Would You Consider Self-Publishing?

by | Oct 6, 2010 | Self-publishing | 187 comments

There’s a whole lot of chatter out there on the Internet these days about self-publishing. Some people still think self-publishing is a secondary option to traditional publication, some fear a deluge of poorly edited books, some are heralding self-publishing as not only the way of the future, but are fast proclaiming anyone who foresees a future with traditional publishers a hopeless dinosaur.

(Speaking personally, I think there’s room for all models in the new era, we can all get along, and I’m a bit confused about why these debates have taken on such an ideological/religious tenor in some circles. But I suppose that’s not the stuff great blog posts are made of.)

Back to the question at hand: would you consider self-publishing? Under what circumstances?

Poll below! (you’ll need to click through if you’re reading on an RSS reader or via e-mail).


  1. Anonymous

    I'd seriously consider it with a side project that I wouldn't otherwise expect to forward to an agent, or something outside of my typical genre.

    I'd still want to try to polish it up, maybe even pseudonym it, and try it as an experiment, but I still plan to seek traditional publishing first and foremost for the majority of my work.

  2. M.A.Leslie

    In a world that is so completely subjective it is almost impossible to not have the thought run through your head. Rejection after rejection makes you start to think of other outlets. Why not? I don't want to though. I still want to go through the agent to publisher process, not that I am old school. I am just under-funded.

  3. janflora

    I agree with you: there's room for all. There is a long history for self-publishing, including some works we now consider classics.
    At this point, I am seeking traditional publishing, but I have thought about having a chapbook made through a service.

  4. Richard Gibson

    My non-fiction project fits the concept of self-publishing pretty well, I think – niche interest, and at least somewhat timely so that the 2 years or more to find an agent who finds a publisher who makes a book is an unattractive prospect.

    I wanted traditional publishing a year ago, but as things continue to change so quickly (both technological and in terms of attitudes) I really see POD and E-pubbing as a valid approach that can make me acceptable money, and get the thing out there in a way that is also easily revised as the things I report on in the book change.

  5. Daisy Harris

    I know you didn't ask for comments, but I wanted to qualify my vote.

    I said self-publishing isn't for me, but the main reason I feel that was is because I'm not a great multi-tasker. I can barely keep track of my contracts, much less organize editors, cover artists, etc.

    Authors already had a ton to do with writing, revising, marketing, learning, bookkeeping. I think self-publishing is a great option for entrepreneurial types who want a hand in every step of the process.

  6. jjdebenedictis

    Erm, I already am considering it.

    I have a book that is unlike anything else I'm likely to write, and although I've gotten compliments on the writing from agents, they tend to pass because the characters are pretty dark and difficult people.

    So this seems like the perfect book to self-publish under a pseudonym. I'll keep trying to get traditionally published with my more-typical fare, but I don't think this book will be to be the one to let me break in.

  7. Jeremy D Brooks

    Absolutely, I already did with my first book Amity. My reasoning: I felt it was a good read (and early reviewers agree, thank zeus), and knew that I could probably make as much on my own as I could via a small press–which was my only other option, since pretty much every agent in Manhattan (and California) had decided that there wasn't a large enough market for it to pay me, an agent, and a staff at a pub house.

    The decision came down to: scrap it, self-publish it, or work with a small press and sell 25 copies. I self-pubbed, and am happy that I did.

  8. Anonymous

    I'd consider it for my backlist once rights revert to me on the expiration of the contract.

    Having been "traditionally" published and had the help of a good editor and a responsible publisher to promote and distribute my work (along with great cover art) I can't imagine doing anything else.

    I respect the time and skills publishing professionals have acquired over the years and don't have the ego to suggest I can do the same with good intentions and a copy of Photoshop.


  9. Josin L. McQuein

    No. There's no safety net.

    And while commercial publishing is hardly a sure bet, there's more behind you than your own belief in the book.

    Even the books that don't get major marketing get the name brand affiliation with the bigger houses (and the better known small ones). People familiar with those houses know what general level of quality to expect, so your book benefits from that assumption.

    Self-pubbed books, on the other hand, have to overcome the preconception that 99% of self-pubbed stuff is garbage. I've never purchased a self-pubbed book, nor do I know anyone who has, and it would take serious word of mouth from someone I knew well to get me to even consider it. If I did consider it, the price would have to be worth the risk, and that doesn't happen often with self-published material.

  10. Taylor Mathews Taylor

    Can we add the option: Yes, but only after I have been traditionally published and have a large and voracious reader base?

  11. Rachel Cotterill

    In other arts, plenty of people pay (modest sums of) good money to see amateur theatre, watch new bands, or acquire the work of a new painter. I see self-publishing as belonging in the proud tradition of amateur arts; if I make a few pennies from my hobby that's all to the good, but I certainly don't have enough spare time to spend time chasing agents & publishers when I could be doing the fun stuff. Plus I get to keep artistic integrity. Win-win.

  12. Chris Phillips

    I would rather have my work selected for traditional publishing. I think it validates it and lets me know it is something worth going forward with.

  13. Creepy Query Girl

    I personally don't think I will head towards self publishment. BUT I think if you believe in your project, have followed the rules, have been told by various professionals that you SHOULD be published but there just isn't a market for your book- I'd go for it. Because, sometimes 'the market' isn't the most important factor in what people read.

  14. hannah

    I have a manuscript I really love that never sold, and at some point I think I'll self-pub it as an ebook and give it away for free on my website. Maybe with a link for an optional donation, or maybe not. It'll help for publicity, maybe, and it'll be nice to get it out there.

    But I'd never consider it for something that has a chance in traditional publishing. I like money and audience as much as the next girl.

  15. Nicole Zoltack

    I would never consider self-publishing. I have already sold several short stories for anthologies, some in ebooks, mostly in print. I also sold a fantasy romance series to an epublisher. My first choice is the big publishers, obviously. Then the smaller print publishers, than epublishers. Self-publishing is not an avenue I would ever take.

  16. jjdebenedictis

    Oh, one more point.

    People tend to get evangelical when they believe something to be true, but the rest of the world is not so firmly of that opinion.

    You see this effect not just in religion, but also in regard to things as diverse as taste in music and choice of computer hardware (Mac users, for example.) When a person feels like no one recognizes that they're right, they often get very fervent about trying to convince others.

    The self-publishing evangelists are certain this is the best solution, but the rest of the world doesn't exactly agree. Hence, their fervency.

  17. Julia King

    I seriously considered self-publishing. I took a community education class about how to publish your novel. The teacher gave multiple ideas for publishing. At that point I was for self-publishing; however, I talked to some people who have publishers and they helped me re-think the decision. It seems more logical and practical to go through a publisher. I do not have money to even think of printing costs. I am completely dedicated to my novel enough to do the marketing but with a publisher's help, the marketing will be easier. Self-publishing may work for some people but it is just not for me.

  18. Andrea

    I wish there was also the option 'maybe'. Because yes, I would consider it. Sure.

  19. Douglas Morrison

    I think the self-publish option needs to find a clearer course than it has now. It is a place where two industries are colliding right now- Paper vs E-Book. One has tons of money and is buying it's way in, the other is holding on to tradition. They will finally meet in the middle somewhere and opinions and lives will change.

    Professional expertice from agents who take on in-house publishing of E- Books, (speculating in titles themselves instead of going through traditional publishers) using their market and social experience. Is this a course you see as possible?

    All the best to the hardest working agent around,


  20. Bobbi

    I would rather not be published at all than self publish. I know that for some people it's a great option. But not for me.

  21. Anonymous

    Interesting comments. I personally have self-published. The reason I did so is because the publishing world is so closed door, especially to black writers, frankly. When you know your writing is good, you should publish it and work your marketing plan. Would I like to go mainstream? Sure. More markets open and (a little) less work promoting it myself. Will I ever? Who knows. Right now, I'm not into waiting around for someone else to validate me when I'm getting five-star reviews on Amazon. I think it's a shame that peopl elike Josin would be so haughty as to indicate she would "never" purchase a self-pubbed book unless someone practically twisted her arm. Yes, I understand about quality. This is a sticking point for me too because I think anyone who is serious about the craft of writing would never publish crap and would hire professional editors, layout designers and cover designers. It can be accomplished for less money than one thinks (the biggest spend is marketing and all the free books you'll need to give away for publicity). I do intend to query agents again next year, though, simply because it's the nature of the beast. Right now, however, I love sitting down with my designers and brainstorming my own covers and keeping creative control of everything. My point: self-publishing is *not* simply a venue for poorly written books and for those of us who do self-publish, we really wish writers would respect the craft and stop publishing junk.

  22. Maya

    I think if you want your work to be read by anyone other than your mom and your friends, you have to find a publisher. I think authors need to be backed by publishers to get our names out there. Also, I would like to know that my work has been "pre-approved" by those in the biz. It tells me that my writing has reached a certain level of professionalism. Feedback is essential, and there is just no substitute for professional feedback in the form of "YES, I believe in you enough to back you" or "No, this isn't for me."

  23. Remus Shepherd

    My views on self-publishing are in flux.

    I don't consider myself very good at self-promotion. That's why I need an agent and a publisher. I'm not in the craft of writing for money or fame — I want eyeballs, as many as possible. Only a crafty agent and the dedicated publicists that publishers employ can get me the number of eyeballs that I want.

    So I don't see the point of self-publishing the majority of what I create.

    I am, however, going to self-publish the side projects that I know traditional publishers will never accept. My webcomic will be printed in a bound edition a few years from now. I have at least one novel that appears to be unsellable, and I may self-publish that just to test the waters and get it out there. And if those experiments are successful I might consider self-publishing more of my works.

    The longer I go without an ally — agent or publisher — who believes in me, the better self-publishing looks. I want millions of eyeballs, but if they're giving me the choice of tens or none I'll take what I can get.

  24. Richard

    Everyone obviously has their own reasons for the path they choose. I went after both routes for my motivational book. My platform was small, and so I was unsuccesful in finding an agent in a timely manner, so I went the self-publishing route. I have had success based on my measurement and the people who have made purchases, whether via Amazon or at my events are very pleased.

    As for the fiction I am working on, I will strive to go traditional. I believe it really just depends on the goals, types of work and countless other factors.

    All in all, I will never look down upon someone who goes self-publishing.

  25. KL

    I have published with small houses, and I have self-published. In the latter case, much of my self-pub work was done to return some out of print books to a new audience. During the original run, there were no Smashwords or Kindle publishing options to help increase exposure. In other cases, I have written shorts deemed too short for consideration by larger houses. Yet, as I have a following, I decided to put them out as eBooks.

  26. K.L. Brady

    I self-published my debut novel The Bum Magnet and I would do it again in a NY minute. I did it only with the intent of finding readers for my book. Four months later I had interest from an editor. A couple weeks after that I got a literary agent. Two months after that I got a 2-book deal with a big six publisher. The self publishing stigma is slowly but surely diminishing. I truly believe as the quality of books improve over time, self published books will become the new slush pile for those that want to go the traditional route. And for everyone else, you may eventually be able to supplement (supplant) your income.

    To address some of the myths: Yes, I got my self published book in bookstores (B&N and some indies across the country). No, I didn't have at least 5,000 sales (was only asked about my sales AFTER I received the offers). Yes, I did a lot of marketing (pimping books ain't easy). Yes, I got great reviews and decent word of mouth going (which probably attracted the editor). No it didn't cost me a mint (around $1k). No, I didn't query anyone after I published the book.

