Why Self-Publishing Doesn’t Work – And How It Can

Would You Like to Self-publish Your Book?

Would You Like to Self-publish Your Book?

Imagine an ideal world where authors simply wrote books and publishers sold them.

In this utopia, authors might even be content to give away 85%-90% of their sales revenue if publishers did all the work of producing, distributing and marketing the books.

Sounds absurd, but the model is viable. It once existed. Do you remember the golden age when publishers actually did what they were paid for?

Today, if debut authors wrestle with enough agents to get their novel placed, they’ll probably discover they have to hustle all over again – blogging and hyping it like a fairground huckster.

According to Chuck Sambuchino in his book Create Your Writer Platform, you might not even win a publishing contract nowadays unless you have 5000 Twitter followers, plus 5000 newsletter subscribers, and speak to 3000 people at conferences every year. We can dispute the figures, but Chuck is right in principle. Publishers prefer authors who have fans.

No wonder authors concluded a while ago that if they already had such a sales machine in place (or could build one), they didn’t need a publisher. And the self-publishing industry was born.

 

Self-publishing is an industry that doesn’t quite work – not yet.

 

Why not?

 

1. The perception of drivel

For the reading public as a whole, self-published fiction still bears the stench of the vanity press. And vanity books are trash. I can’t prove that – but you can.

Just download 20 free samples from self-published novels chosen at random from Amazon or Smashwords. You’ll be lucky to find one that’s readable. And readers know this.

Traditional publishers at least had value as gatekeepers. They kept drivel out of the distribution channel.

 

2. The labor of social networking

Novels are bought largely on the basis of reader loyalty (“I like this author”), word-of-mouth recommendation (wom), and reviews. (Source: The 2010 Survey of Book Buying Behavior.)

Advertising is nowhere. To kickstart a wom campaign – and thus build reader loyalty – takes 24×7 work on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and on blogs – one’s own and other people’s.

Most authors don’t need that. We want to write, not hustle.

 

3. The unreliability of reviews

Canny readers are increasingly learning that reviews on Amazon, Goodreads and the like may have been written by the author’s friends (five stars) or competitors (one star). The practice – ‘sock puppetry’ – appears to be commonplace and growing. (Source: Jake Kerridge, The Telegraph.) Michael Alvear openly advocates it in his manual Make A Killing on Kindle.

Online book reviews have all the integrity of a six-dollar bill. At least, that’s the perception. So where can we find a trustworthy assessment of a self-published novel? Until recently, nowhere.

 

These are bold assertions and they cry out to be challenged. So let me challenge them.

 

Does self-publishing really not work?

 

1. All self-published novels are unreadable?

Of course not. Pan a river long enough and you’ll find gold. Recently I chanced upon the suspense novel Proof of Death, written by Irish lawyer Chris Pearson. His agent could not find a publisher, but helped Chris to self-publish it. The novel is a gem. It’s written with a wit and sophistication reminiscent of the early John le Carré. Ten years ago it might have been a Transworld best seller.

Why wasn’t it published? Too intelligent for the commercial market, perhaps.

There are plenty of Chris Pearsons out there. Brilliant. Self-published. Still in search of readers. The problem, for the reader, is to find them.

 

2. Social networking is futile?

It isn’t!

That’s how J A Konrath, John Locke, Amanda Hocking, E L James and many others have sold their one million+ ebooks. But for every blog star with 100,000 followers, there are probably 100,000 authors who have invested 1000 hours to sell five books each.

 

3. All reviews are unreliable?

Not true. My mini-review of Proof of Death (above) is impartial. I don’t know the author and have no agenda to promote him. But how can you trust me? You can’t. Besides, Chris will need at least 1000 good reviews before his novel repays – at lawyer’s fee rates – the time he invested in writing it.

Online reviews are nice. It’s just that given readers’ current skepticism of them, it’s difficult to sell books in volume based on reviews alone.

