Perhaps the most common question at signings or when talking to writing groups (right up there next to “Where do you get your ideas?”) is “What about self-publishing?” Sometimes asked with optimism, but often trepidation or even outright hostility. (The funniest was when I called on this older guy somewhere in the Midwest and he just barked “Self-publishing!” and sat there, arms folded and grumpy look on his face, ready to do verbal battle.)
I’m guessing the more confrontational attitudes are due to the fact that I’m traditionally published, so maybe they expect me to be the enemy? Sometimes there’s almost a trolling vibe to the question. Which usually makes me smile more than get upset. Usually followed by me shrugging and saying, “I’m pretty agnostic about the whole thing.” Usually followed by a huh? look on the questioner’s part. Like, how can I not have a firm, didactic position on the issue?
Well, I certainly have a personal preference—for me and for my writing—but that’s another issue entirely.
In the broader aspect, virtually everything’s over-polarized today (duh) and the ‘us against them’ mentality seems to have trickled all the way down to publishing.
Unnecessarily so, in my opinion.
You may occasionally see/hear trad authors looking askance at indie authors. (No one I know personally, but a quick perusal of social will show you this attitude can exist. Although tellingly enough, almost never from ‘successful’ authors. I guess some people feel better when they think they have someone they can look down upon.)
And I’ve also seen self-pub’d authors deride trad authors, stating traditionally published writers have given up control over their work, sold their souls to the corporate devil, etc., etc., etc. (Again, looking at the involved parties, it seems like the same mindset as above. How’re those grapes tasting?)
When in reality…
It would be pretty rare to find a self-pub’d author who would honestly pass on a mainstream publishing offer, were one made. (Assuming a typical contract for a first-time novel: five-figure advance, sliding 10-15% of hardback list price in royalties, totally pro editing, copy editing, and art direction, along with the sort of publicity, sales, marketing, and distribution a mainstream house can provide.) And of course, along with this would likely come the benefits of agent representation (which is a whole post unto itself, but for now let’s just say the benefits are many), as serious interest from a legit house will net you entrée to a legit agency.
But on the other hand…
It’s also true that there may be times when some traditionally published authors might wish they had more autonomy with regard to their publishing destiny. And I suppose a new author with an unexpected massive hit might wish they could somehow go back and reap 85% of it instead of 15%. And so on.
This circular firing squad mentality is largely built on the same false values that drive most of the toxic dead-ends on social media: FOMO, virtue-signifying, self-validation, and living in an echo chamber.
The operative word here being “false.” Because, as I usually reply when asked, whether your goal is large publisher, small press, or self-publication, the difference is (or should be) zero, as far as the work itself is concerned.
In other words, any book which is offered to the reading public in exchange for the reader’s time, attention, and money should be competently written (and rewritten/revised/polished) to the very best of the author’s ability. And it should be edited (which has almost nothing to do with spelling/grammar/punctuation--see this post) by a professional editor. And it should likewise be copy-edited to the same quality level. And the design and cover should be done by a talented artist who will do the text justice. Same with interior illustrations, if any.
All of the above applies whether the publisher is big, small, or the author herself.
So really, we—as writers—all have the same fundamental goals, desires, and quality benchmarks for our writing. We all want to put our very best work forward, written and edited and packaged to provide the very best reading experience for our readers.
Regardless of our genre, style, age-range, price-point, etc.
And regardless of the size of our publisher.
This is where I write about things that are of interest to me and which I think may be of interest to you. I’m assuming most of you are here due to an interest in reading, writing, editing, publishing, etc., so that’s the primary focus.