    Why did I go traditional if if self publishing was so great? Distribution – the one major nut left to crack. ๐Ÿ™‚

    If I had left my manuscript rotting in a drawer when I couldn't get an agent, my manuscript would still be rotting in the drawer because I couldn't find an agent. ๐Ÿ™‚ Self publishing is a great option for those willing to put the work in.

  27. Mike

    I think there's room for both, but I would probably go the self-pub route first. When you consider that most authors out there, unless they are household names, are now expected/required to promote and market their own books, are expected to pay for their own signing tours out of pocket, and are getting bare minimum in return, you have to ask yourself what the publisher is really doing for you. Sure, you get the exposure of the bookstores, but with more and more bookstores in trouble, and more people choosing to shop online, is that really a benefit? Most books published today have a shelf-life of two weeks. That's the time frame publishers give authors to decide if they are going to pursue another book with that author.

    When I hear about how a friend's novel was praised by agents and publishers, but rejected because it wouldn't sell, and how he self-published and the book became a number one seller online, it makes you wonder. I know that won't happen with everybody, but you still…

    I also look at some of the publishers like Dorchester, who made the move to digital publishing first, with authors getting 10%. Why settle for 10% when you can self-publish yourself through Amazon for 70%? I'm thinking self-publishing is looking more and more appealing.

  28. Project Savior

    I remember the direct to video trend that swept up movies. People said the same thing about the low budget films being a scourge to Hollywood. It turned out some B Movie directors became legends, some lost everything but for the most part the major studios grabbed the best talent for the high end products.
    Today a new director is asked for their youtube page before they can make it through the door. I feel publishing will go the same way.

  29. Maya

    @Anon at 11:46am-

    If you're writing something that is not "hot" or not selling at the moment, then yes e-publishing is a way to reach some readers. You have to have the strong ability to promote yourself, and you'll still have a an uphill battle getting the distribution that a traditional publisher can offer.

    But how do you know that your novel is not selling because it's not a hot topic or because the writing just plain isn't there yet? If your dream is to make a living off your work, to see it in a bookstore, and really create a career then IMO it is better to hone your craft and wait for the yes.

  30. Carolyn

    There should have been another option: Print published and have or will self-publish backlist titles…

    Which is what I will probably do as I get back the rights to my backlist. There are a lot of reasons now for print published authors to get that reversion letter in hand . . .

  31. Kaitlyne

    I wouldn't, for two main reasons. One is that I'd never get the kind of readership to make it worthwhile. If I had a big following and fan base already who would buy my book no matter what, then sure, I'd be more willing to consider it, but I'm just another nobody. My books wouldn't be on the shelves, no one would no about it, and likely the only people who would ever buy it and read it would be friends or family–and I can just print off a copy for them.

    The second is that there's no validation. Yes, I'd love to see my books in print, but if I did it myself, I'd know that it didn't really mean anything. I would like to know that other people found my work well written and entertaining enough to think it would sell.

    And the truth of the matter is, I figure if I can't get an agent, it's probably because my work just isn't up to par yet. I don't mean to downplay the opinions of my beta-readers, and I am pleased to hear that they think it's great, but I'd like to have an expert tell me the same thing.

  32. Anonymous


    I have this fantasy of publishing the first volume of a series. It doesn't sell very well and though I am contracted to continue writing, I am summarily dropped, told by my fantastic publisher that my numbers are too low to warrant them pubbing the second volume.

    Now I don't even know that that's how it would work, if they would be able to drop me and so forth if there was a contract for three books or however many so I suppose I'm asking if that is possible. And yes I know it's probably not a great idea to write a series before one knows that the first volume will do well etc but in this fantasy, after things go south, I self-pub the second volume and am able to continue the series that-a-way.

    So, my question is, is that legally possible in reality? If one's publisher doesn't want Book Two, whether or not they even know of its existence, is it possible for a writer to self-publish a 2nd volume which contains a story and characters that originally appear in a first work pubbed by a specific company?

  33. Sommer

    This is probably more about my own mind set than the actual self-publishing industry, but I believe that if I put everything into a book, I follow all the rules, I seek lots of advice when I query, I query many, many agents and I work hard at improving my book when I get no bites, and if I still have no luck, then the problem is with me, not with the industry. Either I'm not ready or the market isn't ready for me, but I wouldn't try to go it alone.

    I'd keep working on my craft and keep trying. I don't want to publish no matter what. I want to publish when my writing is ready and the market is ready because I want to be successful. I know self-published authors can do well, I just don't think of myself as going down that road. I respect that the publishing professionals have a lot more knowledge and experience that I don't and probably never will.

  34. Anonymous

    I suppose my question also goes for a writer who publishes a couple of books of a series and then continues that series through self-publishing or for a writer who writes a sequel or prequel to a novel which may have done well but is either not wanted by the publisher or is simply self-pubbed by the writer because they decided that's what they wanted to do.

    Again, this is all predicated on the existence of contracts etc and whether there is a signed one out there but I'm wondering if it's frowned upon or actionable in some way if, say, JK Rowling decides she wants to continue Harry Potter or if a much less well-known story such as Desperate Characters by Paula Fox, which is still being published, got the prequel/sequel treatment.

    Anon @ 1201

  35. John Sankovich

    I think it is more of a last effort if my book doesn't get picked up, and that's after exhausting all the other avenues that are available.

  36. Mark Terry

    Your poll didn't quite have the response that I fit into, but let me expand a bit.

    I am traditionally published–4 novels, a 5th coming out in a year (The Valley of Shadows, June 2011). I have also published a collection of novellas via iUniverse years back through a free program briefly affiliated with Mystery Writers of America. I wrote 3 children's novels that didn't fly after fairly extensive marketing, and I liked 2 of them enough–and my kids did as well–that I self-published them via Kindle (The Battle for Atlantis and Monster Seeker). Mostly I wanted those 2 to see the light of day because of my kids.

    I had a thriller, formerly called Dancing In The Dark, now titled Edge, that we couldn't place. It was my first experiment with the Kindle DTP.

    Just this weekend, after about 18 months of marketing and not finding it a home (including a Kensington editor wanting it but the marketing department shooting it down and a film producer trying to hunt up financing for it), I decided to self-publish Hot Money for Kindle. I expect to write more novels featuring the main character, Austin Davis, because I think he's fun.

    But I'm also traditionally publishing my other Derek Stillwater novels, and I'm currently looking for a new agent, so I've got a proposal for an espionage novel, and I very much want to go the traditional route with that.

    I think–and hope–that there will be room for both.

  37. Mira

    This is an excellent question. I'm very interested to see the results of the poll, and I applaud you, Nathan, for taking this on!

    I want to point out, though, that there is a very big difference between self-publishing (expensive and you have to find an audience from scratch) versus e-publishing, (more reasonable costs, and you have instant access to those that use e-devices).

    For me, I'm very torn. I really, really want to work with some particular people in traditional publishing. And having your book in a bookstore is great distribution. It reaches folks that don't have e-readers.

    That may change though. I mentioned this in the forums the other day. With POD, bookstores and e-published authors and agents may eventually decide to negotiate without the publisher.

    And traditional publishing drives me crazy sometimes. It seems to hold disdain for the author as a culture. I'm sorry, and I'm not saying that is anyone's fault, but that's my perception. Some days that really makes me mad. Other days, it hurts me and pushes me away.

    I also don't like that the industry takes (what I feel) is an unfair share of the profit. I'm not in it for the money, actually, but some people are. And it just feels part and parcel of not truly valuing the author. If the author were more valued, I think they would make sure the author could make a living in the industry just like everyone else. Especially given how important the author's contribution is.

    If I e-publish, I lock in a very high royalty rate – up to 70% for the life of the book. I also have creative control. I pick my cover and title. And I'm going to have to market myself anyway, so why not get the profits that come from that?

    On the other hand, I do want other eyes on my work, that's for sure. And I think traditional publishing has some absolutely terrific people working within it. There is something wonderful about having a team to support you. But I'm not sure it's worth the trade-off – I can gather my own team, as well.

    This is all hypothetical, of course, since I haven't written anything, but I'm trying to answer the question honestly.

    When I write something, and I'm ready to publish, I know I'll query you, Nathan. Obviously. If you decide the projects not right for you, I may approach a few others. After that, I just don't know.

  38. Jesse

    ABSOLUTELY!! Do I prefer it over traditionally published–oh yeah. As someone pointed out, there's a lot of your own leg work involved. Problem is, being traditionally published these days, you're STILL doing that legwork. Especially with the indie and smaller presses. You're expected to sell your own books, set up your own book signings, send your own review copies. Hell, if I'm gonna do that, I'm gonna self/subsidy-pub and get a better royalty rate.

    And yes, I'm a control freak. I want more control over my story, my cover. I edited the hell out of that. I had good friends who are also professional editors read and edit story and copy edit. Now, I want to control how it's viewed, how it's marketed. Like I said, if I'm gonna do it anyway, I might as well do it right.

    So, I'd prefer a trad contract. But I would self/subsidy-pub in a heart beat. And probably will here very soon.

  39. Phoenix

    I'm soliciting short stories for an anthology that I'll e-publish as a way for those involved to test the waters. I have a pro artist experienced with cover design attached and some fair editing skill so I expect a quality product.

    Depending on how that goes, then sure, I'm on board with e-publishing projects where agents and editors have praised the writing and the storylines — taken them to editorial board meetings, even — only to turn them down in the end. As long as the work is not an embarrassment, why not?

  40. DG

    Did I want to land an agent and then sell to a traditional publisher? Of course I did, it would be a dream come true.

    After an exhaustive attempt at even finding an agent however, I began to investigate self publishing, although it still seemed like forbidden fruit.

    Then my health worsened again, and I realized I didn't want to die with my manuscript left as merely a file on my computer. I wanted my kids to have a finished product.

    Now I'm just weeks away from publishing through Createspace, and I couldn't be happier.

  41. Anonymous

    Nathan — I know you said the topic is almost like religion for some people. And you're not wrong because what I'm about to say may be a little controversial.

    But, really, isn't it a little disingenuous when agents don't offer much of an opinion on self-publishing? "It's a good option for some people, blah, blah." Yes, there are cases where it can help authors (if they already have a name for themselves, or are writing for niche market, or don't care about having a real distribution).

    But REALLY, in the spirit of what most of us are trying to accomplish — to become a mainstream author in a mainstream genre — isn't self-publishing a sort of cop-out, and giving up on your dream?

  42. Douglas Dorow

    I plan to self publish my Thriller ebook on kindle, smashwords, pubit, etc. The financial incentives are there with the percentages an independent author gets, plus with the direction publishing is going and the momentum ebooks are gathering makes it a good time for a new author.

    Traditional publishing would maybe be an alternative later to widen distribution beyond the eworld.

    To be a successful independent ebook author I need to focus on the same things I would going the traditional route:
    Write a great story
    Have it reviewed and edited
    Have a great cover

    The writing is up to me, I'm part of a critique group and have beta readers, I've hired an editor and a cover designer.

    I hope readers will like my story.

  43. swampfox

    It's a brutal world out there. If you have no name you might be stuck in writer's limbo forever. But if you have a name, like Snookie, you get published with little effort.

    Extremely talented people with no name who put in a lot of hard work (yesterday's topic) will have a chance, but with bad timing and/or bad luck success still might elude them.