 

What’s the way forward for self-publishing novelists?

 

The traditional publishing model separated the functions of author and publisher.

Many publishers, to their credit, still operate that model but increasingly, chaos reigns. Can the old model be restored? Yes.

Here are two innovations that, together, may change authors’ lives.

 

1. The advent of self-publishing guilds

Vanity houses for self-publishers are as old as publishing itself. How can you tell a vanity publisher? It says “we’re not a vanity publisher”, then charges a fee for every step in the publishing process and welcomes ‘trash’.

But we’re starting to see online publishers with integrity. Some operate as guilds or collectives. They exert the same discrimination as a mainstream imprint. When they publish a novel, we can trust its quality.

One such publisher is Mardibooks. Like regular imprints, it only accepts manuscripts that have commercial potential. It does the usual editing and pre-press work and puts up the result on Amazon and Kobo without a fee. It covers its overheads by charging for the production of an ebook or paperback on a cost-plus basis. Mardibook authors then market each others’ work collectively on their own social platforms.

Whereas familiar services like Lulu and CreateSpace deal with authors one-to-one, Mardibooks claims to create a ‘cross marketing’ platform: one to many.

It offers a viable model for a global collective of the future – let’s call it Luminatus.com – where authors work together in their mutual interests.

 

2. Self-publishers’ review sites

Three years ago I predicted the rise of sites that would impartially review self-published novels and award them a star rating. Five stars from the legendary BlueRibbonReviews.com (a name I made up) might be worth a talk slot on Oprah, I suggested in a blog post.

Now it’s starting to happen. Brag Medallion has more than 100 readers in ten countries who post impartial reviews of self-published novels. “We’re looking for ebooks that are worth a reader’s time and money,” the site says. Comparable sites include Compulsion Reads, Nash Black and The Book Review For Fiction.

Such sites have yet to make a significant impact on the self-publishing scene, because the average author and ebook reader is unlikely to have heard of them. But it’s early days.

In the year 2020, when new authors pose that perennial question to indie forums “How do I sell my book?”, they’re likely to hear the weary refrain “Go to Luminatus and Brag Medallion”. By then, the equivalent of those names will be as well known as Random House.

The self-publishing business will have come of age. And every author who has ever tussled with the dilemma “Should I battle with agents and risk rejection, or self-publish and risk penury?’ will have a third choice.

 

I’m convinced that self-publishing guilds and review sites will make further both authors’ and readers’ interests. What do you think? I look forward to hearing from you in the Comments below.

 

About the author:

Dr John Yeoman, a successful commercial author for 42 years, teaches Creative Writing at a UK university. You can find a wealth of ideas for writing stories that succeed in his free 14-part story course at Writers’ Village.

Image: Self-publishing courtesy of Bigstockphoto.com

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68 Responses to “Why Self-Publishing Doesn’t Work – And How It Can”

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  1. Beth Havey says:

    I hope you are right, John. The competition is fierce, and even if you have stellar work it is
    probably difficult to stand out. Beth Havey
    Beth Havey recently posted..Keeping Up with Health ScreeningMy Profile

  2. Rekha says:

    Don’t forget the humble book blogger who does it without expecting any compensation, unlike certain review sites that charge fees equivalent to sales value of 200+ books. The review in most cases is nothing but a summary of the book, with a few lines thrown in as an afterthought.

    Some book bloggers are dedicated to encouraging and supporting indie authors. Some have their own fan following that buy books recommended by them. There are bad eggs who can be mean or hard to please but most love to lend a hand.

    On the other hand, there are books that shouldn’t have seen the light of day. If an author can’t use free spell checkers at the very least, why should any one be expected to buy their books?

    Some self published authors need to be mature enough to handle reader criticism. I wouldn’t buy a book from an author who indulges in flame wars with a customer unless the reader has a hidden agenda.

