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  1. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Why all the contempt for self publishing?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by NaCl, May 2, 2008.

    In forums such as this, comments regarding "self publishing" often seem to express derision against this option. Predictions of illegitimacy, or lack of literary credibility for the author, discourage the practice. Yet, the traditional paths to publication...that is, for compensation...remain steadfastly closed to the vast majority of new writers. Granted, the annual short list of gifted newbies who rose to stardom dangles the faintest of hope, but manuscripts by hundreds, perhaps thousands, of talented new authors languish endlessly in slush piles, never given a real opportunity to let readers decide their commercial and literary fate.

    Are we, neophytes, supposed to surrender our ambition to the closed minds of the contemporary system? When we tuly believe our work merits risk of public exposure, should we not take action, regardless of potential scorn by the literary elite? Even well known authors occasionally move into self-publishing, if for no other reason than to improve profitability.

    Could it be the self-publishing scorn is deserved? Do such businesses prey upon growing desperation of new writers who amass enough rejection slips to...wait a minute! I hate the term "rejection slip". It falsely implies a manuscript received the courtesy of real consideration. Let's rightfully call them "simply not interested slips", reflecting that nary a page was turned on the vast majority of slush pile submissions. My apologies for the aside...back to the point. Do self-published books necessarily fail some literary standard of excellence? If so, can the problem be corrected? Is it possible to successfully self-publish, while earning respect from the literary inner circles?

    An enquiring mind wants to know!

    .....NaCl
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I think you nailed the issue, just before you yanked yourself back from the musings about rejection slips.

    There ARE individuals and companies iout there, eager to prey upon those who despair over ever getting published by traditional publishers. And those who are most vulnerable are the writers who have not yet reached a level of confidence in their own abilities, and feel the only satisfaction they can look forward to is to "invest" in one of these helpful publishers.
     
  3. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    NaCl,

    I am not sure I would call it contempt.

    I would also not say that the traditional route is 'closed' to new talent, or are the editors' minds closed to it. It's just very very difficult to succeed. Impossible no, but the odds are quite vast, simply because of the numbers of those who submit (slush piles for those publishers that accept them sometimes receive more than 1000 proposals/manuscripts a month). That, and the fact that unpublished writers are competing for limited slots in the publication schedule against those authors who have a proven track record.

    A publisher is going to seek the best (or what it believes is the best) talent and works and put them into print. The goal is profit--readers willing to pay for it. If a publisher cannot determine successfully what the public is willing to pay for, then they will lose credibility, marketshare, money, profitability, the ability to pay its staff and editors and authors and investors, and go out of business.

    But there in is the difference between self-published and traditional route. One is vetted and the other, simply if they have the willingness and money to invest, reaches print. There are other advantages to the traditional route--such as marketing and more effective distribution--more clout than a title just being available for order, but that's for another topic.

    Fairly or unfairly, many quality works of self-published authors are thrown into the same pot as the poorly written, poorly edited, poorly marketed and sold titles. Guilt by association, I guess it could be described. Brick and mortar book stores tend not to stock them, except if the author can convince them in person--usually independent stores are more open to this--as returns and other issues are a problem. And the clamor of voices via the interent calling for attention is quite vast, and it's difficult to stand out--not impossible, but difficult. Self-publishing closes some of those avenues, such as the literary critics--news paper reviewers (which are a dying breed due to financial issues--again another topic).

    As mentioned in another thread, about believing in one's work and investing in it, NaCl, you indicated the cost of doing it properly. (I am going from memory, but I think I'm close)...you indicated 1000 books for 4 dollars each, then paid a cover artist, and paid a professional editor, purchased ISBNs and I am not sure what else. It would be safe to say a $5000 to $6000 up front investment? Maybe more? That's beyond the costs of marketing, travel, etc.

    A traditional publisher covers that investmentfor the author. And most publishers pay more than 50 cents per copy sold...except for maybe a mass market paperback (very few titles these days come out that way by first time authors) and then usually those publishers sign the authors, offering an advance.

