller investment, a less commercial approach, and typically far less marketing. The parallel in fiction would be small press.

    Self-published fiction need not see a gatekeeper of any kind. It’s uploaded into a central repository by the author, and there it waits for the consumer to call it up. The only proper analogy in film is YouTube. I’m less familiar with music distribution, but perhaps it’s a band’s MySpace page, or a podcast.

  9. Chris –

    I agree while indie and self-published both define authors not going the traditional route, indies work with editors and small houses to put out their work, while self-publishers do the entire thing on their own.

    {indie}pendent books

  10. Wow, interesting analogy! Personally, I have found self published stuff to be captivating and well written (three or four grammar errors notwithstanding). But I have only read self published works from one author–Wil Wheaton–so perhaps he is an exception to the laws of physics.

    I am curious if novels published on an author’s blog or website would be considered self published works as well. I have read several excellent novels online–Scalzi’s Agent to the Stars and Old Man’s War and EBear+crew’s Shadow Unit series come to mind.

  11. Taken from the above: “For my part, I wonder whether these services won’t cost humanity more than one potentially-great book…”

    Actually, if all publishing became self-publishing, quality control would come in the form of the audience. Think of it as free market/capitalism. Competition in the market drives the most popular products to the top. Do customers stop reading all penguin books simply because one penguin book was not enjoyable. No, they stop reading the author.

    Let’s say all publishing is self-publishing. The best writers would quickly rise to the top on their own merits as determined by the consumer, not determined by the agents/publishing company.

    When agents cast aside queries without consideration simply because they don’t meet a rigid criteria, many good stories may be lost forever and mediocre ones promoted with the thoughts that they are the best of the bunch, when in reality the writer knew how to jump through the query hoop with a query they may not have written themself, but had paid someone to write for them.

    It’s reported that Ernest Hemingway had great stories in his head, but was a poor writer. His editor, Maxwell Perkins is the one who brought Hemingway’s stories to life and made them saleable. “I write one page of masterpiece to ninety one pages of $hI…t,” Hemingway confided to F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1934.

    Maxell Perkins also edited the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe.

    Sadly, writers today, both self- and industry published, must are no longer allowed to just write, but must also excel in research, editing, querying, promoting, bookkeeping, electronic media, publicity, and must be a superb charismatic public speaker.

    We need to bring back the importance of editors and phase out agents

  12. There is a bit of serendipity to the timing of this article, since I’ve just recently started serializing my novel online. I’m not sure why I decided to self-publish it freely on my site rather than pursue traditional publishing (although the bitter aftertaste of a horrible experience with an unscrupulous publisher might have something to do with it), but for whatever reason, I found myself slapping up the first installment of chapter one a few weeks ago. I’ll be switching to an experimental pay model borrowed from Lawrence Watt-Evans in the next couple of weeks – but for most readers, the novel will remain completely free online.

    So far, the response has been very positive – but I already had an audience before I started posting it. The problem with applying the idea of the “free market” to self-publishing on the Web goes hand in hand with the belief that the Internet is a meritocracy, where quality rises to the top. In reality, it’s just not true. YouTube videos of cats licking themselves and skateboarders getting nailed in the crotch top the charts in World Wide WebLand, not pristine works of insightful literature. Stupid crap and pop culture pap *always* rise to the top, regardless of whether there are any gatekeepers keeping watch. There’s a reason for this: it works.

    Trying to get your voice heard amidst a cacophony of millions of other like-minded folks is not easy, regardless of quality. It doesn’t matter how great your writing is when you’re a raindrop in an ocean of babbling bloggers, and until your work begins to be recognized by some sort of governing bodies authority, you will remain unread and your voice unheard. On the web, these authorities come in the form of larger blogs and gateway sites. Get an article linked off Fark of BoingBoing or Gawker, and you’ll get a surge of new traffic. If your work is good, some of it will stick and your voice will spread. Eventually, you’ll grow – but the point is, even though you’re not going through a publisher with an editor and a paycheck, you’re still at the mercy of the gatekeepers.