  3. Hello every one,

    The true is that this life request excellency and business, the business always is being above on top. Nowadays is not different, talent and creativity constantly are fighting against mediocrity and cash. Always have been that way and always will be the same, people expend time and resources tossed their excellent art. The problem is that not all them have the support of the reach family or are lucky to find an individual with acute eyes and a very sensible business perception ,who might be able to sponsor a very good artist, who over the time like Van-Go past with out glory, and miserable. While other well supported makes valuable results from the friends or family, who help them. I OK. life is in that way, but you never know, but the true of the commentaries posted about the book industry is only rhetoric, and the opportunity of someone to say something about the theme to make his living.

    Best Regards,

    Nicolas Enrique Chavez Mandulley, Self published Author.

  4. This brief paragraph highlights exactly how I feel on some days:
    “Today, if debut authors wrestle with enough agents to get their novel placed, they’ll probably discover they have to hustle all over again – blogging and hyping it like a fairground huckster.”

    Thank you for so poignantly stating the status of self-published writers … I have no doubt alienated family and friends with my constant Facebook presence and requests for shares.

    I haven’t money to travel to New York, but am happy to know that some will, and may share their gatherings with us here through social media.

    The Musketters didn’t get it right: “All for one and one for all” does not work for authors. We cannot propel the one to solitary success, and the one lone voice advocating for self published authors is lost on the wind.

    Only “Many for Many” will turn this tide. Wishing us all well with this effort.

    • Many for many, indeed! I wish you every success with your own good efforts, Terry.

    • Michelle says:

      Thank you so much for your “Many for Many” response. That attitude will work across the spectrum of a person’s life, not just for writing or marketing. Just imagine an entire world where the concept of “many for many” is not considered foreign or laughable.

      Great article – and food for thought!

      Be blessed and thanks Dr. Yeoman and Terry! Enjoy the week!

    • Michelle says:

      Thank you so much for your “Many for Many” response. That attitude will work across the spectrum of a person’s life, not just for writing or marketing. Just imagine an entire world where the concept of “many for many” is not considered foreign or laughable.

      Great article – and food for thought!

      Be blessed and thanks Dr. Yeoman and Terry! Enjoy the week!

  5. RD Meyer says:

    I disagree with the premise since it feels like it’s centered around those who are world beaters and selling millions of copies. Since most work doesn’t sell well, the question that has to be asked is what’s the return on investment? Where a lot of self-published writers fail is that they want to only focus on writing, at the expense of the business aspect. If a writer is willing to put in the effort, then it has the potential to pay off well, and a lot better for most than they would through traditional publishing.

    However, the writer also has to have the talent to produce something readable, but that’s what I love about the market – it’ll filter that stuff out. In the same vein, I’ve seen a lot of unreadable stuff in the traditional world as well.
    RD Meyer recently posted..Buildup Versus PayoffMy Profile

    • Yes, not every one wants to sell a million copies. What would we do with the money? Start a writing foundation?To encourage new novelists? Does the world need any more novels? :)

      That said, there’s no harm for a self-published author in gleaning a few thousand dollars a month to pay the rent. I think that’s where most novelists are focused. And it’s enough.

      • Maranna says:

        That’s exactly right John. A few thousand a month would be perfect for me. I don’t expect to be ‘discovered’, but I think I can battle with the good ‘Indies’.

        In years gone by, I tried to publish through reputable channels and the ‘Dear John’ responses put me right off. With hindsight I realise I should have kept going, but it’s hard. I look at contemporaries who were and are successful and I am certain their pure persistence paid off,

        Now it’s great to be able to self-publish. My first short story, a trilogy, was rated on the first day of publication ( I swear I do not know the reviewer!!) and I thought it was going to be an easy ride……. How wrong can a girl be? However, Amazon does have at least, some strategies in place to allow books to be circulated free, hopefully, to rest in the hands of people who really enjoy them.