    So, yes, there is room for both. You prefer one, but might have to settle for the other to get launched, and then…well…what happens then might still depend on timing and luck.

  44. Giles Hash

    Personally, I don't plan on self-publishing simply because the "traditional" machine is much better at distributing a book to the widest markets. Of course I'll put in a ton of effort to sell my book once it's published, but when I want to go into a store, the last thing I need is a fight between a bookstore and an indie-press/distributor.

    I've seen it happen so many times. An author comes into a store for a signing and someone (either the store of the distributor) dropped the ball and didn't get any copies for the author to sign. As someone with a day-job and family, I just don't have time to fix those problems on a weekly basis…and I've seen it happen several weeks in a row at the store I worked at.

  45. Les Edgerton

    No. And, why do they call it "self-publishing?" What happened to the original, correct term–"vanity publishing?"

    You can call it anything you want to, but it's still just vanity publishing. Just cheaper. And, I guess, using a more politically-correct term…

    There's a somewhat well-known writer who is all over the place self-promoting is success in self-publishing and making money at $2.99, but if anyone ever read his books, there's a reason he never sold that much in print. They're only worth about $2.99 and that's being extremely generous. Mostly… drek…

  46. Nathan Bransford

    anon re: series-

    It depends on the contract you sign with the publisher, but usually you'd be free to self-publish sequels if they weren't interested.


    I do have an opinion on self-publishing – that every author should decide what is best for themselves. Some projects are best pursued via self-publishing, some are best via traditional publishing. That's not lip service. Every situation is different. Self-publishing is not a route to mainstream success for most authors, but it has been for some.

    I'm not going to demonize it or oversell it because it really all depends on the project and on the author. I would still suggest overall, when in doubt give the traditional publishing process a try first, but if that doesn't work or if the author doesn't want to go that route it's not my place to decide what's best for their book.

  47. Lindsay

    Self-publishing via the Internet *is* probably the wave of the future, but I'm not interested in being self-published. I might consider experimenting once I'm published by a traditonal print publisher, if they wouldn't mind.

  48. abc

    No b/c I'm too lazy.

  49. Khanada

    I voted that self-publishing is not for me cos I'm a beginner. My goal is to write well enough to be published, so self-publishing just doesn't tell me whether I've done that.

  50. Anonymous

    I put "only if I don't find a publisher", but I really need to check both that and "for side projects" and "other." "Other" is because my agent has told her clients she talks to Amazon, etc, and is keeping an eye on how agents might function within the sphere of direct-to-digital, etc, in the future.

    Plus, I don't want "just any" publisher. I write romance, which has a number of e-only presses, but if I were going to do that, I'd self-pub instead. It's not that I don't appreciate all the things those companies do, but–with the exception of Carina, the e arm of Harlequin–most of them don't provide enough incentive for me to find them an attractive option.

    As and AUTHOR, I see the appeal of self-pub and the "democratizing" possibilities that people rave about. As a READER I dread the flood of crud. I think that's frequently the disparity you see in discussions of self-pub.

  51. Anonymous

    Stunned by the percentage of people willing to self publish if they don't find a traditional publisher interested.

    Um, if I don't find a traditional publisher interested, it probably means my book sucks.

    No amount of publishing it anyway is going to fix that, writing another book hopefully will.

  52. Cathi

    I'm hoping to never have to make this decision…

  53. Maureen Mullis

    I cannot tell you how many times I've gotten requests for my complete ms to be told the agent really likes it but with the market the way it is ….

    Self-publishing is a way for me to get published now, and we'll see what the future holds as far a traditional publishers/agents go. I agree with you, there's room and readers enough for all of us, and I don't think one is better than the other.

  54. Melissa

    I chose "with a side project," but I'm not sure that's actually the reasoning I'd use.

    I'm published in non-fiction. Audience is sub-niche. If I published again for that audience, I'd self-publish, because the publisher couldn't give me a wider audience than I can reach myself.

    For fiction, I'll stick to traditional… at least at this point… because I don't have the audience yet.

  55. swampfox

    Oh, btw, I voted no.

  56. Maya

    Nathan –

    Fair enough, I'll accept your answer. ๐Ÿ™‚ At least you said:
    "when in doubt give the traditional publishing process a try first".


  57. Anonymous

    I meant I was Anon@12:36. Heh, I should just use my name.

  58. Tchann

    I have a dream. I've had it for a long time. I want to see a book, written by me, on the shelf of the library I grew up with. The library my mother works at. It's a goal I want to achieve like CRAZY.

    I'll not only court traditional publishing – I'll stalk it until every bit of the industry is exhausted and if I still don't have a book on that shelf, then I'll do it whatever way I have to. Whatever it takes.

  59. Anonymous

    A more pertinent question for me would be:

    Would I consider going with an indie e-publisher (instead of a traditional one)?

    (I don't know the answer yet.)

  60. kerrygans

    I chose "side projects." For my novels, I would definitely prefer a tradtional publisher, so I could take advantage of the things they have to offer.

    However, I am deeply into genealogy and am compiling a book(s) of my research. These would only be of interest to my immediate family and other researchers looking into the same families that I am. This project would not interest a traditional publisher, but a POD-type self-publishing model would work well for it.

  61. Anonymous

    RE: SP: If I could be sure of professional editing, layout, marketing, and distribution, etc.
    I would notch up my consideration.

  62. Mariam Maarouf

    Self-publishing is more convenient for an author IF said author has experience with the publishing industry – the distribution, the marketing, the cover-art, the EDITING. Self-publishing is sometimes misunderstood – misinterpreted as the 'easy way out'; you don't have to query, you don't have to wait, you get a higher royalty, and you get to control EVERYTHING.


    You have to make that book compete with the rest, traditionally-published books regarding everything.

    God, I'm not even making sense.

    Bottom line: if you're choosing it because agents/publishers wouldn't buy your book, you might want to take a second look at it; you're probably not the world's upcoming Shakespeare. Seriously.

    And if you're choosing it for the flexibility: be careful and choose well.

  63. Rebecca Stroud

    Almost a year ago, I began the arduous journey of searching for an agent by – first of all – studying ad nauseam how to write the perfect query.

    After I had that down pat (in my mind, anyway), I selected Nathan. Within an hour, I received a rejection that "my work was simply not for him."

    I cannot tell you how grateful I was for that email. Meaning: The book I was proposing is a compilation of animal-related newspaper columns. Though published, my platform is just about ground level. And Nathan, bless him, sent me on my way to e-publishing.

    For the more I read about it, the more I felt like this was the way I should go. I could spend months/years chasing the elusive ace-agent yet – even if I found a taker – I'd spend another year or two…waiting. Not my strong suit.

    So, I bit the bullet and learned all I could about e-publishing. As my columns were already written (and self-edited, too), I learned how to format in HTML. I did my own cover photo; no caption, but no biggie.

    And, other than a couple spacing errors and one page of bold text (my fault), the book previewed pretty good.

    Bottom line: The Animal Advocate was published on Amazon's Kindle two days ago. And, although the long haul of marketing is staring me down, I am proud and pleased that I went "outside the box" when – for me – the inside of that box was most likely going to remain empty.

    As for traditional vetting: Yes, crap abounds among some indie authors. Yet, as an avid reader, I've seen so much *yuck* published lately by well-known writers that – again – I'll take my chances knowing that readers aren't stupid; they can find a diamond in the rough easily. Just hope I'm one of them…

  64. Rebecca Stroud

    OMG…I see that my comment posted four times! Don't know what happened as it kept "canceling" it out…..anyway, SORRY!!!

  65. Roguecyber

    Why should you self publish? Because it's scary.

    It's scary to be out there on your own, with only yourself to blame for the success or failure of your works. Most people do not have the skill or fortitude to be an entrepreneur.

    Be lazy, get a trad pub. Let them determine your success or failure.. ๐Ÿ™‚

  66. Rick Daley

    I've considered it, but I'm more interested in traditional publishing.

    WORD VERIFICATION: bacula. After the modernization of the vampire, there will be a retro movement to the pure origins of the Transylvanian count who started it all.

  67. Nathan Bransford

    (deleted) anon-

    Over the line. There's no reason for personal attacks.

  68. lotusgirl

    I'm surprised at how high the percentage is of those who would self-publish. Wow. I wouldn't want to do that in a million years.

  69. Lori Henry

    Self publishing is a tempting avenue, but I'll be looking for the agent-then-publisher route for my book. As much as I like the idea of earning more royalties and having all the say in the design and look of the book, I'm a write and I just want to write. It's easy to get caught up in the "other" stuff, but I have to remind myself to just keep writing and leave the editing and designing to those who are experts. ๐Ÿ™‚

  70. Fawn Neun

    I've done it for side projects and for things that have already been published and the rights have reverted. I've done it for things that don't fit anywhere in the traditional scheme of things (i.e. novellas). It's actually quite a lot of fun. There's some projects, however, that I feel better marketing through a more traditional publisher.


    Considering, yes.
    Still on the fence.

    A friend took the self plunge with his first. It must have given him a step up, since he received major professional backup on the follow-up book. He made to the shelves of Starbucks. So the initial push was worth it.


  72. Scott

    I think this one depends entirely on the project.

    With something that has a shot at being the next Harry Potter, go for trad so you can get all that publicity and legitimacy behind you. Every school librarian in the land will be pushing your book.

    If you just finished a quick, dirty little paranormal romance that doesn't quite fit mainstream conventions but might still probably grab the attention of several thousand Twilight fans, go self-pub/e-book only.

    As in the experience of Amanda Hocking (http://amandahocking.blogspot.com/2010/09/my-thoughts-on-indie-publishing.html) you could make a LOT more money that way than trying to hack it with a small press that can't sell much for you anyway.

  73. Daryl Sedore

    Only self-publishing for me. I would never go traditional. The traditional model has too many flaws, in my opinion.

    1.) Rights: I wouldn't want to spend a year or more writing the novel, caring for it, nurturing it, then six months editing it just to give it to one of the Big Six so I can receive 10%-15% royalties. Never.

    2.) Royalties: Roughly 10% for the first 10,000 copies sold and then 15% after that. So on a $26.00 hard cover I'd start at $2.60 per book. And yet Barnes & Noble buys the $26.00 for $13.00. Barnes & Noble, a book store, makes 5 times what I make per book and I wrote it. Never.

    3.) E-book royalties: 40% ceiling in traditional. And that's only because Wylie stood up to the plate. 70% at Amazon and 85% at Smashwords for self-pubbed. Do the math. On a $4.99 e-book, I make $3.50 at Amazon and $4.24 at Smashwords. Go figure. That's a much cheaper book for the reader and I make more as the author.

    There are too many reason to list here. I have about 30 more. They're all in my upcoming book called Publishing Exposed: The Sedore Report.

    Good luck to all those going traditional. The Big Six will be the Big Two in about 5-10 years. The Big Two: Amazon and Apple

  74. Jeffrey Beesler

    In the late 90's I posted episodic installments of a series based on some chatroom buddies of mine. In that sense I suppose I'd embraced self-publishing before ever truly knowing what it was.

    These days I am willing to publish in whatever format will get my writing directly to my readers. My readers don't really care how I get it to them as long as I just give them what they need.

  75. Michelle Davidson Argyle

    It depends on the project. I have already self-published a fairy-tale themed novella, but I have also just signed a contract with a traditional publisher for a thriller novel. I like that I can do both!