    The way I see it, there are a couple of truths in publishing.

    The first truth is: publishers serve exactly the purpose Chris describes. They separate the wheat from the chaff, and there’s usually a publisher out there for every niche. If you think your book was rejected because it wasn’t hip enough or trendy enough to sell a bazillion copies to the waterheaded masses, then stop sending your query letters to Dan Brown’s agent and find yourself an agent and/or publisher who better fits your work. If it doesn’t suck, someone will buy it. You just need to find the agent or publisher who lines up with what you’re writing.

    The second (and more difficult) truth is: you might as well stop trying to get published at the “big” houses if they’re rejecting you. Either write something that appeals to them, or simply find a smaller publisher and accept the fact that you’re not going to get rich by being a writer. You probably won’t even make a living at it, despite being paid for your work. *THIS IS NORMAL* I think a lot of writers set their sites too high and hope that their great American novel will launch them to literary superstardom, where it’s all rainbows and moonponies and the cupboard never runs bare. In reality, most working writers have steady jobs that contribute vital funds to their monthly bottom line. It’s just how the world works, and it’s only getting worse as more and more amateurs lower the payment bar in exchange for “exposure”. (See Harlan Ellison’s “Pay The Writer” rant in Dreams With Sharp Teeth)

    In conclusion, I agree completely with what Chris has said…even though I’m self-publishing my own novel and giving it away for free on my site. The only thing I take issue with is the idea that self-publishing equates to selling failure. In some cases – heck, maybe even in most cases – this might be true, but it isn’t always. Look at some of the Creative Commons books out there, self-published and distributed freely online while also traditionally published and printed and sold in brick and mortar bookshops. Some are doing very well, and it’s these types of inventive and inspired models that we need to be looking at as technology continues to evolve and transform the traditional marketplace.

    I recently switched careers and jumped into journalism at a time when newspapers across the globe are going under, but I’m working at a Hearst paper that understands the need to evolve with times and we’re doing better than ever before. It’s all about being brave enough to experiment, to try radical new approaches and not be afraid of failure. This is how I see self-publishing and e-books vs. traditional publishing: neither can exist in the future market without the other, and it’s in everyone’s best interest to figure out ways to bring the two together.

    That’s just my unsolicited two cents, anyway…

  13. But still, there are stories like this one, just covered in the news:

    Last year A Scattered Life became the first self-published Kindle book to be optioned for film. Now, in response to reader enthusiasm, the novel will be published in paperback by AmazonEncore, Amazon’s new publishing division.

    The author, Karen McQuestion spent nearly a decade trying without success to get published. She finally decided to publish it herself, online through’s Kindle e-bookstore. Eleven months later McQuestion has sold 36,000 e-books and now has caught the eye of a filmmaker.

    The article, which recently appeared in The Wall Street Journal, goes on to say:

    Mr. McQuestion is at the leading edge of a technological disruption that’s loosening traditional publishers’ grip on the book market–and giving new power to technology companies like Amazon to shape which books and authors succeed.

    U.S. book sales fell 1.8% last year to $23.9 billion, but e-book sales tripled to $313 million, according to the Association of American Publishers. E-book sales could reach as high as 20% to 25% of the total…

  14. A lot of posts have covered the agent or the writer’s side of things, but as you said, putting your own work beside many that will assuredly NOT be of quality is not only a waste of energy for you, but the consumer as well.

    If nobody regulates what’s being published, there is no filter for the garbage. After a few bad incidents, even if your book is stellar, will the entire experience have been enough to dissuade consumers to buy self-published books, unless they come highly recommended and are hyped?

  15. Kristian, you said: “YouTube videos of cats licking themselves and skateboarders getting nailed in the crotch top the charts in World Wide WebLand, not pristine works of insightful literature. Stupid crap and pop culture pap *always* rise to the top, regardless of whether there are any gatekeepers keeping watch. There’s a reason for this: it works.”