        Thanks for a terrific article John I really enjoyed it (and the debate that followed!). By the way, I struggled and struggled to remember how I knew your name. It came to me the other day. I went to the wedding of a former student last year and her partner’s name is John Yeoman. He’s English too!
        Maranna recently posted..Six Month Visa – Gina SequelMy Profile

  6. Self-publishing is okay for some people, not okay for others.

    The controversy continues, I see.
    Lorraine Reguly recently posted..Author Christine Cowley Shares Information via A Guest Post and a VideoMy Profile

  7. Thanks, John. I loved this post. As one just started on the online fiction road this was very helpful. I agree that readers are starting to filter the rubbish but I also fear that the reader is less discerning than in the past. There’s no doubt in my mind that you have to write for the love of it because there’s not much money for the many.

    • Yes, Robyn. The author who writes solely for money loses their soul. (Think of Edgar Wallace or Dan Brown.) The one who writes for the love it, and is also darned good,and persists, reaps the rewards. Think of J K Rowling…

  8. Kath says:

    I think I will stick with seeking publication through the regular channels as then I know I am worthy. Thanks for a great post.
    Kath recently posted..Blind Date DilemmaMy Profile

    • John Yeoman says:

      Of course, Kath, you could always write one novel for the agent and one for yourself, to self-publish. Then if the first route doesn’t work, you could always switch to the other.

  9. PJ Reece says:

    It’s a crazy world right now… during which craziness I reckon the best one can do is take even more time than usual to write the absolutely best book possible. The world doesn’t need another mediocre book? When my new work is ready to flog, I’ll emerge from my cave to see where these guilds are at and where my agent is, if he’s still alive. I just met a guy at a farmers market selling his short story collection all over the country from the trunk of his car. He’s having a blast. Life could be worse.
    PJ Reece recently posted..The Best Sex Scene EverMy Profile

    • John Yeoman says:

      Farmers’ markets?, I remember Carla Emery in the 1980s peddling her self-published Old Fashioned Recipe Book all over America, from the back of her camper van. Eventually, a big publisher took it up and she became a legend. Folk are still doing that. Folk like Carla, and your friend, should make us all feel proud.

  10. Rinelle Grey says:

    I’m not sure that adding in a new ‘gatekeeper’, that charges indie authors, is the answer. Although yes, some readers are becoming distrusting of reviews, I’m not convinced that the majority of them do. Scanning reviews, it’s usually pretty easy to determine which ones are the most likely to be friends, and which ones are genuine readers. And once a book has a variety of (good and bad) reviews, I think readers are more likely to trust them. And if they don’t they can always download the sample, and check the book out themselves.

    As an indie author, it takes time and effort to build up your readership, but it can and is being done. And in more cases than people are aware of. When buying an ebook off Amazon, who looks at the publisher, really? My book is still only getting small numbers of downloads, but I’m sure I’ll see some more when I release my next book in August, and more when the one after that comes out. It’s a slow road, but I’m not convinced it’s any slower than that walked by an author with the support of a traditional publishing house.
    Rinelle Grey recently posted..Fantasy Friday – A Desperate ActMy Profile

    • John Yeoman says:

      True, Rinelle. Both routes are frustrating. Rejection by an agent or rejection by the market? The first we can cope with (‘She didn’t understand my work’) but the other is more damning. That said, the market is vast. Persist and we will find our own market.

  11. This was an interesting article! I appreciate the insight and have passed this post along to a few writers I know who are struggling with the self-publishing process.
    Amanda Bumgarner recently posted..I Finished Writing My Novel! Now What? (Part 1)My Profile

  12. Remember, that there are many main-stream authors who have also self-published and it has worked out great for them either way…and authors who know what their target audience is, I see in the most part know how to reach out to them. Some don’t and companies like BRAG Medallion is helping authors to do that. I believe BRAG is the future and we can learn a whole lot from them. After all they are made up with readers, book bloggers, writers who are dedicated to the craft. I believe self-publishing works and find some great gems in the indie industry.
    Stephanie Hopkins recently posted..Interview with Author Derek BirksMy Profile

  13. Thank you so much for this article! Very interesting discussion and valid points. I appreciate the insight.
    Amanda Bumgarner recently posted..I Finished Writing My Novel! Now What? (Part 1)My Profile

  14. While I agree with points 1 and 3 on why self-publishing is still difficult, I can’t agree with the premise of your second reason.