    Self-publishing is definitely not for everyone. It's nice that there are things we can choose that work for us.

  76. Koneko

    If I had a platform to build off, yeah, for my current story I'd do it: it's an experimental idea, and around 40k, so… for fantasy, particularly non-romantic, I haven't really found a market it fits yet.

    I'm more tempted to let it go for the love, though. It took so much of me, taught me how to write short, and tested the limits of what my mind would let me write (I'm not really into blood… but then I had to kill someone "on screen" :|) that money doesn't entirely seem worth it, anymore.

  77. Ishta Mercurio

    I know that I need the eyes of an editor on my work in order to see the areas where what I have done is good, but not quite amazing. I want my work to get to "amazing" before it gets to the shelves.

  78. Anonymous

    I think it's the validation. I write literary fiction, which is hard enough to sell when pubbed traditionally. But part of the heaven/hell of lit fiction is the ridiculously impossible chance of being published. It's not just about being read; it's about being considered brilliant. And getting short story into VQR or Agni would be a reward in and of itself–not the same as self-pubbing it and having friends and relatives read it.

  79. minawitteman

    @Mariam Maarouf. You are making perfect sense to me.

    Getting a book out on the market — and I assume we're talking about a broader market than family and friends — involves so much more than just writing it. That seems so easily forgotten. Of course a writer could purchase most of the services needed to deliver a competitive book (editing, cover art, illustrations, etc.), but that will involve a serious investment. If you take such an investment into the equation, the self-publishing royalties aren't as glorious as they may seem at first sight.

    Traditional publishers have the expertise and — not unimportant — the marketing and distribution channels, that will give a book a better chance out there.

  80. Carol Riggs

    In August, I self-pubbed my fantasy novel JUNCTION 2020 via Amazon's CreateSpace, which is print-on-demand. This is better than regular self-pubbing because there is not an initial cash output! I got to design my own cover, too. I tried POD as an experiment, with a novel I stopped querying about, but didn't want to shelve. This way, at least a dozen people have read my book already, and liked it. I can give copies to my family, friends, etc. Cool!

    However, I am still trying for traditional publishing. If I never attain that, at least I will have ONE book with my name on it.
    (which is very cool thrill to see, let me tell ya).

    My book if you're curious:
    Junction 2020 on Amazon

  81. Catherine Blakeney

    Only if eBooks truly become the dominant form of publishing do I think self-publishing will ever be equal to that of traditional publishing, at least for mass market books. The Internet may yet be the great equalizer. But brick and mortar stores still dominate, and the only way to get in them in a big way is with the traditional route.

  82. Stephanie Faris

    I have to admit, I've thought about it over the years. It's been a long, rocky path for me…but I got some advice early on that stuck with me. A well-known author said it in answer to someone's question about e-publishing at a workshop. She said it's all about your career path. You have to sit down and map it out at the beginning and ask yourself, is e-publishing/self-publishing going to help you make your goals? If someone's goal is just to write and get their work out there in a small forum, why not? But I just personally would rather wait for a traditional publishing deal.

  83. Anonymous

    I self-published 20 or so years ago, before POD and ebooks, when it was both expensive and a lot of work. Although the novel did well, selling over 2,500 copies and attracting the attention of a editor at a major house, I didn't consider self-publishing when I lost a contract with her for what would have been my second novel. And I said I wouldn't consider self-publishing again because of the stigma and the fact that self-published books are ineligible for reviews in key journals and most awards.

    All the people on this and other sites, however, are pushing me to change my mind. Because so many midlist authors and their series are being dropped due to low sales, self-publishing may be the only way for those authors to stay in the game. And small presses may offer prestige and eligibility for critical accolades, but they take all your rights and don't do anything with them, and pay you very little money.

  84. Anonymous

    Nathan what do you think about literary fiction and self-publishing? I just do not see a place for it.

  85. Ryan Fortney

    I chose yes and that I won't even be looking for a traditional publisher and here's why:

    Over the two and a half years it's taken me to write my first novel, the first in a series of six, I've read so many negative things about traditional publishing that it isn't even slightly attractive anymore.

    I've decided that I have enough confidence in my work and enough power, myself, to go the "self-publishing route."

    In the long-run, if my book does really well, I can sit back and say, "Hey man, you did that yourself. People love your work and it isn't because of a big-house pubby — it's because of your passion."

    Not to say that others don't have passion.

    I honestly feel that this is the best path for me. I'm a real do-it-yourself kind of guy. I get a large amount of satisfaction out of it.

    And I realize that there are people that will disregard what I've written, even if I price it at, say, 2.99, but hey, their loss.

    Honestly, do what feels good. Go with your gut. This is what my gut tells me.

  86. Nathan Bransford


    Still think it depends on the project. There's a lot of literary fiction falling through the publishing cracks these days.

  87. Maggie

    Personally, I would not self-publish. I have absolutely no problem with people doing it if that's what is right for them, but for what I am looking for as an aspiring author (wider reach than my personal acquaintances, for one) it is incredibly hard with self-pubbing, as I've seen firsthand working in bookstores.

    Imagine yourself going into a bookstore to spend $25 of your hard-earned money on something that you are then going to spend a lot of time on reading. Would you really be likely to pick up something you've never heard of, with a cover that's probably not quite professional looking, and not from a publisher you've heard of? Maybe you would, but I wouldn't, and that's why I wouldn't self-publish.

    I feel like, if I can't find an agent and get a traditional publisher to pick up my work, I need to improve it, and if I can't, maybe I'm not meant to be published right now. Just my two cents, and I know lots of people think differently, and to each his own! If you're looking for something different than I am out of publication, it could be great for you.

    One caveat: I do think self-pub is great for one thing, and that's niche titles that you have a platform for but not a big enough platform for a publisher to pick you up. In the bookstore I worked at, self-pub books came in all the time and sold very little, except for a book about a very specific kind of gardening in our state's environment. That sold really well (well for a self-pub book that is, still not really well compared to most traditional pub books), because it was the only thing out there.

  88. Roguecyber

    Three things…

    Now: It is currently in an authors financial best interest to self-pub, IF they are small press or niche. If your a NYC best seller it probably too big to manage without an agent, etc.

    Future: When "the book" goes away in the predicted 5 to 10 years (per the trad pub houses), do you want to have control over the relationship with your audience, or do you want your publisher to own that relationship.

    Agents: How long will it before there are agents who specialize in matching up indie authors with editors, cover artists, marketers, reviewers and voice actors outside the traditional publishing model?

  89. David

    I used to shun it and look down on it and view it with horror and so on. Circumstances changed my opinion.

    It happened step by step. I didn't even realize that I was approaching the precipice.

    First, I republished as ebooks my old novels that were originally published in the standard way. That was so easy. I even got checks in the mail. Sooo tempting …

    Then – oh, shame! – I took the plunge and published an original work as an ebook. And I felt a vast sense of relief. Now I'm … I'm … sob! … looking forward to doing the next one the same way.

    But I'll query a few agents first on that one. Just in case.)

  90. Roguecyber

    Another thing:

    Outside of certain genre fiction, do readers ever look at who published a book?

    Yet Another Thing:

    At this moment, per the poll, 65% would participate in some form of self-publishing. If I were an agent I would like long and hard about that trend. Especially how to make money off of it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  91. Susan Kaye Quinn

    You're always on the leading edge, Nathan, and I truly appreciate that. I think there's a lot of turmoil over the self-vs-traditional publishing routes because people have so much vested (in both options). But I love your take: it depends on the project, the author, and possibly even the timing (in their career). Maybe we can de-stigmatize and let people find their audiences?

  92. Ann M

    I agree that it depends on the project. I think if the book is targeted for a main stream audience, it's probably better off with a major publisher. But, if the book is more of a niche then it might do well beings self-published, since it would be easier to find (and market to) the audience the book is aimed at.

  93. Douglas L. Perry

    I have self published, but it was for a couple of reasons. First, I thought that my book was going to be for a much narrower market. Turns out I was wrong about that, but that's another story (sorry for the pun)

    Second, I got pretty far in a BookSurge contest and they gave me a pretty good deal, which I assume is why they held these in the first place, right?

    The real question is, would I do it again?

    I'd say maybe. If the book were for a very narrow market, probably, but otherwise, probably not.

  94. Kristin Laughtin

    For niche/family things that I wanted nicely bound, I'd go through a self-publishing service. If I wanted my work out there and couldn't/wouldn't do it through a traditional publisher, I might consider creating a website on which to publish my fiction writing. MIGHT. It would depend how badly I wanted it out there, or how much I wanted to promote it.

  95. terryd

    I feel quite fortunate to be working for The Man (Orbit Books, two-book deal). I can't imagine performing all the behind-the-scenes work necessary for a world release.

    The book is available almost everywhere (U.S. and Commonwealth formats) and is on the shelves of 180-some library systems.

    Helpful hint for those with books out in the world, or looking for a certain book in libraries: try worldcat.org

  96. dormannheim

    i would…under these conditions: Writing daily 35+ years. Writing published in magazines. Oodles of rejections for creative nonfiction books and novels. i would, and did. i do.

  97. Marianne (witchie)

    I thought about it…but that was before I published with a small press that offers booksellers the same returnability that the large houses do…so my books will be on the shelves as well.

    For me self-publishing was a last resort. But I know plenty of indie authors that it was their first an only choice.

    Nathan, your right…it's become a topic that makes people's blood bloil and opens the door for otherwise decent writers to be torn to shreds. Of course there will always be the schlock that gets self-pubbed…but taking that path shouldn't automatically demean the quality of the work.

    i'm just thankful I didn't have to go that way.

    Marianne Morea
    Author, Hunter's Blood

  98. SSB

    I would only consider self-publishing, but only if a really cute agent like you rejected me. Okay, I know you said it wouldn't work, but a writers gotta try.

  99. SSB

    Scratch only. The ADD is acting up again.

  100. folksinmt

    With the evolution of the ebook and self-promotion on the Internet, do you think that self-publishing will always have that "you're not quite good enough to be published" stigma, or do you think that will soon be a thing of the past?

  101. J. T. Shea

    If the publishing dinosaurs do die out, I have a completely original plan. Let's get their DNA from flies that sucked their blood and then got stuck in tree sap that later turned into amber. Then we fill in the gaps with reptile DNA (among other stupid mistakes) and clone them on a secret island theme park off the coast of Central America. Then we invite families with children to get eaten…I mean entertained by the revived dinosaurs.

    I can see it now. 'Run, Lex! It's the Elsevierosaur! Oh no! There's Tyrannosaurus Random! And there's a Scholasticus right behind you! Not only will they tear you apart limb-from-limb and devour your remains, they'll try to give you only 25% of the Ebook net!'

  102. D.G. Hudson

    It's better to consider all options if you want to be realistic.

    I wouldn't totally rule it out. That decision would depend on the type of story, the genre, and the reactions that were generated via rejected submissions.

    I'd prefer to have an agent assist with the publishing end of the process.

  103. Brian Centrone

    Self-Publishing isn't the taboo it used to be and more and more writers are turning to it as the market gets harder and harder to crack.

    For me, I still fell that having a publisher publish my book is a right of passage in a sense. It's the notion that you have been accepted. Someone out there thought you were good enough to take that leap of faith.

    I am considering self publishing side projects like a collection of my published short stories with some new stories thrown into the mix. I think it would be a good way to promote myself and my writing, as well as something for the fans. All my stories in one place – especially since most of them are not readily available.

