. little bitty essays about writing

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Self-publishing. It has all been said elsewhere, I would just like to add my two cents and a slightly different perspective. I write for kids and teens, publish traditionally, and speak and teach writing at writers' conferences. I have had many experiences with self published authors, most of whom give me signed copies of their work and ask me for blurbs or comments on Amazon if I enjoy the read.

I say this quietly and respectfully,aware of the effort they expended writing and marketing their work: I have yet to write a comment or a blurb for a self-published novel.

I think the problems with self publishing are the obvious ones, and this: It’s really, really hard to get published traditionally. Agents serve as the gatekeepers between the publishers and all the would-be writers because publishers no longer have staff, time, or desire to read through their slush piles. So writers now begin searching for an agent first, as they must, because most publishers will not consider work from individuals without one. Agents are swamped, buried, slogging through submissions and they often take months, sometimes a year or more to respond to a query, even with printed rejection slips. The frustration for writers--especially those who don’t live in or near NYC, and who don’t know someone who knows someone--is terrible.

I just googled “self publish” and came up with 49,800,000 hits. The sites have phrases like, “Set your OWN royalties” and “Eliminate middlemen”. One promises to end “unneeded and endless re-writing”. Another says, “Have your books in a week and start selling!!” Lots of exclamation points. All very seductive if one is driven to write, to be read, and frustrated to the screaming point.

Conventional publishing is an antique industry and is in MAJOR flux. The returns system is a whole separate topic and a complex one. Amazon is rumored to be thinking about building brick and mortar stores.  People are writing their own work, then marketing it....everywhere they can. New opportunities abound.

 Most traditionally published authors I know are not in any way old fashioned nor blind. They are experimenting with formats, structures and sales channels. I am certainly not pretending to know what the future of books will be or saying that the system as it stands serves writers or readers as well as it might.

I am just saying this: It takes years of writing with purpose and intent and energy and feedback from people who don’t love you and who understand writing, to get good at writing. Prioritizing publication and marketing, assuming either one is a validation of the work in and of itself, can be discouraging, even heartbreaking for the writer. So take your time.

I have written about this here, too:  http://kathleenduey.blogspot.com/2011/12/publishing-old-new-self-indie.html