    While self-publishers are in for a lot of work promoting their book and building a readership, a new author picked up by a major publisher gets next to no marketing assistance from the publisher either. They’d rather spend their marketing budget on a sure thing, as they become increasingly risk-averse.

    These days, new authors signing with a publisher are also in for a lot of promotion work. It’s no longer an advantage we can list on the traditional publishing side of the self-pub/trad-pub debate.
    Monica T. Rodriguez recently posted..Review: Death Masks, Jim ButcherMy Profile

    • John Yeoman says:

      Monica, that’s the very point I was making. If we get picked up by a big publisher, we still have to put in the hours hustling our own work. So why are we paying the publisher 85%-90% of our revenues?

      If a publisher wants us to go on the road, literally or web-wise, a more equitable deal might be a 50-50 split. But somehow, I can’t see a major imprint agreeing to that :)

  15. Belinda Hunt says:

    Certainly everyone has a story – either their own or imagined, but the ability to craft it is another matter entirely – good publishers and editors are always a pre-requisite and make the difference even for the best writers.

    The excitement now is to capture all that new talent and package it appropriately.
    Belinda Hunt recently posted..How to support writers through sharing and feedback – sharpen your editing skillsMy Profile

  16. One of the models I’ve seen working well on a small scale resembles your “guilds,” John.

    A group of writers, editors, book and book cover designers, and perhaps writers’ website designers work together in a “collective.” In two cases with which I’m familiar, this simply involves hosting a blog together and rotating whose turn it is to post next.

    The power of this, of course, is in the gathering of professionals who know and trust each other within the industry–even if there’s no formal or standing financial arrangement. Since I’m not a direct participant in these sites, I can’t venture any estimate of the added value the members of these collectives receive. But it HAS to beat self-publishing on your own.

    I have found, however, that I can trust the recommendations of these members. Call it validation by consensus, whatever. I’m happy with anything that helps me avoid the sad attempts by writers who simply aren’t ready to publish, but do. I’ve had quite enough of those, and won’t even bother to review efforts that demonstrate I-did-it-all-myself.

    Even the “free” books take up my time to read them; and my time has a real value (it’s finite, after all!). We need gateways of one sort or another. In that, you are absolutely correct.

    Thanks for a thoughtful and encouraging post.
    Jim Bessey | SoWrite.Us recently posted..Should You Rely on Spell-Checker to Edit Your Book?My Profile

    • John Yeoman says:

      Many thanks, Jim. Your point about team posting is interesting. I’m a team poster at several writing sites and it’s fun to get feedback on one’s articles from fellow professionals as well, of course, as other visitors.

      One ‘guild’-type site you might explore is:

      http://www.screwpulp.com/

      It seems Screwpulp is a play on Smashwords but, unlike Smashwords, it takes a collective approach to self-publishing, with authors agreeing to review (impartially) each other’s books. Another straw in the wind…

  17. Maranna says:

    Isn’t this interesting! I left a fairly lengthy comment on this the other day! I wonder where it went?
    Maranna recently posted..Six Month Visa – Gina SequelMy Profile

    • John Yeoman says:

      Strange that, Maranna. I have had the same problem at my own blog, where the comments are hosted by Disqus. One post will list all the comments, another post says ‘No comments’ although some 50 are lurking there! Does anybody know anything about Disqus coding? (For sure, the Disqus Helpline has been no help at all.) If so, please contact me off site!