    But as for the novel, at this stage, I need that validation.

  104. Anonymous

    I self-published after nice rejections ("well-written but the space is crowded") and nearly making it to the show (manuscripts requested and reviewed).

    It wasn't the quality of my work that held it back — it was perceived marketability.

    Amazon Kindle came along several years after I finished my first book, and I took advantage. Now I'm getting nice fat electronic deposits from Amazon every month.

    Would I do it again? Yes. I love retaining my rights, controlling pricing, cover art, and editorial. I love real readers telling me they love my books.

    The money has been a blessing. I'm paying for college educations. Sometimes you do what you have to do to help your children, and they are proud to say to their friends, "my mom is a best-selling Kindle author!"

    When the stigma of being self-published burns? I just rub some money on it.

  105. Doug Pardee

    For me, a big consideration is "print or e-book"? I don't think I'd want to self-publish in print. I don't think I'd want to go traditional for e-book. Those are my own biases.

    If/when I ever get something completed, I strongly suspect I'll be going pure e-book. I think that within a few years the percentages (market% x royalty%) are going to favor the self-published e-bookโ€”for most narrative fiction, anyway.

    I personally don't need the validation of a 'Big 6' publisher, and I don't need to have the physical book with my name on the cover. That makes the decision easier for me than for many others.

  106. Lindsay B

    I'm going to seek an agent for one novel and self-publish the other, so how's that for voting between the lines? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I do internet marketing for my day job, and I just want to take a stab at creating a "product" of my own for once and seeing how I can do with selling it.

  107. ryan field

    No. I wouldn't want to take on all that extra work.

    But I do have a huge sense of admiration for those who do invest their time, money, and have the courage to go that route. I also think they may be on to something that's only going to increase and become more popular in time.

  108. Claire Farrell

    I've experimented by self-publishing short stories. It's exceeded my expectations and I've discovered I love all aspects of publishing despite it being a huge learning curve for me. I am going to self-publish my longer work as soon as I can afford to pay for editing.

    I've never considered traditional publishing so I've nothing to lose. I think self publishing is a better fit for my personality.

  109. Victoria

    I wouldn't buy or read a self-published book. I've been to Authonomy, I know what unpublished works read like without the benefit of editing and polishing. Though I've no doubt there are some gems in there, I don't have time to search through them myself. As a reader, I rely on the publishing houses to screen out the worst of the world's writing; I'm just not interested in seeing the dregs of the world's writing unfiltered.

    It's like the difference between buying music from a backyard band and a band professionally produced by a record company. I wouldn't waste my money on the former. I'd trust if they were good enough, they'd eventually be published traditionally and I'd find them then.

    I realise a lot of people use the 'subjective' line to explain why their work isn't getting picked up, but so often it actually seems like that's just something they say to make themselves feel better. Maybe it's simpler than that; they just don't have a good enough story for someone to buy it yet.

    There's so much on the market and so many different tastes catered for that I trust the best gets there.

    For the same reasons, I'm not interested in joining the ranks of the self-published. I want to be good enough to be published the legitimate way.

  110. Henri

    I just decided to go down the self-publishing route, after years of refusing to consider. Here's one of the reason why…


    That's the blog address from a publishing insider, Alan Rinzler.

    Anyone interested in self-publishing should check out his fascinating blog.

  111. Adam Heine

    Re: ideological/religious tenor. In hacker circles, this is what's known as a holy war. It happens when people try to pass off personal value choices as objective evaluations. Obviously it's not limited to obscure hacker issues.

    I'd consider self-publishing if and only if (a) I didn't get published and (b) I had reason to believe total strangers would buy my book. That second one is still very much a sticking point.

  112. Joanna

    I did self publish my book and it sold very well. Now it has been picked up by a publisher. I think self publishing is a great first step for a writer Yes, it is a great feeling when your work is validated by an agent, editor or publishing company but I know I'd never have made it to this point had I not first taken the plunge on my own. Go for it…

  113. Colleen

    No. I respect those who self-publish, but it's not for me. I like the idea of having a publishing house standing behind me and supporting me, no matter how small they are. I've published poetry with small presses to date, and have had a great experience with genuinely helpful editors who helped me expand my market and place my work into the hands of folks who really wanted it. I also appreciate that having been published by a house gives me the sort of chops I need in academia – you can't make a tenure track position with self publishing. And there seems to be a reason – a number of self-published works I was happy to support have been both poorly edited (for content) and poorly copy edited. Until those who self-publish are willing to invest in editors, having someone else publish you and giving you that feedback can be really essential. Again – many self-published authors do it successfully and know the value of revision, editing, and proofreading…but the large number of those who *don't* end up making me suspicious of the whole practice. In the end, to each their own. As a librarian, writer, and booklover, as long as people are reading, I dont care how the material gets published; I care that people are encouraged to love reading.

  114. Natasha Fondren

    I couldn't vote in your poll!

    To me, self-publishing is an equal option to all others. I believe in diversification. I wouldn't do it and rule out NY, I wouldn't do it only if I didn't find a publisher for a project, and I wouldn't just reserve it for side projects.

    Self-publishing is really just another publisher to consider. It depends what's best for the project, and I hope that I will be diversified enough one day to have my works in all pots.

  115. Anonymous

    Yes. No. Sure. Never! Maybe.

    How should I know?

    I tell stories. What does that have to do with publishing?

    Right now, I don't see any attractive way to get my stories into the hands of many readers.

    So I'll keep reading blogs like this and watch for changing time.

    Maybe an idea I can live with will pop up. Maybe I'll win the lottery and buy a publishing house. I hear they're available cheap right now.

    In the meantime, I'll just keep telling stories.


  116. Anonymous

    I would go for it if I had a very niche audience ( I did speeches on X say, and then sold a book at my seminar. Maybe poetry too.A local history book. Things that don't appeal to a wide audience)

    Other than that, self-pubbing means, well. it means you don't think it has wide appeal OR you can't convince an agent or publisher it can. Which means it probably doesn't. (note the probably. It may do. But have you read the slush pile? It may very well not) You sell you work to your mates and unless you are very marketing savvy AND an awesome editor…you won't win. Unless you have your niche and/or you're bloody great at marketing.

    PS – I hate the word verification. It'd be nice if it was actually a word….Because sometimes I can't make out what it's meant to be saying….8 times trying so far! If they were actual words it'd be easier to figure out what they are! Do I need to post this that badly? Actually if it does it one more time it can go screw itself.

    Edit: fifteen times! I'm only doing this now to how how chuffing hard it is to comment here. If I had sight problems it'd be worse….I wouldn't mind but I'm stone cold sober. Why can't I just post a damn comment?

    Fuck it. In the end I had to do it anonymously or stab the screen. Like it matters who I am. And stuff. But it'd be nice not to be anonymous

  117. Maureen Gill

    Sorry, but I didn't labor very long in the hostile vineyards of traditional publishing and can't understand why anyone else would either. I was very lucky and attracted excellent agents so it's certainly not that I was desperate or in dire straits. In fact, I received 5 very positive responses requesting chapter samples out of my first (and I swear my last) 53 query letters and then very quickly moved into serious discussions. This all happened within 8 weeks of beginning the query process but it was a process that left me feeling debased and immediately looking for alternatives. Why? I could write volumes on the subject (and most likely will later) but I think the pivotal moment came when I realized I just didn't have to grovel and toady and play "Mother May I?" No, maybe it was when an agent told me that under today's publishing business model Steinbeck couldn't get published. No, I think it might have been after another agent told me that even if we moved forward my book wouldn't be in print for about a year. No, wait, maybe it was when an agent suggested I "dumb the book down" because the average American reader can't "deal with complex." (Oh yeah? You ever watch the TV show "Lost" or see the movie "Crash"?) No, it was… OK, you get the point but I knew my decision was dead on right when I received an email from an agent last week (10/1) responding to my query dated May 4th (no business can operate in today's markets with that kind of response time; it's archaic). My experiences with assisted publishers like Smashwords and CreateSpace have been great. Mark Coker at Smashwords actually answered one of my emails within an hr. of me sending it to the company on a weekend! Contrast that to the agentโ€™s response that took 5 months! Good God. These new companies are professional, have outstanding turnaround time, unbelievable customer service, and now offer extensive marketing and distribution strategies and avenues. What they donโ€™t do is play Cultural Gatekeeper; instead they let the marketplace sort the wheat from the chaff and that works for me.

  118. Mary McDonald

    I have one self-published and hope to have my second (sequel to the first) in the next few months. Honestly, I don't think I'll ever submit a query to an agent again.

  119. Becca

    I have considered it, but only for side projects for the time being. For example, a collaboration with a friend that I'm working on.

  120. Heidi C. Vlach

    I'm looking into self-publishing and marketing options. Agents and editors have indicated that my work is too unusual to fit in with traditional publishing's expectations of high fantasy. But there are plenty of people on the Internet with non-conventional interests. Instead of spending years telling people that it'll work and waiting for more form rejects, I'd rather show that the niche exists.

  121. Laurie Boris

    I'd do it…if I had a well-edited, market-perfect manuscript that I couldn't get an agent or publisher to pick up. With the popularity of e-readers going up, I would test first as e-books, then a short print run with an excellent cover.

  122. Steppe

    I've come to see self publishing as the minor league farm system of traditional publishing. If you have a powerful plot that's well written and you've sourced it with a competent editorial check-up and some selected beta readers and they saw value why let being in the minor leagues bum you out so much you never make it to the magors. Comments here indicate theirs no real stigma left to self publishing as long as you retained all the original property rights. So, it seems like a baby steps lead to a walking and running environment, if self publishing has been used to drive the process forward.

  123. MA Fat Woman

    Seriously, do the math. Other than those that have commented that they have been traditionally published, maybe one person here will be published the old-fashioned way. For the rest, if you ever want to see a book cover with your name on it, why not try self-publishing?

  124. Anonymous

    Personally, I'd sooner let my work sit in a drawer. There's just no quality control with self-publishing. That's not to say there's not a lot of good self-published books out there, but there's also just so many poorly written books. I will say I think it works much better with nonfiction, than with fiction though.

    And I also wonder how many people seriously consider small independent presses any more?

    – Bill "Classic" Camp

  125. Ganz-1

    I'd consider it, sure. Heck I even thought I'd do it only to back down when I realize what I need is achievable for free if I publish in the traditional way.

  126. Nancy

    Personally, I wouldn't self publish. It is quite costly, not to mention all the other production hats one must wear in addition to the endless hours spent with author professionalism.

    If you have very deep pockets and want your book in print, no matter the quality, then by all means, self publish. The only other reason I see to self publish is if you need tenure at a college or university. "Publish or perish." Otherwise, to pay the price for a self pubbed work, plus the cost of my time to read such works presents a toss-up. If the writing is acceptable, the story usually isn't, or vice-versa, or both may be equally so-so and not worth my interest. Every self pubbed book I've looked at has some kind of editing, construction, or layout problems, which are usually the responsibility of the author and go unchecked.

    If I'm going to publish my work I want to make sure it's good enough to be acquired by a major pub house so that it will garner the respect I hopefully believe it deserves.

  127. Brendan J. Paredes

    I think the question isn't quite as simple as it was. Grissom self-published his first book when he couldn't find a traditional publisher and sold his book out of the back of his car to brick and mortar stores. That is an expensive way to go. However, with the broader release of e-Books in the last couple of years, the entry cost has significantly dropped.

