Self-Publishing: The Conversation Continues, Part 2 (Post 6)

Ladies and gentlemen, the house is on fire.  It truly is when it comes to traditional publishing vs. self-publishing.  My post yesterday ignited such interesting conversation that my fingers are practically flying off of the keyboard as I write this today in anticipation of what you might say next.


book burning


So, I am holding off on the “pros of self-publishing” post for another day to continue what was started.  Today I’m going to discuss your comments (and play devil’s advocate) a bit and add a few more cons.


I’m also going to include some interesting reading / links.


Here goes.


Let’s start with Tin Woman’s comment.  It was the one that struck the biggest chord.  I’ll start with what I said and then Tin Woman’s response.


Sweet Mother’s quote:


“…there is the idea that if you can’t sell to a traditional publisher then your writing is not worth a sh*t at all.  Perhaps, this idea is not voiced out loud much, but it IS the pervasive train of thought.”


Tin Woman’s response:


“While I don’t deny that many feel this way, the thought in itself is bullshit (no offense to you, momma). I never once considered going the traditional route with my initial works.  The reality is that most traditional publishers are only as good as their own sensibilities and leaning in literature. For instance, Twilight – rejected 12 times at least. Harry Potter rejected – a publishers child demanded to know more and he published a “LIMITED TEST RUN” before committing whole sale.  Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Rejected 120 times!  Self-publishing is simply cutting out the middle man.  Those who fail at self-publishing either really are putting out shit or they are failing to wear the hats of the business behind the scenes of publisher, proofer, editor, cover artist, promoter etc.  I do have a book contract, in fact I have three, and I’ve gotten more results from my self-publishing so far.”


Okay, I love Tin Woman and I love her writing.  So, this is not a criticism of her in anyway.  However, I want to dissect this comment a little bit.


I think that we can all agree that this is a “pervasive train of thought” as I have said.  We don’t have to agree with the idea, but I DO think we have to acknowledge that people ARE saying it.  They say, “those who can’t publish, self-publish…” just as they might say, “those who can’t do, teach.”
If you don’t believe me, read this great article by Forbes called, “Publishing is Broken…”  Within the first page of the article, best selling authors are quoted as saying:


“The important role that publishers fill is to separate the wheat from the chaff.  If you’re a good writer and have a great book you should be able to get a publishing contract.”


So, it’s a commonly held belief – Good Writer = Good Traditional Publisher.  Of course the question remains is it true?


Let’s let that lie for a moment and talk about the second point brought up in Tin Woman’s comment AND in the disparaging of self-publishers comment written by the best-selling author.  That point is:




Does it?  Because I’m not 100% convinced that it always does.


The best-selling author says, “the publisher is there to separate the wheat from the chaff.”  Tin Woman also says, “Those who fail at self-publishing either really are putting out shit or they are failing to wear the hats of the business behind the scenes of publisher, proofer, editor, cover artist, promoter etc.”


But, is that true?  I would venture to guess that both Tin Woman AND the best-selling author are partially right.


However, there are lumps in the democratic, self-publishing, cake mix.  Let me explain.


In the Forbes piece, there is the mention of friends writing positive reviews for friends on Amazon.  The idea is that if you see a lot of positive reviews, you will buy the book.  But, if these reviews have been solicited let’s say or if these reviews are reviews from friends or fellow authors who are also hoping you will respond in kind, is that REALLY helping the cream to rise to the top?


No.  By that theory, the sh*t writer with the most friends would win.  NOT THE BEST WRITER.


Now, let’s take that idea in the converse:




If you don’t know, Amazon had a customer review upheaval recently.  You can read about it much more eloquently on this person’s blog : Joe Konrath.  From what I can discern, two things happened – the above mentioned, friends were reviewing friends and Amazon wanted to get rid of reviews that they considered disingenuous – AND trolls.


Trolls were hitting the pages of good books and good writers with a “sock puppet” avatar and without reading the book, giving it 1 star.  Thus, severely lowering a good book’s Amazon ranking.


Is that the cream rising?  If a troll or a dozen of them can take down your product simply due to their sh*tty prankster intent is that the beauty of self-publishing?


No.  That’s a gaping hole in the system.


edinburgh fringe festival


The entire state of the current self-publishing firestorm reminds me of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  If you don’t know, the Edinburgh Fringe, is pretty much the LARGEST theater arts festival in the world.  Thousands of live shows happen at once over the course of a month.  It’s great in a lot of ways for live performers, BUT there is one major problem with it – IT’S TOO BIG.


Why is that a problem?  It’s a problem because tiny, quality, shows pay a lot of money to self-produce themselves and get utterly lost in the noise.  No one ever finds them.  Whereas, bigger, promoted shows with publicity budgets behind them get seen.  So, we are right back to the “get lucky” system again.  When the field is that crowded, you have to “get lucky.”  Say the right reviewer stumbles in to your show or you happen to hit the right note perfectly in just the right time slot on just the right night and -wham-o- you have a hit.  But, for every hit, there’s a great, little, show that fails and fails miserably.


Does anyone see the similarity between that and self-publishing?


Because I do.


If you can’t take my word for it, read Amanda Hocking’s blog post where she talks about her BETTER (by her own assessment) writer friend who does everything that she does marketing-wise and yet sells LESS books than Amanda.  (Read it here.)


Again, I’m playing the devil’s advocate as I suss this out.  Tomorrow I will go over the self-publishing pros.  I do believe there are a lot of them.  As always, I’d love to know your thoughts.



Sweet Mother is finishing up the final stages of her 365 post quest.  Her blog is updated daily-ish.  If you’d like to join the madness click the “follow” button above.



You might also like:

Self-Publishing, Part 1



Photo creds:

book-burning, fringe