  18. Brian Lux says:

    Very interesting article. My first book (illustrated book for 4-6years) almost sold out, yet ‘Court of Foxes,’ published by a new publisher (now bust, owing me another authors) did not do as well, despite four respected authors having their kind endorsements included. Both required major effort from me, including local newspapers, local BBC Radio, and myself arranging book signings, including Waterstones Piccadilly, London (need major chutzpah to get a date). Although a YA book is with an interested publisher, I am keeping the self publishing option open. The advice I would give to self publishers is the necessity to pay for an editor, though even major publishers make some awful mistakes.

    • John Yeoman says:

      It’s good to see you here, Brian. Given the vast labour you put into promoting Court of Foxes you might do just as well to go back to your tested route of self-publishing. And yes, a pro editor (and critique service) are essential, along with a professional cover design. A lot of authors commission a gorgeous cover and lose the reader on the first page with misspellings, bad punctuation and literals.

  19. Brian Lux says:

    I should have made it clear that my first book was self published.Sorry for the error.

  20. Meredith says:

    Do you think the same holds true for nonfiction? I’ve shelved my novel right now and started down a new journey to put out a cookbook. I believe there is a market for this cookbook, but figured I may need to self publish rather than find an agent amd potch to publishing houses. Anyone have any experience self publishing nonfiction/cookbooks?

    • John Yeoman says:

      Not with cookbooks, Meredith, but I did self-publish several gardening textbooks many aeons ago and sold them via off-the-page ads in gardening magazines. They were amazingly profitable. Cooking is such a vast market that you’re sure to find ample web sites where you could, for example, run guest posts that link to your book..

  21. Thanks for another great post, John. I used a vanity press for my first memoir, then got picked up by a very small publishing company and it has been 10 months now and still no books!
    I had to contact them the other day and ask for a release. They later told me they would get them out asap as they have had issues with finding cover artists. I am really thinking of going self pub for my next book. I really think getting an agent is a good thing. But even those are hard to find.
    Looking forward to you next great post.

    • John Yeoman says:

      Thanks, Lorraine. You’ve learned the hard way that small indie publishers are often bad news. Even if they’re competent, they don’t have the distribution or clout to gain reviews. To be fair, it can take up to 18 months for a mainstream publisher to bring out a book. But given your sad experience, you could hardly do worse than to self publish next time.

  22. Jan says:

    John: Thanks for this encouraging article. I like the sound of this new publishing model.

  23. Joy Carroll says:

    If I can hire my son to handle social media for me, I might be able to self-publish, but that part wears me out before I start. If I had no principals, I could just attempt to sleep with a publisher and get on with it, but I do, silly me. Your information is very enlightening, John.

    • John Yeoman says:

      True, Joy. That’s a tactic of desperation. I seem to remember that the UK author Jilly Cooper had to sleep with a publisher before she got her first novel published. But she was married to him at the time, so that was okay :)

  24. If I remember correctly, John Locke has confessed that he had bought reviews…
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  25. wellllll – I put in a comment, but it has apparently gone to the ether…..

    to sum up:

    I cast a vote for the guild and review site ideas – and wonder if such things might also be supported/generated by fine art non-profit orgs and perhaps even higher ed schools? My thought is that some fairly immediate respect validation could be had from such participation.

    I work with indie publishers as an editor and do know that these publishers ‘screen’ the books they publish. This can mean bringing the editor in early to do a quick assessment/evaluation of the manuscript to determine the commercial viability and what depth of editing is needed to bring the work to publish-ready status. I rarely receive manuscripts that are at the developmental stage in this type of partnership.

    My experience with indie publishers has indicated to me that these business entities have as much to gain from the establishment of stable, respected vetting venues as authors. Indie publishers are also working against the perception that self-published books can’t hold a candle to traditionally published works. Awards, record book sales, and multiple-book authors all contribute to validating their worth as literary powers.

    I feel that authors brought about the self-publishing industry and the independent drive that disrupted the norm should continue to disrupt and produce additional change. This would mean dropping expectations that may be romanticised or are not in sync with the realities of self-publishing.

