I’m not an expert in self-publishing. I haven’t looked into all the new venues that let writers get their work out in the world on their own. I haven’t run the numbers — what kind of sales you can expect and what return you’ll get on your investment. The only research I’ve done is to watch what’s been happening with my clients over the last 25 years.
I’m not saying that no one should ever self-publish. I know that it has worked well for a lot of writers, and it has sometimes been the right choice for my clients.
But I am saying that there are dangers to self-publishing that you need to hear. If you decide to do it, you should at least know what the pitfalls are.
The biggest pit that you don’t want to fall into is self-publishing before your book is ready. I’ve had a couple of fans of Self-Editing for Fiction Writers proudly send me their self-published books. Almost without exception, they were full of unlikable characters, obvious plot twists, stilted dialogue, and basic stylistic awkwardness that can’t be cured just by reading a book on writing, even a really good one. The problem is, it’s almost impossible to judge for yourself whether or not you’re ready to publish. This is what critique groups, independent editors, and submissions to agents are for – to let someone other than yourself size up your manuscript.
Premature publication doesn’t just waste money. A lot of modern self-publishing companies, particularly e-publishers, let you get your book on the market on the cheap. The real danger lies in the time you’ll spend designing and marketing your book — time that you should spend either revising it or starting the next one. [Read more…]