Us vs. them is fun. It gets people’s blood boiling. It instills fear. It’s thrilling to be on a team, especially when you feel like your team is winning.
These days it seems like traditional and self-publishing are increasingly pitted against each other on blogs and forums, as if one side or the other is the bastion of all that is good and pure in the world and the other side is the bastion of all that is horrible and evil.
This is insane.
There is no “us” vs. “them.” Traditional vs. self-publishing is a false dichotomy. It’s an illusion created by people who either have let their frustrations get the best of them or are trying to sell you something. We’re all writers trying to figure out the best way to get our books to readers. We’re all on the same team.
No, the traditional publishing industry is not a hive of retrograde monsters out to steal and eat your newborn children. No, self-publishing is not a gang of unwashed crap artists trying to poison the literary well forever.
Publishing is a spectrum of choice, from traditional publishers who pay you, will handle most things for you and assume all risk in exchange for certain rights to your book, to self-publishing where you handle everything yourself, pay your own way, and adopt your own risk. And there’s a whole lot more choice in between those two poles.
What’s the right way? There is no right way.
Some authors want to let the publishers handle things for them. Some authors want to go for print glory because that’s where the bulk of readers are right now (yes, still). Some authors want the freedom of control of self-publishing. Some authors want to experiment with pricing.
And guess what: Some authors do both, and they always have. Even before e-publishing, many prominent authors got their start self-publishing. And many authors who used to be traditionally published moved to self-publishing. Some authors use hybrid models that combine elements of traditional and self-publishing.
There is no hundred foot wall between self-publishing and traditional publishing. Choosing one does not preclude the other, even if you feel like you’re currently on the outs with traditional publishing. Or did you miss the recent seven figure book deal for the self-published nutritionist?
Sure. It’s fun to join up sides and start flinging mud. It’s exciting to think that your team alone has the holy grail.
But I see a lot of authors out there getting taken for a ride by both sides. People are preying on writers’ fears and frustrations.
The only way you’ll be able to decide what’s best for you is if you ignore the pied pipers, set aside your emotions, and think only about what’s the right for your book.
Art: La Riña – Francisco de Goya