    I simply don’t see your correlation between video entertainment available to all age groups which will, of course, always pique curiousity and can be easily mass-passed-along to others of like mind, compared to literary works geared for genre markets.

    A personal side note: please check out and consider uploading your book for Kindle. You can set your own price (zero and upward,) and starting in July, Amazon will pay authors 70% of the selling price. Books don’t have to be published in any format to be sold for Kindle.

  16. Cindy,

    Yeah, I knew I wasn’t making that clear when I was typing it. I should have gone back and revised it, but I started moving on to something else, and…

    Basically, I meant that the Internet was supposed to be this great equalizing force that would level the playing field for everyone and people would succeed or fail based on the quality of their voice. A meritocracy, for lack of a better term. I used the YouTube example out of laziness, but the principle applies for everything: videos, blogs, books, etc…

    The simple, easy-to-digest pap will always float to the top in a society increasingly composed of functionally illiterate asshats. Yes, I know that sounds harsh, but it’s how I feel. It certainly explains the popularity of people like Perez Hilton or Tucker Max, while some truly great bloggers and professional writers wallow in relative anonymity.

    It’s a simple and gross generalization to be sure, and there are always exceptions. Still, it’s a good general rule of thumb that the Internet isn’t making anyone any smarter. It’s decreasing our already gnat-sized attention spans, rewiring the way our brains access and process information, and it’s transforming a society with an already questionable level of intellect into a shambling horde of shoe-licking zombies slouching towards oblivion.

    Or something like that, anyway. It’s getting late and I want to go home. 🙂


  17. Some self-published books are crap, but some traditionally published books are crap too. The only difference is that self-published books typically don’t have a brain-washing machine behind them saying “Oooh, this book is great–it was written by a celebrity!” or “Oooh, this book is the next big thing–EVERYONE is reading it!” Authors who have the courage (yes courage!) to self-publish fall into two categories: those who do their homework, have their book professionally edited, AND work their BUTTS off to promote it; and those who don’t. Literary agents and the traditional publishers who support them have become an exclusive club–yeah for them. But too many fine authors have been left in the dust because they don’t write the perfect query letter, or they write epic fantasy instead of urban fantasy, or they don’t “do lunch” with the powers that be. Fortunately, times are changing–and it’s about time! Let the market decide what’s good, not the gatekeepers who want to hang onto their country club mentality.

    It’s a lie to say self-published authors wimp out, or don’t try hard enough, or all the other blah blah blah that “traditionalists” spin to make them look bad. I read five self-published books this past month and paid full price for each and every one of them. Three were non-fiction, two were fiction–and all were intelligent, well-written, and entertaining. Of course I read traditionally published books–I love to read, period! But to dismiss good books because they were not published by a particular group of publishers? Not going to happen, at least not with me.

  18. More of interest from the Wall Street Journal article entitled “New ‘Vanity Press’ Roils Publishing. (June 3, 2010):
    Last fall, Jane Friedman, former chief exec. of News Corp’s HarperCollins Publishers, started Open Road Integrated Media LLC, which focuses on e-books, including authors who are willing to be published digitally before going into print.

    Yet as tens of thousands of authors self-publish their work, publishers’ control continues to weaken over how titles are distributed and which books are offered for sale. Some publishers fear that one of the big technology companies now distributing e-books will compete for the industry’s best-known authors, by offereing advances in a bid to gain market share. Soe best-selling authors write several books a eyar, and may be tempted to test the market if they have a manuscript that isn’t under contract.

    Another portion of the article tells of the popular “Repairman Jack” thriller series published by Tor, an imprint of Macmillan. Author F. Paul Wilson says he posted on Amazon five science-fiction novels published earlier in her careeer at $2.99 each. “This stsuff was just sitting around, out of print, doing nothing,” says Mr. Wilson, who has written about 40 books. He thinks he’ll eventually make as much as $5,000 to $10,000 a month when he lists all his older titles.

    The article goes on to explain all the ins and outs of’s early and huge success with digital publishing.

