Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Why I've decided against self-publishing

I was talking to my mother the other day about one of my writing projects. Mom's been a big fan of my writing for years now, and for awhile there I was using her as a sounding board to also bounce ideas off, so these conversations aren't that unusual. She's not a writer herself though, so on a number of occasions she'll ask me why I haven't sent off my writing to publishers yet. Mind you, I've had this conversation with her before so it's not something I'm surprised by any more.

However during that conversation she brought up one of the many self-publishing platforms that currently exist in the marketplace. I don't remember which one, but the specifics don't really matter for this post. What does matter is that my mother believes so strongly in the quality of my work that she thinks self-publishing is a good path because in her mind all I need to do is get my work out to people who want to read it.

There's some validity to that line of thinking, since that's what many folks who do self-publish are banking on. I want to be very, very clear here -- I do NOT think self-publishing is a bad decision. If you want to self-publish your work (I'm looking at you, Ren Cummins) then by all means go forth and prosper writer friend!

However, I don't want to go that route with my own writing and my reasons for that are several-fold. Primary among them is a lesson I learned while currently working to make Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonders into a proper business with a book publishing arm attached to it and a print version of the magazine. That lesson is that promoting things is bloody hard to do well. I can do it, mind, so it's not a question of ability -- and if you've seen the amount I talk on Twitter you'll not doubt this -- but rather it's a question more of desire to do that for my own works.

Because see here's the thing: I'd have to not only write, edit, and proofread the story, but also spend time pulling together a cover image, formatting the document according to eBook or POD guidelines, and then market the heck out of the thing. That could be about 40 hours a week spent on the promotions side when I could in fact be writing the stories in the first place.

Again, not a question of ability, since I'm going to be doing that same work anyway once I get Doctor Fantastique's bigger than it currently is. However, doing that as part of my work for DF's doesn't include me actually writing the novel or necessarily editing it. That's why I have several amazing, amazing staffers for help. L.T. and Marie are both on my submissions team, for example, so that's some workflow parsed away from me. Theresa Meyers just signed on as the Publicity Director -- another piece of the puzzle taken away from me, and I've got yet more people invested in that organization.

If I were to self-publish though, I wouldn't be able to use that organizational structure for a number of reasons. Primarily though because it would an unethical use of my staff's talents. I didn't pull them together to promote me. I pulled them together to make the magazine work.

Besides that, I already have little enough time to write as it is. Once I get one of my stories done and have it accepted, I'm going to be happy being able to ignore promotions except for what I told to do by the eventual publisher. Assuming it does get accepted and I do get a publisher, of course.

Self-publishing and the amount of work that comes with it is definitely not for me. But again, I don't begrudge anyone from going that route.


Linda G. said...

Exactly. And well said. :)

Christine Rose said...

It is a lot of work. No doubt. Congrats on your decision! It sounds as though you gave it a lot of thought. I wish more writers would.

Davin Malasarn said...

I always find people's reasons for or against self-publishing to be interesting, so thanks for writing this out, Matthew.

Stephanie Thornton said...

I think there's a form of publishing out there that would work for everyone. These are some succinct reasons why self-publishing just isn't your gig.

Michelle D. Argyle said...

I don't blame you in the slightest! I think it's important to know what you want and what will work for you, not everyone else. I realized after self-publishing Cinders that it wasn't the way I wanted to go for all my books, either. :)