So many writers dream of being picked up by a publisher and most of those writers will not get picked up. If you're aiming to be a published writer then you've almost certainly been told to get ready to live with rejection. But when you've put your valuable time and hard work into producing a manuscript, what do you do when no one wants to publish it? In fact, has the self-publishing industry reached a point where it is becoming a preferable alternative to traditional publishing, without ever querying agents and presses? We asked the Write Yorkshire scribble for their thoughts.
Bit of a loaded question! I am in favour of self-publishing, but only when it’s done consciously and professionally, without corner-cutting.
I understand where people are coming from when they say that the boom in self-publishing has harmed the book industry and had a negative effect on the overall quality of new works in circulation. However, I’ve read some bloody awful books that were picked up by a publisher and some fantastic works by self-published authors. I know a few writers that made the informed decision to self-publish and they’ve done it professionally and very successfully, taking every possible step to make sure the books they release are of the highest quality.
Let’s be honest about this: traditional publishing isn’t always fair. You can have an incredible book and still not get picked up. Without self-publishing, there are a lot of fantastic writers out there whose voices would not be heard.
However, if you’re going to self publish then I believe you should also take on the responsibility of quality controlling your work. Self-publishing shouldn’t mean that you get to skip putting your book through an editor, for example, or having a professional cover done.
Remember when we talked about respecting your reader and the contract between writer and reader? This is the same principle. If you choose to work without a third party publisher then the onus is on you to act in the capacity of publisher yourself.
My initial answer is no. Not for me anyway. Maybe I'm too traditional or I just crave the gratification of a publisher saying yes please we love the book and want to publish it.
Saying that, I wouldn't claim to be against self-publishing. I've seen people do good things with it and it has to be a good way to sell your work and get your name out there. I'm actually working on a poetry collection that I've considered publishing myself. The reason being that I've got a complete idea of how I want the book to look (cover design, layout, etc.) and I'm aware that self-publishing can allow you much more creative freedom.
However, when it comes to short stories and novels I think I'd prefer to work with a publishing house. First of all, they clearly have more pull in the industry and more marketing power than I could ever manage by myself. And like I said before, I crave the feeling that I'd get from a publisher: We want your book.
Like most divisive questions we've answered here at Write Yorkshire, I say do what you want. Do whatever you prefer. Whatever aligns with your personal preferences. As long as it feels right for you, you'll do alright.
There are pros and cons for this one! I think I probably fall more on the "not in favour" side of things though...
On the one hand, it's amazing because it's so accessible and offers an opportunity to get some work out in the market, without lots of faffing or having to play the game. It puts the writer in control of their own creations, in almost every way. There's a lot of really great work that gets passed up on when publishing through the usual avenues, due to oversaturation of the market or specific quotas.
On the other hand, it means that absolutely anything can be published. So the market is full of bizarre and poorly written books, which can be super frustrating as a writer. It sounds very snobby and elitist, but it isn't meant to be. There's a difference between someone who's tried their best and someone who's just half-assed it in the hopes of making money.
For me, it's a no. But I also don't sneer at those that do. It has some wonderful benefits, I just find that the frustrations outweigh the good!
I’m not against self-publishing; each to their own. It’s not a route I would ever go down, though - the main reason being that the only thing I really like about writing is writing. I have no aptitude for marketing, I’m absolutely rubbish at self-promotion and my computer skills are pretty basic.
There’s a place for self-publishing, and writers of genre fiction who are au fait with all the above can make some money at it. The problem is, though, if you are publishing physical copies, (instead of on something like Amazon Kindle Direct) in order to come up with a decent product that doesn’t look like you’ve run off 100 copies on the office photocopier, you have to spend some serious cash. And then to sell that product, you have to know a lot of people, ideally in the book world. Traditional publishers have reach, expertise, and will do all the donkey work for you. Hell, they’ll pay you for the privilege of hawking your book around the world, if you’re one of the lucky ones.
The other reason I don’t want to self-publish is more personal, and probably quite a lot to do with that harsh inner-critic I’ve written about on here before. The thing is, there’s a voice in my head that says, if my stuff isn’t good enough to be traditionally published, then it isn’t good enough to be published at all. I don’t want my shoddy attempts at plotting and character development to be let out into the wild without some form of gatekeeping having been put into place. Publishing houses have editors, who will help hone whatever sorry prose I’ve managed to cough up, and that’s if I can get an agent to take it on and sell it in the first place. I need that reassurance that my writing is good enough, and for it to be as polished as it can possibly be, before I can bear to ask people to pay for the privilege of reading it.
A final word. I’ve owned a couple of book shops in the past, and as much as it pains me to admit, the heart did sink when someone clutching a heavy shopping bag full of paperbacks came in and announced, ‘I’ve written a book…’ I’d always give them shelf-space, but it broke my heart every time they came in and I had to tell them we’d sold no copies. Nine times out of ten, the book just wasn’t up to standard; maybe with an agent and an editor and a professional design team behind it, it would have been. There’s no rush to get your work out there, if you’re serious about it, and if you are, think twice about pushing it out into the world half-formed. Chances are, it won’t survive.
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