  19. “…They’d rather assume that every editor or agent who has rejected them “just doesn’t get it” than accept that their work just isn’t marketable yet…”

    Chris, absolutely. I guess in my quick answer I oversimplified it. Its such an interesting topic. Its one of those where one minute I am in defense of it; and then quickly hear some logic that makes me rethink my stance on the topic. You have done a great job advocating your side of the debate.

    One more point though – you seem to be taking the stance that with the correct amount of hard work and revision, if a book is truly marketable, and for a lack of better word), “worthy” of publication, then it should eventually succeed, if only the author would take the had-fast steps that the industry has laid out. I guess this is not a promise that the publishing industry makes to hopeful authors, but I do hear quite a bit from editors, “if your book is good, it will sell”, which just is not true. In a shrinking publishing market, some editors are only taking on 3 or 4 new books a year in a given genre, so “good books” are being turned away making room for what the publishers deem potential “great books”, but even then, its only what an editor can guess what a “great book” will be, until the market decides. In short, not every good book gets published, and although as a P.A.L. member of SCBWI, I agree that the best chance anyone has is to follow the rules, and work hard making their book as best it can be, I also see that as the market changes, sometimes taking matters into one’s own hands is a viable solution. I have two picture books published. Both from small, regional publishers. The past two years I have been casting my line out into the bigger sea of publishing, but what I am contemplating is while this slow, slow, slow process is taking place – and because I couldn’t get into a successful rhythm of ensuring I would have a book out each year – it could potentially be 3 more years before my next book even sees the light of day, (if at all). But in the meantime, I have a moderately successful school visit career with kids and teachers asking, “when is the next book out?” So my conundrum is, do I put out something off-the-grid in-between to satiate these fans who have money-in-hand ready to buy my next book? Or do I continue on “the right way”? Its tough. I know I could do something of quality that fans would like and make all the profit. I have a built-in customer base, if only regionally. But if I do not, in the meantime, my touring career suffers while I wait for my manuscript to be one of thousands selected to pass through the halls of publishing again, and although hopeful, there is no guarantee that day will come again. So like I said, I think there are situations where self-publishing is not just a case of someone looking for a loophole, but rather, a careerist who is thinking of ways of being proactive, staying current and relevant to fans, and diversifying, (or rather, “hedging bets”) – Ryan p.s. I have been resisting taking this route, but its been so very tempting.

  20. Can I start by saying again how much I appreciate all the comments and the discussion here?

    So many great points. I can respond to just a few:

    First off, on the question of successful self-published authors like Will Wheaton and Karen McQuestion, it seems to me that these are authors who already had their platform, and that makes self-publishing a far more viable option. Going back to my plane metaphor and that question of whether you want to list a quality plan in that catalog-of-crap, I think it’s a very different question if the year is 1904 and you are the Wright Brothers. Obviously, your product is going to stand out among the garbage.

    Which brings me to my second point: I do not mean to argue that all self-published work is bad. I am sure some of it is quite good, but we can all agree that the majority are bad – in fact, the majority are terrible. The good ones, then, are needles in the haystack, and based purely on the odds, a reader is justified in assuming, with no other information, that a given self-published book is not worth buying.

    Lastly, Cindy, I would thank you for pointing out that the works of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Wolfe benefited so greatly from the editorial pen of Maxell Perkins. This is not something I knew, but it illustrates my point fantastically – imagine if these men had elected to self-publish their works to the Kindle instead! Perkins never would have been involved, and the world may never have heard of these three incredible authors!

  21. I agree with your last paragraph, Chris, which is why the literary world needs editors, not agents. Past replacement of editors’ quality, but expensive hand-in-hand association with publishers, with less expensive agents, seems to have brought about decline of blockbuster novels.

    The olden days are gone, like it or not, and our automated/digital/electronic world is not going back there. The wise will keep up with it as best they can. Traditional publishers, like many old-school businesses, can no longer maintain their lead in the brave new world. They will, and are, joining their electronic competitors.

