by Raelene Gorlinsky
Writers are now inundated with stories about how self-publishing will turn them into mega-selling authors, millions of copies of their e-books snapped up by slavering fans. This is based on the very admirable success of a very few authors. But can the same thing be achieved by everyone or anyone?
An aspiring author needs to reseach the publishing industry and all the options, analyze what fits their style and their situation, what skills they bring to the table when it comes to all the things beyond the actual writing that need to be done to publish and promote a book. What would work best for them? Traditional big publishers? Digital-first publishers? Self-publishing? Or who knows what other options may become available.
Even supposing a book is in fact really good, there are lots of other factors in play besides the wonderful story and writing. One of the self-pubbed icons you constantly see mentioned is Amanda Hocking. When she realized she was being used in the "you too can easily become rich and famous by self-publishing" legend, she felt compelled to put some reality into this discussion. Writers considering self-publishing need to think seriously about her advice.
Some Things That Need to Be Said
What did she have to say? Please read the whole (fairly lengthy) article, but here are some highlights.
~ "others will be as successful as I've been, some even more so - I don't think it will happen that often."
~ "Some books and authors are best sellers, but most aren't."
~ "Self-publishing is great, but it's not easy. Most people who do it will not get rich."
~ "it's harder to be a best seller self-publishing than it is with a house."
~ "I don't think people really grasp how much work I do. [...] This is literally years of work you're seeing. And hours and hours of work each day. The amount of time and energy I put into marketing is exhausting."
~ "There is so much stress in doing it all yourself. The editing is never good enough. And finding an editor isn't as easy everyone thinks."
~ "ebooks make up at best 20% of the market. Print books make up the other 80%. Traditional publishers still control the largest part of the market, and they will - for a long time, maybe forever."
~ "I just don't understand writers animosity against publishers. [...] Publishers have done really great things for a really long time. They aren't some big bad evil entity trying to kill literature or writers."
To me, Amanda Hocking makes a lot of sense. She makes it clear she's been writing and trying to be published for years before she hit success, that the success is the result of an enormous amount of hard work. And she has a realistic view of the publishing industry, in all its many permutations.
Here's a short article and video that again stress that writers should figure out whether self-publishing is a good fit for them or not:
Publishing Perspectives: Is D.I.Y. or Self-Publishing Best Suited to Energetic Extroverts?
The article points out the most important attributes of successful sel-published authors, and that D.I.Y. is not going to work for everyone.
~ They already had established reputations via working with traditional publishers. (They've already got an established and large fan base.)
~ They are self-motivated, high-energy, charismatic individuals. (Which does not describe most authors, as writing is mainly a quiet, largely introverted job.)
If that truly describes you, then you may indeed be able to hit self-publishing success. But if you are in a different place in your career, or you don't have the time and interest and personality to take on all the publishing tasks, you should find the alternative that will work best for you.