    Self-Published titles on average (from places that report it, or authors who have discussed it) normally sell on average 200 copies of their work. That's the average. True, some titles do very very well. But many more languish, and go to maybe a circle of family and friends and not much futher.

    How many self-published authors pay for a professional editor? How many of them have the knowledge, time, personality, skill and money to invest in proper advertisement and marketing...will stick it out? Even a quality work written has to have this to be successful.

    Hopefully I addressed your question and didn't ramble too much.

    Terry
     
  4. Mr Sci Fi
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    Mr Sci Fi Senior Member

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    I guess there are quite a few literary snobs that abhor the idea of self-publishing and discredit any author who self-publishes. I say if the author can actually sell the work he self-publishes, then go for it.

    Self-Publishing requires knowledgable marketing. Considering I wouldn't even know where to begin marketing my stuff, I'll take my chances with a publisher. If I knew for certain I could sell my work, I certainly would self-publish it.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    But if you could sell your work, self-published at your own expense, would it not be more efficient to sell it once to a publisher who will pay you directly? Or do you just object to having the publisher collect a percentage for taking the risk on whether he can recoup his investment?
     
  6. Mr Sci Fi
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    Mr Sci Fi Senior Member

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    It would be efficient for the publisher to sell it for me. If only the publisher would take my manuscript on.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    salty one...
    you got the answers to your questions in the good posts that follow... i'll only add that the sad fact is, the cachet of being a 'published author' still accrues to only those who've been paid to have their work published, not those who pay for the privilege of seeing their mss turned into books...

    and that's the bottom line reason for the 'contempt' you've observed which most often really isn't anything that strong, but only a stating of the facts of life in the writing world...

    love and hugs, maia
     
  8. JRFleshmen
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    JRFleshmen Member

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    This may sound silly, but would it not be better to self-publish if you are having trouble getting recongized. I mean if you do a good job marketing your work and sell let say 10,000 copies. You still have the rights to your work and probly would have an easier time getting noticed with publishers. Right?
     
  9. Aurora_Black
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    Aurora_Black Contributing Member

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    A solid argument, but in the ed, you have to do what you feel is best for yourself, no matter what the elite say.
     
  10. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Fleshmen,
    Selling than number of copies would be better than 'good' marketing. Of course, it goes back to the quality of the work to begin with. Buzz leading to word of mouth (for self or traditional publishing success) is a key component. That won't happen with a substandard (and some would argue even with a standard quality) novel.

    Terry
     
  11. Al B
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    Al B Senior Member

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    Ask yourself this: Why would Stephen King, or Tom Clancy, or JK Rowling, bother with a publisher, when they could quite easily publish something for themselves? They have the money necessary to do so, they have the clout to get it promoted and noticed, and they have a loyal readership who would buy their book regardless of who published and printed it.

    The obvious answer is that they either lack, or do not want to bother with, all of the skills necessary to promote their book. And that's the problem with self-publishing for anyone; you need to have the time, all the promotional skills, network of contacts and wherewithall necessary to make it work. The chances are that all or some of those requirements will conspire to doom such a venture to failure for you or I, unless we have a guaranteed readership through some means or other and can rely on the grapevine making it happen for us.

    Because of that, a huge percentage of self-publishing ventures sink without trace, so even disregarding the stigma (admittedly on the wane) that comes from only having had your book accepted for publication because there was no process it had to go through to be in that position, you also have the notion that such ventures are almost all done in vain.

    And all that adds up to something which is obviously going to lack prestige. As the internet changes the way people buy things, some of that might change, and it probably will, but not all of it will change.

    Al
     
  12. pip
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    pip Member

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    This is an article from couriermail.com.au. I thought it may add some points of interest to the discussion. I realise it's a completely different ball game, being non-fiction, however, it gives credence to "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
    Than are dreamt of in your philosophy".

    Article: Couriermail.com.au
    "TWO Sunshine Coast women have hit on the right ingredients for success – all four of them.