    I look at it this way: you wrote the book alone – the perseverance that brought your work to completion will take you as far as you need or want to go with it – alone. The support you have found along the way will continue, because people love to support the person brave enough to move forward alone.

    Best success to all – and thanks, John, for your involvement, teaching and bravery. :)

    • John Yeoman says:

      Thanks, Maria, for your very perceptive comments. Yes, the two entities must work together: innovative indie publishers and independent review sites that, by their reviews, will ‘sacralize’ the novels of otherwise unknown self-publishing authors.

      We just need those entities to mature and become more widely known to self-publishers and, above all, to tomorrow’s readers.

  26. Jaswinder says:

    Thank you John. I find your views very valuable for new writers..I think when a new novelist resorts to self publishing without promoting his work properly, he will remain unnoticed.Support of an experienced hand is necessary for success..

  27. P.J Roscoe says:

    A great reminder of reality John, thanks. I had always thought award-winning and best seller were the same thing – they aren’t! I may have won awards, but I still have to slog it out there as always, because the truth is, potential readers still haven’t found me enough times to make a big difference! So, I’ll check out those websites as I do hate being tarnished with the same brush as trash just because I self=published my own!
    Kindest regards as always
    Paula
    P.J Roscoe recently posted..The best prologueMy Profile

    • John Yeoman says:

      Well, Paula, I have good reason to know that your work is very far from trash. I truly hope that more folk find you :)

    • Maranna says:

      You’re right Paula. The two are not interchangeable.

      As an experiment I actually bought some Indie books that were pulling in significant amounts of money just to see what I might learn from them The answer was not a lot! They were often of very poor quality with basic sentence structure, many peppered with inexcusable typos. I’ve read others with poor reviews and compared them with well-reviewed books by the same reviewer. I found that often trashy sex stories, with low-level story lines were well-reviewed. But let’s not be too put off. There ARE people out there who appreciate writing that leaves them somewhat richer.
      Maranna recently posted..Six Month Visa – Gina SequelMy Profile

  28. Judy Wendt says:

    I’m still trying to decide if I should write my real story or write it as a novel, then reading the above realize I could never figure out how to get it published no matter which way I write it since I have slow dial-up and can’t get facebook or other social media that would take too much time to load. My story is about trying to forgive my husband for saddling me with $58,000 credit card debt for someone he met at a strip joint and felt he needed to help her (and her family) get out of that line of work and get off pain pills. He needed to be needed and tried to tell his family no one else would help her, wanted her family to be his friend, despite a growing type of psychological blackmail – all this with his family, friends, and pastors trying to convince him otherwise. I then realized that as much as I loved him and was shocked when he died 1 1/2 years ago that he’d have run up even more debt if he had lived longer. I’m still trying to forgive him despite missing him in my life. Who would ever be interested in that type of story?

    • John Yeoman says:

      Judy, I think a lot of people would be interested in that story! It has everything ready to go. Why not draft it as a short story first and post it on one of the free writing critique sites for feedback?

  29. Rosemary McKinley says:

    I think that your advice is usually on target. I hope that you are right. That gives me hope.

  30. I read an interview/discussion between two very successful novelists a few months ago.

    Both had several books with traditional publishers and had done very well.

    But, both also recommended that authors, new and established, use the Kindle platform to publish their work.

    Even though you get to keep 70% of purchase price in commissions, the actual purchase price is quite low. Nevertheless, their view was that the scope for greater sales more than outweighed that.

    Ryan Deiss has pointed out that the only people who visit the Amazon web site are buyers.

    Where better, then, to publish your work?

  31. Thank you Dr. John for ‘Why Self-Publishing dosen’t work.’ There are many writers who write to create good material. They view themselves as artists. Unfortunatly they are lost in the maze of publishing.

    I follow your advice because I am a believer of common sense. Like the authors who write because they are compelled and love the excercise of word craft as an artistic creation I, too, feel lost in this maze of publication.