    There is a writer, who's name and book elludes me, but gained a fair amount of success selling her book on a character that turns into a Tiger or something through Amazon exclusively, till she was picked up by a traditional publisher. If memory serves, she sold 50,000 copies, built up a following, and became much more attractive to a traditional publishing house since she had established herself before hand. The cost of having to market a new writer and book were substantially reduced, and they signed her for her third book and to rerelease her first two books again.

    As marketing money decreases and traditional houses retreat more to supporting and heavily marketing top ten writers who are sure winners, this may become the way in which future writers gain entry more often than not. The risk of supporting a new, untried writer then would be negated and they would be buying, for all intents and purposes, a proven product with a higher profit margin.

    Personally, I see this more as a last resort approach. Since e-Books are still not a huge portion of the potential market, you are essentially restricting sales to those willing to indulge in the new technology. The broader market of "Book Lovers" is lost until a publisher picks up your contract and releases hard copy editions. Ultimately I think this will make it more difficult for new writers to break in, since the phenomina of writers such as Paterson with that broad experience of marketting is rare. While the cost from self-publishing hard copy editions is eliminated, you are now having to learn successful self-marketting techniques which can be hit or miss, and may turn off many readers through poor marketing approaches.

    Still, as a last resort…

  128. Ty Johnston

    Since I make my living as a self-published writer, I had to vote "YES." I'm not getting rich, but my sales are a little better month after month, and I'm paying my bills.

    I got into self-publishing for one reason: Finances. I'm a former newspaper editor, lost my job and two years later still haven't found another one. Not sure I want to at this point. If my sales continue to climb, by the end of the year I'll be making as much as I ever did in journalism.

    As those who have a strong vocal disdain for self publishing and self publishers, I'm sorry we can't all just agree to disagree.

    Or I suppose I could go to my wife and say, "Sorry, honey, I can't pay the bills anymore. Some people on the Internet showed me the errors of my ways, that self-publishing is full of it. I guess we'll have no power or running water next month."

  129. AndrewDugas

    Self-publishing is not just an alternative to traditional publishing, it's often a path to a traditional book deal. The biggest publishing phenom of the 90s was initially self-published and sold out of the trunk of the author's car.

    Bueller? Bueller? Anyone? Anyone?

    The Celestine Prophecy.

  130. AndrewDugas


    Self-publishing expensive? What decade are you posting from? You can self-pub for FREE, e-book or print. Go to smashwords, scribd, or lulu.

  131. Alex Beecroft

    I self published my first Fantasy novel and was relatively OK with the result. It was nicely produced, it cost me nothing, and it earned me a couple of hundred pounds while it was available. I've since had it accepted by a small press publisher and it's due to be re-issued next year with extra editing and a new cover.

    It was nowhere near as successful in terms of copies sold, or exposure in bookshops, as my traditionally published book, but it was certainly not a bad experience.

  132. Anne Lyken-Garner

    I know this will get lost with all the other comments on this post. (This is why I don't normally leave comments here).
    However, I just wanted to say that I have self-published. The thing is, traditional publishers still ask you to help market your own book. I don't think they're willing to go the full hog and finance the marketing themselves.
    This is one of the main things traditional publishers used to have over self-publishing. Not being willing to do this has meant that more and more authors will (at least) consider publishing themselves and get *all* the proceeds for *all* the hard work.

  133. Scathach Publishing

    My book went on Smashwords three days ago, should be on Amazon in about a week or two.

    A lot of the people who wouldn't self-publish don't really seem to understand what is meant "now." Someone mentioned vanity publishing, for instance.

    Vanity publishing is where you pay someone lots of money to publish your book. Self-publishing is where you publish it yourself.

    Self-publishing costs are low. I know three different cover artists, one doing covers for $80 an hour (between 1 to 3 hours per cover) one doing covers for $150 no matter how long it takes.

    Editing costs vary, between $20 to $60 an hour, with the amount of hours involved varying, too. It depends how much your book needs edited. Critique groups and beta readers will keep costs down.

    It is viable, not too expensive, and can make you a lot of money. (Maybe). Just look at Amanda Hocking, who makes $10,000 a month and had a self-pubbed book go into Amazon in the top 25 books.

    Smashwords will publish anything, but a lot of people don't know that their is a minimum quality requirement (for example, a crappy photoshop cover done by the artist won't pass) before Amazon or anywhere else will take on your e-book.

    Some people mentioned Lulu (little more than a vanity publisher) or Create Space. You'd be better off going with Lightning Source, but why not keep it e. Ebooks have taken over print sales on Amazon.

    I'm fairly amazed at the poll's results. A year ago far more people would not have considered self-publishing.

  134. Hillsy

    Seems to me the unsuccess (I won't use the word 'failure') of a novel is based on 2 factors:
    1) Quality
    2) Marketability

    (I'm deliberately ignoring the query system)

    There appears to be an ugly muddying of the two which taints both e/Self Publishing AND the mainstream publishing industry itself.

    Rejection on 1 factor DOES NOT implicitly imply the other. It doesn't mean that all rejected manuscripts are just drek, and that e-pub will be awash with unedited, unreadable pap. However, it also doesn't mean that all rejected manuscripts deserve a chance on the open market. Go to Authonomy if you don't believe me.

    Both reasons are very seperate, and both potentially fatal to any hopes of traditional publishing. e-publishing solves the problem of marketability. We have yet to find a solid, provable measure of quality.

  135. Rik

    For poetry, I think self-publishing is a viable option; most poetry publishers are independent or micro-publishers offering editing and design to the end product, but little in the way of promotion. Plus there's a grand heritage of self-publishing – some big names have put their hands in their own pockets to finance their first books.

    On the novel side of things, I'm not so convinced. Reading a novel is a much more time consuming endeavour for the average reader, and they don't want to waste their time (or money) on an unknown, unrecommended book. Without name recognition, reviews or word-of-mouth recommendations from friends, readers are highly unlikely to press the buy button.

  136. Mike

    I've successfully self-published in the form of newspaper serial stories, but that was because (1) I was able to work profit-sharing deals with highly qualified artists rather than pay them a lump sum up front, and (2) I was well-established in the world of newspapers in education so I had a strong edge in marketing to a very tight-knit professional community. (Notice I haven't said a thing about quality of writing.)

    I've thought about self-publishing in books, but I don't have the kind of platform you need to be able to get a book into the stores, the schools, the libraries and ultimately the hands of individual readers. I know a teacher who is quite successful at this — she's talented, but she's also energetic and well-connected in the right places.

    What I'd like — and this is pure fantasy, but it's what it takes — is to find someone who shared my vision of what matters and how to say it, and also has that access to the stores, libraries and schools.

    Which is why there are agents and publishers. Any fool can hit a "print" button these days. It's what comes next that matters.

  137. Karen A. Chase

    I think I would go with self-publishing but with some caveats. I would absolutely work with a freelance, reputable editor to make sure my work was tight. No type of publishing can help a bad story.
    I would absolutely set aside budget and time to work with a PR person. I've my own marketing/design firm, so I can manage large-scale projects, but I would essentially create a team around me to replace what publishers "should" be doing. PR, event planning, social media planning and monitoring, etc. With the advent of e-books, I'd try to corner that market first before handling distribution of printed copies.

  138. KK

    After having been rejected for 2 years now, I am in the process of self-publishing with someone local to me who happens to have started a publishing company of her own because of the frustration of being passed over by the traditional publishing route.

    This is similar to me to the discussion last week on banned books – just because you are rejected doesn't mean it isn't good. Maybe it's not banning a book, but an agent is preventing it from being published. That agent is not the end all of getting published. It's just their opinion. It feels like you're being banned and it's because of the opinion of one person.

    I happen to think the agents I have queried just don't get my book. I find it stunning how agents who sell books for middle grade kids don't remember what it was like to think like one. The publisher I'm working with likes the story even though she doesn't quite get it, and has even complimented me on the main character's name. She is a published writer as well, of a middle-grade book but her sensibilities are very different from mine. It doesn't stop her from recognizing good writing and seeing potential.

    I did not want to go through getting a license and all the paperwork required to sell on my own, but I have had too many people who know about my book and want it not to. I can't help it if agents are running scared because of the changes and don't consider it a sure thing.

    The marketing aspect of selling books suck royal, which is why I had hoped to get an agent, but in the end, I'll end up doing it myself and not have to pay someone else who's heart isn't in it. I've sold ads for newspapers before, so I know what I have to do. That helps, but doesn't mean I wanted to do it.

    I didn't vote in the poll because none of them are quite right – I am ABOUT to be self-published which means yes, but doesn't mean I would NEVER consider traditional. Kind of silly to make that a caveat to say yes.

    If an agent calls me after I sell a million, he/she will be soundly rejected.

  139. Scott Marlowe

    I'm just glad there are other viable options nowadays, and I think the world is big enough for more than one model.

    For me, I already have a career. Writing fiction is something I do in my spare time and I like that I can get my writing in front of readers w/out the pains of having to obtain agent/publisher approval. I'd rather readers decide via comments, ratings, etc.

  140. Anonymous

    I have read two self-published books. My purchases were based solely on a blog where the author complained that she was not getting a fair shake, that no one understood her, that only crap was being published, that she would have to wait until after her death to achieve fame and distinction. I bought two of her books to give her a fair chance. They were, in a word, awful. I actually threw one out because I would have been embarrassed if someone saw it.

    Now does that mean I won't buy another self-published book? Of course not. But I'm going to be a little more skeptical than with something that has been vetted by the traditional publishing model. (And yes, traditionally published books can be a disappointment, can see poorly written, etc, but I have never read any such book that was anywhere near as bad as the self-published ones.) What it would take now is a story that interested me and the ability to see some of the writing–perhaps an excerpt on the author's website or the look inside feature on Amazon. Or the gushing praise of someone I trust.

  141. Gerhi

    Dear Nathan,

    Your poll is skewed. You can use self-publishing and mainstream publishing for different projects.

    That does not make either a side project. A professional speaker I know has sold 27 000 copies of a self-published book. With a book that would never be published mainstream.

    I believe you should be flexible to use the system that fits the purpose. Before you can ask if you would self-publish you should ask why and what are you writing.

  142. Dawn Maria

    As a fiction writer, I don't see self-publishing as the way to go. Perhaps if I had a non-fiction project. I have yet to meet someone who has had success with self-publishing. It's still very difficult to get newspapers/TV shows to take you seriously for reviews and promotion.

    Although this isn't the case in every situation, I feel that many people choose self-publishing to have the book in their hand and ability to say, "I'm a published author!"

    Given the power of internet marketing tools, I can see why many people feel having more control over the destiny of their project is a better choice. Right now, I don't see any self-publishing house that has the distribution power of a traditional house.

  143. Anonymous

    If I were an agent I'd be VERY interested in an author who had successfully self-published and sold thousands of ebooks.

    Such a person is a self-starter, knows how to take advantage of marketing tools and networking online (and in many cases, has become an expert beyond what can be found within the ranks of traditional publishing staffs), and has built a platform. In short, this person is a real go-getter — someone who treats publishing as a business.

    If there's a stigma to being successful I'm all for having it. Sure, there are many who publish crap, but it doesn't sell (the readers are smart about vetting, and word of mouth is the most powerful sales tool in publishing).

    ANY author who is selling thousands of books is legitimate, whether they are self or traditionally pubbed.