    Perhaps somewhere down the road, publishers (if they still exist) will utilize robots programmed to “feel” various emotions. These bots will digitally scan/read electronic text and, using a checklist predefined by verbs, adverbs, ajectives, pace, etc., will react to the aspects of the novel–favorably or unfavorably, which will determine the story’s worth and move it from the huge incoming electronic slush pile to the reject zone or onward for editing by a professional before electronic publication.

    Hey, maybe I should write sci-fi. hee

  22. A side note of interest to the Hemingway info is a sad ending to the tale. After Maxwell Perkins’ death, Hemingway stopped writing and became a depressed alcoholic. His one final work, The Old Man and the Sea, never gained the favor of his early works, and the criticism may have been part of what lead to his suicide.

  23. Brittany Landgrebe

    *stands* *applauses* EXACTLY. *high five* If you need me, I’ll be in the back working on fixing my broken plane for another test run.

  24. I really think the problem here is a fetish with printing and writers thinking that printed/published book is the same as have a book represented by a big name publisher.

    Personally, I see nothing wrong with self-publishing if the writers have realistic expectations, and know what they’re doing. If they’re doing it because OMG I NEED TO GET PUBLISHED SO I CAN BE RICH then they’re doing it for the wrong reason.

    If they’re doing it because they’re working on something very niche, to a small audience, and it’s something a publisher might not look at in this economy (something small, strange, experimental, something that isn’t a guaranteed blockbuster)then they should do it.

    It’s a good time for writers to use this tool to experiment. Failure isn’t failure anymore since it doesn’t cost anything to do it. If writers want to try and do something new with it, try and create something unique with it- then why not? Not everything that gets rejected is a failure. Sometimes the market is cruel and unyielding.

    Just my thoughts. If writers get past this whole fetish with print/desire to be the next Harry Potter then self publishing can be an interesting tool.

  25. Paul, that’s a really great point. There is definitely a little tingle that comes with seeing your name on an actual, physical, BOOK. Does it go so far as to be fetishistic? Mmmmm, maybe.

    I absolutely think self-publishing is right for some authors, but they should either have a hell of a platform or be ready to sell books only to friends, family members, and maybe students if they have such. If a writer knows their work fits only a niche market, or knows that she has a platform from which she can sell and doesn’t want or need to deal with an agent or a publishing house, then self-publishing may be a good choice.

    The one thing I disagree with is that it “doesn’t cost anything.” True, there is no dollar investment, but a writer’s product is his writing. A novel typically takes months to years to complete, and self-publishing is almost always throwing away any chance that any publisher or agent will pick up that work. That is most certainly a cost.

  26. That’s true that there is the cost of time that goes into development- I just meant coming from the aspect of it being a business in ways, there is no start up costs. And that’s one side a lot of self publishers don’t see- by publishing yourself you’re also the publisher, and publishing is a business, and you’re basically starting up a small business.

    And small businesses are money sinks for the first few years.

    ” A novel typically takes months to years to complete, and self-publishing is almost always throwing away any chance that any publisher or agent will pick up that work. That is most certainly a cost.”

    And this goes back to what I was originally saying- self publishing is a good idea if your end result isn’t to get published traditionally or get an agent in the end. Even though most ppl who self published just see it as a way of cheating the system.

    But I’m just musing some stuff out here. This is a brave new world were walking into. A lot of things are changing. If the long tail succeeds and self publishing is defacto standard, I think we all lose for so many different reasons.

  27. Examples of the niches mentioned above:
    1. one writer with a huge family self-published a book of family photos for a reunion. One run, no outside sales expects.

    2. another author wrote a chapbook for Pagans trying to reproduce Ancient Greek religious practices. Extremely limited audience, so he did it POD through Xlibris. More of a public service than an attempt to make money.

  28. Excellent examples, Sarah, thanks. Though even reading that, I have to wonder if it wasn’t at least worth testing the market for that second book before going to Xlibris. You never know.

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