    My idea for self-publishing is in the short story category where an author can submit a single short story to sell for one dollar. This would allow the buyer of the story to share it with as many friends as he would like, free of charge. In this way an author would be able to advertise his talent. Also, if the writer is talented they would be able to make money writing a great many short stories. Dave

  32. John Yeoman says:

    Absolutely, David. ‘My idea for self-publishing is in the short story category where an author can submit a single short story to sell for one dollar.’ It works. You can then collect the names of folk who buy your short stories at $1 and sell them an anthology for $2.99 – or even your subsequent novel for a higher price. That seems to be a strategy used by many self-publishing authors now. Collect a fan base of low unit buyers before you sell them your opus magnus!

  33. singleton says:

    I’m sorry, I’m just not buying that trade publishing is this monstrous thing that seeks to chew up the poor first time author and leave them floundering.

    You make some excellent points about self-publishing but this continued propagation of misinformation about what marketing a publisher does for a book (which is not promote the author – they market, promote and sell the books TO BOOK SELLERS who then sells the books in their book stores) is seriously aggravating and more often than not makes me doubt the veracity of what ‘self-publishing pundits’ claim. More often than not, the Joe Konraths of the self-publishing world are looking to push their own brand of self-publishing how-to books, just like all other internet marketers out there.

    I would love to see more honest discourse about the viability of both without painting publishing as this big scary thing that only seeks to publish books by their stable of authors. If that were the case, they wouldn’t be taking on new authors as often as they do.

    Just because an agent doesn’t take you on, that doesn’t mean publishing is looking to squash the little guy. It may mean, quite honestly, that your book isn’t ready for publication. It may mean that your query sucked. It may mean that your book needs a little more work before one of the big five takes a chance on it.

    Sadly, many new self-publishers don’t want to hear that and they end up throwing their dreck into the world because of blogs, just like this, that sing the high hosannahs of self-publishing without seriously coming down on the side of reality and saying ‘dude, your book just may suck.’

  34. John Yeoman says:

    Duh, Singleton, I’d be tempted agree with you if I could only understand your point. This blog does not sing the high hosannahs of self publishing, My post argued explicitly: 19 out of 20 self-published novels are dreck. Dude, they do suck! And no, publishers are not out to kill the little guy. They just wish they could find more little guys who could write. But, alas, publishers today are risk-aversive. Long gone are the days when they’d take a little guy under their wing, take a loss on their first novel but and nurture them all the way to the Nobel prize. William Golding got lucky that way. But it hasn’t happened (much) since :)

  35. This is great advice however I feel that everything listed is still important you want a quality product with a defined target audience and that is only your starting point to getting your self published work the start it deserves.

  36. Jason Moser says:

    Beautifully written and great twist on self-publishing. I self-publish all of my own work and agree with every point you make. There is so much wasted time waiting on agents and publishers to make decisions when an author can have a book published and earning them money within days of finishing their writing. There are so many benefits to publishing your own book, it’s not funny. But there is also a lot to learn before you expect the sales to just pour in. Great job.
    Jason Moser recently posted..Fiction Writing Software!My Profile

  37. Kell Brigan says:

    “Brag Medallion has more than 100 readers in ten countries who post impartial reviews of self-published novels. “We’re looking for ebooks that are worth a reader’s time and money,” the site says.”

    No. No. No. “eBooks” are far different from “self-published” books. I own a couple hundred eBooks, and all are professionally vetted, edited and published — about 70% from the Big Six. ) That level of sloppiness in speak and probably in thinking tells me these people just don’t get it.

  38. Kell Brigan says:

    Anticipating the picayune corrections [I'm typing while in pain, which doesn't help.]

    Should be: “I own a couple hundred eBooks, and all are professionally vetted, edited and published — about 70% from the Big Six. That level of sloppiness in speech and probably in thinking tells me these people just don’t get it.”