    Crap doesn't sell, so the self-pubbed authors you see who are highly ranked on Kindle store are selling a marketable product at their price points, the same as the big publishers.

    It's like any other product — quality and value sell. A Porsche by any other name or manufacturer is still a Porsche.

    There are plenty of gems in the slush pile. Now the readers find them instead of the industry gatekeepers. Do you have a gem? The fastest way to find out is to put it up on Kindle store (for free – it costs nothing, no ISBN required). Don't wait for a handful of overworked agents to find you after dozens of rejections and years of waiting in their queue.

    The paradigm has shifted. Indies are the new midlist.

  144. Anonymous

    At this point I don't think I'd consider self-publishing, but ask me if in a year or two; If I still haven't sold the book, I might think differently then.

  145. Anonymous

    I believe self-publishing is changing the landscape of the publishing business, although I don't think it is or ever will be the death knell for traditional publishing.

    For me, it all depends on how I feel about my marketing skills. If I don't think I can successfully market my book on my own, I'll probably seek traditional publishing. Although I suppose I could hire a marketing team even if I self-publish.

    And, Nathan, I agree with you wholeheartedly about the ideological tenor of the debate. Thank you for pointing that out. I'm starting to think that a person can't have an opinion on anything anymore without it turning into a fiery festival of fetid foul-mouthery. Breaks my heart.

  146. Ermo

    Self-publishing reeks of the stigma of "not good enough for traditional publishers." And whether or not that's true, who wants their book associated with that? I don't see how that negative connotation is going to improve when more people are self-publishing e-books.

    I have nothing against the people that do it. I'm sure there are many, many great books out there that were published that way but I don't have the time to be the filter, and my guess is the majority of people out there don't have that kind of time either.

  147. Malia Sutton

    I think it's important to note that author Alex Beecroft, who commented above and talked about her self-published book, has garnered an excellent reputation as an author, gained a great deal of respect and admiration from her peers, and has built a good fan base within her genre.

    Along with thousands of other readers, I'm a huge fan of her books.

  148. Maureen Gill

    Boy, do I hate it when folks publish as "Anonymous" — especially when their post is excellent. Kudos to the person who wrote this b/c u nailed it:

    Anonymous said…
    If I were an agent I'd be VERY interested in an author who had successfully self-published and sold thousands of ebooks.

    Such a person is a self-starter, knows how to take advantage of marketing tools and networking online (and in many cases, has become an expert beyond what can be found within the ranks of traditional publishing staffs), and has built a platform. In short, this person is a real go-getter — someone who treats publishing as a business.

    If there's a stigma to being successful I'm all for having it. Sure, there are many who publish crap, but it doesn't sell (the readers are smart about vetting, and word of mouth is the most powerful sales tool in publishing).

    ANY author who is selling thousands of books is legitimate, whether they are self or traditionally pubbed.

    Crap doesn't sell, so the self-pubbed authors you see who are highly ranked on Kindle store are selling a marketable product at their price points, the same as the big publishers.

    It's like any other product — quality and value sell. A Porsche by any other name or manufacturer is still a Porsche.

    There are plenty of gems in the slush pile. Now the readers find them instead of the industry gatekeepers. Do you have a gem? The fastest way to find out is to put it up on Kindle store (for free – it costs nothing, no ISBN required). Don't wait for a handful of overworked agents to find you after dozens of rejections and years of waiting in their queue.

    The paradigm has shifted. Indies are the new midlist.

  149. Laurel A. Saville

    I've published more than one way. I've done 'work for hire', sold tens of thousands of books that way, and also self-published. I also have an agent, a top name one at that, who shopped one of my books around to endless praise, but no takers. It's now self-published to great reviews and many happy readers. And isn't that what it's all about? Getting READERS is much more important to me than getting a fancy contract.

    I find the objections to self-publishing silly for a variety or reasons, but since I am a full-time, fully self-supporting freelance writer, I'm perhaps more used than some other writers to seeing my work as a business. Here's some points to consider:

    Even if you are traditionally published, you still have to handle most of your own promotion, especially if you are relatively unknown.

    You can get world class editing and design services with self-publishers, and you should use those services.

    You can also get complete distribution services onto all the usual outlets with self-publishing.

    Too many writers I've met through my own MFA program and teaching in one are so starry eyed about being 'discovered' and thinking that's all it takes. It's your work and you have to work it no matter what way you get published.

  150. Chuck H.

    Yes? . . . No? . . . Maybe? . . . Hell, I don't know.

  151. Elen

    I like it because it enables me to have the book exactly as I wish. I'm very good at photoshop and do my own covers, also good at In-Design so can easily do the layout work. I use Lulu as (so far) it's the least intrusive and doesn't seem to have any bad stuff like "vanity publishers" do. Lulu also enables me to get onto Amazon and Barnes & Noble which is excellent. I get good raoyalites and can set my own prices. It also enables me to put the books out as e-books.

    What do I miss? Help with advertising and distribution … but unless I was very well known it seems to me that I wouldn't get much help and would still be expected to do lots of my own footwrok whilst having to put up with covers and layout I don't like.

    For a small-time author, my books sell quite well and I get good library fees too so people are reading them and this is the main thing I want … to be read. Oh yes, I'd love to have JK Rowling's money, don't get me wrong LOL, but I have to write what I lvoe, what I read, what makes me write. I can't write to a formula that is not my own so I'm probably best off doing it this way.

    I realise though that folks without my graphic and layout skills can have problems working with something like Lulu.

    I fell that the publishing world is changing, the old ways of the publisher being "in charge" are going, the internet is making everything change. I keep a regular watch on how things are going, with lots of interest. It's exciting and sometimes scary … but then, all change is *g*.

  152. Elen

    Dawn Maria said…

    As a fiction writer, I don't see self-publishing as the way to go. Perhaps if I had a non-fiction project. I have yet to meet someone who has had success with self-publishing. It's still very difficult to get newspapers/TV shows to take you seriously for reviews and promotion.

    JK Rowling began this way, and she's by no means the only one.

  153. Anonymous

    This whole sell-it-yourself trend took place in my field of stock illustration several years ago when I was just starting out. The professionals were angry that we, the unchosen and unedited, might ruin the industry by selling crappy, unprofessional stock art at low prices. Wars of words were fought over the internet on blogs and forums for years. And in the beginning, I'm not going to lie, the sell-it-yourself art (called microstock) was a little rough around the edges (especially mine). But eventually, everyone who jumped on board the controversial trend refined their craft. And soon clients started buying. They didn't care about the stigma, they bought what they liked. Now the website were I began selling my really awful illustrations 7 years ago IS the mainstream. And I'm a better & more successful illustrator for participating.

    In the same vein, I think self-publishing is a wonderful option. It's nice to let creativity run wild, whether you're an exceptional writer or not. No one needs to tell you if your work is bad or good if you love what your doing. It's art. I believe self-publishing is a great way to share and experience raw material. Many people will have something wonderful to share and many will be a little rough around the edges but that what's wonderful about being unedited. Many writer's will take the extra step to learn to market themselves, and I believe it's those people who will push this trend to mainstream b/c readers don't need publishers to choose reading material for them. They'll buy what they like.

    If you haven't noticed, the whole world is becoming unedited.

  154. Anonymous

    This whole sell-it-yourself trend took place in my field of stock illustration several years ago when I was just starting out. The professionals were angry that we, the unchosen and unedited, might ruin the industry by selling crappy, unprofessional stock art at low prices. Wars of words were fought over the internet on blogs and forums for years. And in the beginning, I'm not going to lie, the sell-it-yourself art (called microstock) was a little rough around the edges (especially mine). But eventually, everyone who jumped on board the controversial trend refined their craft. And soon clients started buying. They didn't care about the stigma, they bought what they liked. Now the website were I began selling my really awful illustrations 7 years ago IS the mainstream. And I'm a better & more successful illustrator for participating.

    In the same vein, I think self-publishing is a wonderful option. It's nice to let creativity run wild, whether you're an exceptional writer or not. No one needs to tell you if your work is bad or good if you love what your doing. It's art. I believe self-publishing is a great way to share and experience raw material. Many people will have something wonderful to share and many will be a little rough around the edges but that what's wonderful about being unedited. Many writer's will take the extra step to learn to market themselves, and I believe it's those people who will push this trend to mainstream b/c readers don't need publishers to choose reading material for them. They'll buy what they like.

    If you haven't noticed, the whole world is becoming unedited.

  155. Bethany

    I get that self-publishing is a way to get your story out there and that some authors are frustrated, but it feels like it limits your options. I guess if it's with a reputable source it can be a positive experience, but, I don't know, it doesn't seem right for me.

  156. Anonymous

    but it feels like it limits your options.

    It doesn't. Even agents (like Nathan) are now saying that they'll look at self-pubbed seriously.

    Self-publishing does not close the door to a traditional contract, and it may in fact enhance your chances of landing "the big one" (whatever that is).

  157. John Conroe

    I tried the traditional approach in '09. After twenty-five agent rejections (with some interest) I decided to self-publish. I have two books out on every ereader format known to science as well as POD. My third novel will come out before Christmas.

    For me it came down to a matter of time. I want to write books, not queries! I don't mind running a webpage or using facebook to build a presence. I've learned to write my own press releases and seek reviews. Now I concentrate on writing novels and yes, my writing is good. Readership will come with time.

  158. Anonymous

    Sorry, Nathan.

    Glad you flagged me. I wanted to take it down but didn't know how.

  159. Del

    What I worry about with self-publishing is that there are a lot of passionate people out there writing what they think is excellent work, but may in fact have issues they can not see. I've read MS from people that are absolutely sure that the only reason they are not published is because of some conspiracy of the publishing world to lock them out. They can not admit that it might be the quality of their work that needs improvement. I can easily see these people spending a lot of money to self-publish. Money they don't have.

    While believing in your writing is necessary no matter what avenue to publication you pursue, I know I value an unbiased, professional opinion.

  160. Robert

    I would rather publish traditionally, for the validation and distribution, but I'm getting more and more excited about the notion of self-publishing. Indeed, I find myself eager to exhaust my list of prospective agents so that I can get on with self-publishing my work. It's a nutty sensation to think, "C'mon agent, hurry up and reject me already; I've got a book to publish and promote."

    One poster commented as follows: "Um, if I don't find a traditional publisher interested, it probably means my book sucks."

    "probably" is the key word. There are plenty of books out there that don't "suck" but never make it through traditional channels because the industry doesn't deem them, ex ante, profitable. The fact that Snookie and Justin Beiber have book deals is the anecdotal evidence that the industry has less to do with literary merit and more to do with turning a profit. I don't fault the agents and editors for that practical reality. They are, after all, in business. That doesn't mean they always make good calls though either. Look at all the rejections Robert Pirsig or Joseph Heller got before the value of their work was ultimately recognized by the industry. So, c'mon agents, hurry up and reject me already. I've got stuff to do.

  161. Fiammetta

    For my weird format projects (e.g. series of 5 novellas in the same fantasy setting, but from different POVs), I'm definitely considering it. I also want to do a webcomic at some point.
    I have more regular novel and graphic novel projects that I would try to get traditionally published, though.

  162. Livia

    I'm very very tempted by self publishing. I love the control and the marketing aspect, and the 70% royalty. At the moment though I'm still going for traditional. As a beginning writer, I need the street cred.