    In one of those meteoric success stories that usually only play out in Hollywood movies, Kim McCosker and Rachael Bermingham are pinching themselves after their modest, homespun, self-published cookbook 4 Ingredients was announced as a surprise Australian bestseller of 2007.

    With 385,000 copies sold, the little unillustrated book of 340 simple recipes each using a maximum of four ingredients was only outdone by J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

    It even beat the highly publicised The Secret by Australian-born television producer Rhonda Byrne (267,200 copies) and Bryce Courtenay's The Persimmon Tree (166,000 copies).

    Fast friends since kindergarten in Stanthorpe, McCosker and Bermingham – both 37 with young children – said their success should inspire anyone with a good idea and the courage to back themselves.

    Rejected by publishers who said there were too many cookbooks around already, the duo persevered and funded their own printing with a first run of just 2000 – then phoned a local newspaper, which ran an article on them.

    "Everything just snowballed," Bermingham said.

    ABC radio did a bit on the book and this was followed by a stint on television's Extra, which was seen by a Big W executive who ordered 2500 copies.

    Now there's a second book on the way and TV contracts are being finalised.

    "We wanted something so we just went out and did it," Bermingham said.

    McCosker said: "All the publishing houses that weren't taking our calls six months ago are now throwing bottles of Moet at us."

    How cool is that?
     
  13. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have concluded that "publishing" is an economic process. It entails expertise in everything from the physical creation of a book, to effective marketing and sale programs, to proper accounting and contract language.

    The term "self-publishing" is a misnomer for POD and Vanity press. They only produce a physical book and fail to effectively perform most of the sales and promotions that determine the success or failure of a book.

    On the other hand, true "self-publishing" means you build an entire company to handle all the functions of publishing. The means you manage the whole process...printing, cover design & layout, storage, shipping, accounting, marketing and, of course, all the licenses and permits such as ISBN & SAN numbers. I'm presently doing all this and, the truth is, I could have completed the sequel to my book in the amount of time I invested so far. This brings me to answer Al B's question about why Clancy, Rowling and others choose not to self publish...they probably simply do not want to invest time in the learning curve and management demands of their own company. It's almost comical...I have a far greater appreciation for traditional publishing companies now than I did before I embarked on this adventure! LOL!
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    pip...

    while that's certainly possible to see happen with non-fiction, it's just not with fiction...
     
  15. AwfulBigAdventure
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    AwfulBigAdventure Member

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    The disdain for self published material is that it's unregulated and there is no quality control. No one wants to spend their hard earned money on a car only to find it craps out after 100 miles... we have a level of expectation of what a sellable car is and we have a level of expectation for the books we read which are more at risk in unregulated self publishing than through a publishing house.

    From experience... I have never read a good self published novel and I have read good publishing house published novels. It's why we go to the movie theaters to see Indy 4 instead of watching our neighbors philisophical dissertations he posts on Youtube, daily (even though I hated Indy, it stood better chances than youtube dissertations of holding my attention). I'm not saying you can't have good self published material, but if you bury gold in a swamp of excrement, it's going to be pretty hard to find someone who knows that it's there and are willing to dive in after it. Promoting and giving directions to your gold can help, but it's still surrounded in crap and people have to take your word for it that it's there.

    Of course, if it's working for you, then you've found a way to rise above the stigma and your work must be backing it up. Sounds like you've become your own publishing house, of sorts, and have become, not just a writer but an entrapanuer. That, of course, is extremely beneficial in this career.
     
  16. Rickie writes
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    Rickie writes Member

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    In my business arena (financial) a lot of books are self published vanity books by hacks that use ghost writers to make themselves look (feel) good so can draw more money and people into their financial webb. Some churn out lots of books and I swear they make more money off the hyping of their books then in the business they state they are such an expert on.

    I know if I had a business system that would make me millions of dollars I be doing it and not telling everyone, with $29.95 plus shipping and handling, how they too can learn my secrets of success.

    Outside of my area if someone can self publish a decent book and the public buys it more power to them; others, most, don't have the time, talent, disposition or money to attempt it. A wise person know what works best for themselves, a fool doesn't.
     
