Cyndy Aleo

Four Little Bees Writing & Editing

author, freelance writing, editing, and a little bit of web development, helping clients with content development, book editing, and blog set-up and customization

The negativity about self-publishing

I have no idea what it is this week. It may be something in the water. It may be the lousy weather all over the country, trapping folks in their houses and making everyone crabby. But there's been a trend of those in publishing bashing self-publishing again on social media.

Yawn. I file this under SSDD (same shit, different day).

For every time an agent tweets about "writing a better book instead of self-publishing," I roll my eyes. Hard. For the following reasons:

  1. Please. It's not because a book isn't GOOD that it doesn't get a traditional publishing contract. Let's just stop with that fallacy right there. Great books fall through the cracks all the time. Oh, sure, there are some people who self-publish who definitely aren't ready for primetime, but please tell me agents, can you sell a young adult vampire book right now? Are you looking for some to rep? The reality is that it has nothing to do with "good" and everything to do with "trend." We've all seen truly terrible books become bestsellers. By "write a better book" what an agent is actually saying is "write a book that is the next thing that's going to trend and we really don't know what that is, so throw stuff at the wall until I get excited." 

    Sorry. I have better things to do.
  2. Agents. And traditional publishers. And yes, even traditionally published authors. ALL HAVE A VESTED MONETARY INTEREST IN SEEING TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING CONTINUE. Let's be realistic here. An agent makes usually 15% of a client's take from a book contract. How much does an agent get when you self-publish your book on Smashwords? Exactly zero. So why on EARTH would an agent suggest you self-publish instead of querying? And don't get me wrong; I think a lot of you know I have a lot of friends who are traditionally published -- and even big-deal NYT bestseller type of traditionally published -- but their deals are based on a continuation of the same thing: books going into bookstores after advances and advertising dollars, etc. And it has to be annoying as hell (I don't ask) to see people skipping the steps of making an agent happy and making an editor happy and then hoping you make the audience happy.
  3. Traditional publishing is not fond of the longtail.

    If you don't know what that is, it's the idea that you can make money by continually adding things and making money based on small, regular sales over a long period of time. Traditional publishing likes the huge splash with big bestsellers. The problem is, that only allows an elite level of authors who somehow hit the magic combination of everything going right to have a long career. How many of you know midlist authors who had two-and-out or three-and-out contracts not renewed for books? I NEVER HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT A CONTRACT BEING RENEWED. I NEVER HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT GOING BACK OUT ON SUB. I can put out books from now until the day I die and if it sells 3 copies or 300 millions, the only thing that will impact is how much money I have in my bank account. It will never impact my next book.

Don't get me wrong; I still don't think self-publishing is for everyone. You have to be committed to putting out the best possible product. You have to be ready to accept terrible reviews. You have to be okay with never making a bestseller list (which was never my goal, and frankly, doesn't interest me).

What self-publishing DOES allow is you to write a fantastic book. And hire your own editor who understands YOUR vision for your book. It allows you to change your cover if it doesn't work. Or shake up how you're marketing midstream. It allows you to publish books without worrying about whether your book will sell enough for a publisher to option  your second book.

For me? It's freed me from the insanity of trying to put a square peg in a round hole. I don't write things that will probably appeal to a giant audience of tens of millions of people. I have no interest in making a bestseller list. Or being famous or walking a red carpet for a movie of my book that would likely not match my vision of my characters or how they look or how they speak. I'm perfectly content with having a handful of people who love what I write and a few who absolutely hate it. And all I have to do is make ME happy. Instead of a host of staff at a publisher or agency.