    Going off on a hypothetical now. Say in the future, many authors go the JA Konrath route — self publishing, but still having an agent who sells foreign rights, audio rights, movie rights, etc. In that case, would the agent compensation model have to change? It would make much sense for an agent to spend much time on editing a manuscript if they're not going to be selling the main rights, does it?

  163. Laurel Saville

    By the way, for those that think self-publishing has a stigma, well, I'd just say that it didn't hurt, oh, Edgar Allen Poe, Virginia Woolf, Walt Whitman, the dude who wrote that bloody book about the white whale….the list is endless.

    Traditional publishing is no more a guarantee of quality than self-publishing is a sign of crud.

    After all, in the movie world, they call them "indies" and they are a badge of courage!

  164. Morgan

    I may try self-publishing when the e-book aspect becomes more developed, but for now, it's just not a possibility. I'm a student and there's no way I could afford it. I also think I need the support system of an agent, editor, publisher, etc., especially because I'm a little younger and haven't learned enough about the business yet. Kudos to those brave enough to self publish, though!

  165. Polenth

    I was initially considering self publishing for a niche non-fiction project (before I got into fiction writing, which is taking my book writing time). Now, I might consider it for a short story/poetry collection at some point, because it's hard to get publishers for those. Poetry especially, it's considered normal to self-publish collections once you've had some success in magazines.

    Novels… no. If my current one doesn't sell, I'll write another one. I want all the shiny stuff that professional publishers provide, like getting into book stores and major review outlets.

  166. Nancy


    About e-pubbing: Nathan's post didn't qualify what type of self-publishing. My reply covered hard print books only. Sorry I didn't make that clear. And yes, I do remember James Redfield's "The Celestine Prophesy." A hard-print, self pub to standard pub anomaly at the time… a huge success.

    But that's hardly the norm. I've watched first-time authors go through the (hard print) process of self publishing with complete confidence at the outset, only to become disillusioned, frustrated, and angry later on. It is a huge undertaking in many respects. I only hope that anyone considering hard-print self publishing takes the time to research every aspect of it to prepare oneself for becoming something other than just an author.

    One author I know blindly assumed that once her book was in print she would become an instant success. I even asked her what her marketing plan was, to which she answered, "I'll figure that out when I get there."

    A lot of first-time authors have lots of confidence, which is great. I only hope they research ask around and study the heck out of the possibility of self pubbing hard copy so they know before hand what they are getting into.

    One thing in self publishing via vanity press (someone else printing for you) is that they will often tell you what you want to hear; that your work deserves to be published. Go figure… they want your work, your money. Some offer editing services that you will have to pay for. Some don't care and will print whatever copy you give them. There are many more steps in the pubbing process, all of which require the author's input, either by providing the material or specs required, or by paying someone else to provide them.

    It's the first-time authors I have the most concern for. Just make sure before hand what you're getting into. ๐Ÿ™‚

  167. Nancy


    Well said. I agree!

  168. John Conroe

    I agree that there is a lot of work to promoting your own book. But my understanding from the agent query process is that self promotion is now expected in the traditional world as well.

    In my own case, I rather start getting books out now, while I continue to produce my urban fantasy series. Planting seeds takes patience, but an ebook out in distribution is always there, waiting. Building pathways to that book is not hard, and those paths get thicker and more numerous with time. My expectations are moderate, my goal is to just to build readership.

  169. Jim Johnson

    I'll pursue any path that'll get my stories in front of readers. That's my primary concern as a writer–to be read. Few readers care which publisher's icon is on the book spine; they want to read good stories. If it's paperback, ebook, hardcover, traditional publishing, self publishing, chapbooks, whatever. I'm open to any option.

    Technology in this day and age is sufficient that not every writer has to subscribe to the traditional NYC bottleneck to get their stories in print and read.

    Also want to note that the original post contains a somewhat innaccurate assumption–not everyone who self-publishes will have an unedited book. There are very good freelance editors out there who will do a professional job at a reasonable price. For self-publishers, it may be a worthwhile investment to help your book rise above and find more readers.

  170. Bethany

    I supposed I'm a dinosaur. I feel editors and agents have a job for a reason, and conversely I assume I get a rejection for a reason. If I get lots of rejections, I can assume it's also for a good reason. I'm still unpublished and terrified of submitting, mostly because I believe if I receive rejection upon rejection, my worst fears are confirmed: I love writing, but I'm no good at it.

    Having an editor tell me they like my manuscript and will devote time and money to it sends the message that they think my writing and my story are worth it.

    Of course this is all conjecture, because I'm a coward. ; )

  171. ICE CB

    To each his own. Who are we to judge? I am trying to the traditional route, but if it doesn't work, I will self-publish. And I will do everything possible to sell my work!

    At the end of the day, I remind myself of some very soothing comments from some very wonderful authors.

    "Write like there is no tomorrow, and write only for yourself!" Loriann Hemingway
    "Write the story you wanna read!" Guest speaker-2010 NJSCBWI

  172. Nicole

    I'm waiting for the blog post about B&N's new self-pub program, "PubIt."

    My mom sent me a link to their page this morning (I'd already read about it), and I had to email her back the many reasons to avoid it. However, as the future progresses, who knows?

  173. Anonymous

    I think the wise approach is to take it book by book. Get the best deal you can for each book, period. If that best deal happens to be an Amazon marketplace Kindle contract, then that's what you do. If it's a 7-figure advance from 1 of the Big 6, then that's what you do.

    As soon as you release one book, move on to the next.

  174. Brittany Lavin

    Self-publishing is definitely getting a bigger name these days and is an option writers should consider. Great idea for a poll!

  175. Lyvia

    I think it's sad to see people detest self publishing. Why? because that's like saying I detest indie films because they don't have millions of dollars behind them.
    I have seen better acting on small stages than on big film production. And sorry Nathan because I knew you hate this in a query -but some of the trash being published by the big 6 is unbelievable!
    I will not put down the regular publishing industry because YES they have the mighty dollar to push people forward. But the fact that they are drowning in manuscripts and only have so many agents to read them is a big negative. I am in the crossroads right now. I just finished a 500 page novel and yes I had it professionally edited with my own money. I want to release it in scribd by Halloween. I only sent it to a couple of agents because frankly I just didn't think it worth the time. Life is very short and if you have something good that you want to share with others why not put it out there. seriously what if I die tomorrow? For those who thumb their nose at self- publishing I feel sorry for you-but for some money is more important than the art itself.
    I don't write for money-if I get paid great. I write to share my passion. I'm sure there are horrible books out there-but you find them in both traditional and self-publishing. getting publish DOES NOT MEAN YOU'RE BETTER- you just lucked out and landed an agent that had the mental and emotional space to stick with your manuscript. If it's descent they will see potential. The bar is very low-personally-it's mostly luck.

  176. Lyvia

    I think it's sad to see people detest self publishing. Why? because that's like saying I detest indie films because they don't have millions of dollars behind them.
    I have seen better acting on small stages than on big film production. And sorry Nathan because I knew you hate this in a query -but some of the trash being published by the big 6 is unbelievable!
    I will not put down the regular publishing industry because YES they have the mighty dollar to push people forward. But the fact that they are drowning in manuscripts and only have so many agents to read them is a big negative. I am in the crossroads right now. I just finished a 500 page novel and yes I had it professionally edited with my own money. I want to release it in scribd by Halloween. I only sent it to a couple of agents because frankly I just didn't think it worth the time. Life is very short and if you have something good that you want to share with others why not put it out there. seriously what if I die tomorrow? For those who thumb their nose at self- publishing I feel sorry for you-but for some money is more important than the art itself.
    I don't write for money-if I get paid great. I write to share my passion. I'm sure there are horrible books out there-but you find them in both traditional and self-publishing. getting publish DOES NOT MEAN YOU'RE BETTER- you just lucked out and landed an agent that had the mental and emotional space to stick with your manuscript. If it's descent they will see potential. The bar is very low-personally-it's mostly luck.

  177. Lyvia

    I'm sorry that my post was duplicated. I wanted to clarify that self publishing is what people refer to print to order.

    I hope I didn't sound too harsh but when people started telling others that if they get rejected it means that their work is not good enough is just being nasty. I guess Lord of The flies being rejected 20 times meant that it was a bad book? Or Dune 23 times? It just meant they didn't reach the right person-they finally got lucky-good for them

  178. creativebarbwire

    My answer isn't in the poll, so here it is:
    I will go trad.pub with some projects and self-pub with others (I already self-publish comics&graphic novels, and might continue with fantasy novels, while I'll look for an agent/publisher for my historical novel when done)

  179. SphinxnihpS of Aker-Ruti

    I picked the option "Yes, and I'm not going to try to seek traditional publication" only because it came closest. I want to self-pub the works I want to self-publish. They aren't side projects, though.


    Well, it calls to mind a quote I heard again recently. There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not? (Robert Kennedy)

    I look at the way things are for my writing, and am picking an option that opens up possibilities of sharing my works. Why not?


  180. E. A. Provost

    I can't see putting out the money to self publish in a print format what a traditional publisher isn't interested in. If I never find a traditional publisher I will probably self-publish in ebook format so my family, friends, and the small following of acquaintances who have expressed interest in my work can get hold of it.

  181. davidrory

    I self published my first novel here in Ireland on a very small scale. It was a learning experience and most of it was painful. I would not do it again. I made all the classic mistakes but above all I suffered impatience. I put it out scarce half made up and am now ashamed of the thing. Not the story that was and is great, (now it's been seriously re-written.) But the actual book was filled with typos and badly presented. Those that read it loved it but it stuck to the books store shelves. Why? Becasue I am a good writer but a bad marketing man. At a book reading I sold plenty because people got beyond the dismal cover blurb that was acted as shelf glue.
    I guess for some it may work but for many it's a path strewn with pitfalls and painful truths learned late.
    All the best, David Rory.

  182. Star-Dreamer

    This is a really difficult question. Self publishing really is an option… but I wouldn't consider it for my "babies"… that is to say, the novels that are closest to my heart. I have one novel that I've been querying and it looks like I just might have a publisher interested… maybe… but this particular novel is a side project, and if after much querying I still can not find a place for it, I am willing to self pub it because I believe I have a marketing strategy that would work just as well with self pubbing as with printing through a small pres (which is what I have looking at it).

    I've thought about publishing anthologies of poems and short stories before… just for the fun of it, not really to make any profit. It would be an adventure and a learning experience, so I'm not going to lock up the thought of self pubbing in some dusty old tomb to rot. I just want to make sure I know what I'm doing first.

    Like I said, the novels I have closest to my heart would probably never be self published. For those I go traditional. I know they are good enough… I know it beyond any shadow of any doubt, even though I do have personal doubts sometime. They will eventually find a home at a traditonal publisher, that is for sure.

  183. Marie Gilbert

    I agree with Anonymous in that I would prefer to go the traditional way of agent and publisher, but I will leave the prospect for self publishing open for further down the road.

  184. Ola Mapaderun

    I would. In a world where authors have access to means of publishing their works electronically without the fear of rejections from traditional publishing houses, self-publishing is a welcome idea. That's not taking away the important roles traditional publishing still plays in the publishing world.


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Hi, Iโ€™m Nathan.ย Iโ€™m the author ofย How to Write a Novelย and theย Jacob Wonderbarย series, which was published by Penguin. I used to be a literary agent at Curtis Brown Ltd. and Iโ€™m dedicated to helping authors chase their dreams.ย Let me help you with your book!

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