Is A Self-Publishing Backlash On The Way?

This post, by Henry Baum, originally appeared on The Self-Publishing Review on 3/2/12.

It’s been a good run.  2011 was the year when self-publishing broke open with the successes of Amanda Hocking, John Locke, and JA Konrath.  The stigma is gone.  No one thinks a self-published book is bad just because it’s been self-published.  But people are creative – there are some out there who actively want to dislike self-publishing, and will look for reasons to criticize.  There are also plenty of people who still want to believe in the validation of a traditional publisher: if an agent and editor like it, I must be good.  So now the stigma is not: self-published books are bad, but self-published books are hard to sell.

This post is so wrong it’s almost not worth linking to, but it’s an interesting sentiment with a provocative title: Self-Publishing is Over

I’m not saying self-publishing doesn’t work. The fact that I’m spending my days building a 40′ ocean going catamaran is proof that it does, or at least that it did for me.

I am saying that it takes a very particular sort of person to do it, and that person has to be comfortable with the idea that they’re going to spend upwards of 75% of their time and effort doing things they (probably) regard as secondary to the creative act, and that there’s no (longer) special reward for undertaking the effort. The chances of your work being embraced by the market are not higher than going the tradition route; the return on your investment of time and effort (and in the case of movies, money) is not higher than going the traditional route.

And self-distro is certainly not the (much hyped) solution to the chaos and uncertainty that reigns in music or movies or publishing. It’s simply another route that might work, but probably won’t.

Perhaps with all the hype about self-publishing’s successes, people have gotten the impression that self-publishers think it’s easy to make it rich. But most know that self-publishing is hard.  That doesn’t make it “over,” just…hard.  As is releasing any book.  And the argument’s so old but – traditionally published writers need to do a lot of work they didn’t used to do as well: social marketing, arranging book tours, etc.  All publishing has elements of self-publishing.

That post was responding to another in The Atlantic:

One of the illusions most common to writers — an illusion that may make the long slow slog of writing possible, for many people — is that an enormous audience is out there waiting for the wisdom and delight that I alone can provide, and that the Publishing System is a giant obstacle to my reaching those people. Thus the dream that digital publishing technologies will indeed “disintermediate” — will eliminate that obstacle and connect me directly to what Bugs Bunny calls “me Public.” (See “Bully for Bugs”.) And we have heard just enough unexpected success stories to keep that dream alive.


Read the rest of the post on The Self-Publishing Review.

Comments are closed.