  17. Speck
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    Speck Member

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    I believe self-publishing will be a lot more popular in the near future. I mean, some problems have been mentioned in this topic, advertising being a huge one. However, some self-publishing companies offer "packages" that include advertising.

    I saw a self-publishing company that offered (for the premium package that costed around 1k I believe) to get the book professionally made, put up in over a thousand book stores, advertise, sell it on several different online web sites, write up professional reviews for newspapers to publish, and even hire editors to edit your work before you get it published. In short...recent self-publishing companies are starting to become just as useful (though more expensive) as any traditional publisher. In fact, I think a lot of publishing companies, about ten, twenty years down the road from now, might be out of business due to that.

    Self-publishing, if you have the confidence and the money, can be a great idea...in my opinion. However, the reason, I think, people look down on self-publishing is because it isn't quite something to be proud of...for example:

    I could write 90k words of pure bull, and get it self-published. If a traditional publisher takes on your work, you know it must be good because it's so insanely difficult to succeed with (get accepted by) a traditional publisher. So a lot of people are a bit doubtful of a self-published book...it doesn't hold the same merit that being accepted by a traditional publisher holds...I think a good question to ask in some cases might be...if you're not self-published because of the better royalties, and you really think you're good enough to make it...why aren't you published through an actual publisher...?

    It takes a very good piece of work to make it out there...and that's why it's so hard to get published...

    Sorry, I've rambled.

    Hope this helps.
     
  18. TMA-1
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    TMA-1 New Member

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    Just because it's published doesn't mean it's good, and if it's not published it doesn't mean it's bad. But of course there is a much higher quality on that which is published. But, I guess it must depend on what you want out of the whole thing.
     
  19. garza33
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    garza33 Active Member

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    There are writers, agents, editors, and publishers. Each must have specialised skills, knowledge, and experience. A self-published writer must be everything, know everything, do everything. Sometimes it works, as in the case of the two Austrailian women. Generally it does not work, or does not work well.

    Let me say a word on behalf of ghost writers. Some ghost-written books are junk, no doubt about it. But there are others that have been and continue to be best or at least very good sellers and made of solid writing. Many people have a good story to tell, but do not have the writing ability or the time to tell it themselves. I see nothing wrong with such a person hiring someone to do the writing.

    I finished the last ghost job I intend taking last year. It was number 11, and I'm still making money from most of them. My favourite word is 'residual'. Of course, 15 percent goes to my agent's bartender.

    Now let me say a word on behalf of publishers. Publishers are not in business to make me money or to make you famous. Publishers are in business to make money for their publishing houses. That's it. They are held accountable by the stockholders who want to see profits and dividends. There is only so much risk a publisher can take.

    I have talked with many wannabe writers who have the idea they can start at the top, or near the top. Some people can. Most of us can't. I worked my way up from selling little news items to the local newspapers. That's how I started. It's how anyone can start if they are seriously interested in writing. You can build a track record for yourself with local newspapers, small literary magazines, regional news letters, and other small publishing ventures that need good material to fill their pages. They pay little, often nothing, but that's why you clerk nights at 7-11, so you can eat even as you learn the craft of writing.

    Once you have a decent list of published material in the small markets, you can start aiming for bigger game and an agent. Publishers look first at material that comes from agents, and agents want to know that people have been willing to publish what you write. Don't talk with agents who charge a reading fee or ask for any money up front for any reason. If the agent believes he can sell your work he'll wait for his commission.

    This is the slow way to success. It's the writer's apprenticeship. It's the road I followed. The other way is to send an unsolicited manuscript to a publisher and hope that lightning strikes. Maybe it will. It does happen, so why shouldn't it happen to you? Chances are it won't. You may very well have written a best seller if only a good agent had the manuscript in hand for circulation.

    There are people who want to write, and there are people who just want to be writers. I've wanted to write all my life, and the fact that I found people who were willing to pay me money for what I wrote was a bonus. That's why I can say I've not worked a day since I was 14.
     

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