Self-Publishing is not the Story

Another day, another Salon article whining about failing at self-publishing. What’s that, it’s not? It’s God’s gift to self-publishing, Hugh Howey himself and he says that you can get filthy stinking rich off self-publishing?

What’s your story?

Now, look, I get what he’s trying to do. But the fact that you can make money- and good money- self-publishing is news to exactly no one. There aren’t many authors who need to know that self-publishing is a viable option. In fact, fewer do, so the slush pile he refers to will shrink a little bit. To hear him tell it, everyone should just publish whatever they have. There isn’t word one about editing to be found from him. Nor is there any advice on how to market and promote your book once it is out, which leads to articles like this.

Because that’s the advice Howey gives, to borrow from Chuck Wendig: leave your book in a grassy field and hope someone walks by and picks it up. Maybe they will. Probably not. Either way, that information is useless. Do you know why? Self-publishing is not the story. Hugh really wants it to be. Amazon really wants Hugh to tell it that way (ever notice he never talks about anyone but Amazon? Of course, they’re the cool guy next door who married his mom. Or maybe they’re his mom?), because it helps their cut and helps Hugh sell books because he’s indie, not because he produced a quality work.

In the end, the things that make each self-published author successful (or not) are the same things that have made traditional publishers successful (or not) for the last 100 years- the ability to sell books. That’s it. Talking about how self-publishing can make you money is like saying you can make money being published by Random House. Everyone knows that. And it’s not like you’d do worse if Penguin published you. Again; I get what he’s trying to do, but he’s splitting a very irrelevant hair. You want to help self-publishers? Tell them to hire an editor and cover artist. Tell them how to market well and get their book in front of people. Use your reach to champion the quality books that are yet under the radar, not the people who have already made it.

Tell the story that matters.


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9 thoughts on “Self-Publishing is not the Story

  1. Allen Watson says:

    I hope you will accept my respectful disagreement. While I absolutely agree about editing and covers (I have written about it over and over on my blog), there are still many authors that would not be successful if not for self-publishing. Let’s face it, some good work does get passed up by the traditional publishers.
    I don’t think the people that tout the wonders of self-publishing are splitting hairs. They are pointing out a great avenue for good work that would otherwise go unnoticed. The ability to sell books is irrelevant if people are too deterred by traditional publishers to even get their book out and onto paper. I agree that they should be trying to help get the good work to the surface, but convincing the good authors to write that good work (done by touting self-publishing) is a good method in my opinion.
    I guess my thoughts are this – Praise self-publishing, endure the bad work that comes from it so that the good work can be found, then make sure that the good work rises to the top.

    • deanfortythree says:

      You are certainly welcome to disagree, but I don’t actually think you are. You are spot-on that there are people who would not be successful if it weren’t for self-publishing (and vice versa- authors who are successful through traditional publishing may not be successful self-published authors).

      My issue with this type of thing, and Howey in particular, is that he touts it that way with no substance- no help on HOW to be successful, or that there still needs to be quality control. The way he spins it just comes off sounding like a get-rich-quick-scheme, not (as you and I know), it takes time, work and money.

  2. Toby Neal (@tobywneal) says:

    Er. Ahem.
    I was skeptical about Wool. I just bought it to see what all the fuss was about. AND, its a rockin’ book. I loved it and plowed through them all, literary judgement hat hung on the wall in favor of a suspenseful, fast paced, clean, well written story with vivid characters and a haunting premise.
    I am not a fan of famous, but I know good when I read it, and Howey deserves the buzz. Does everyone who makes it big self pubbing? No. Honestly, my books are doing VERY well, and I’ve written a platform book on how I did it…but they aren’t as good as Howey’s, though I’m improving as a writer and proud to say its getting better and better.
    For me, building the audience has built momentum and motivation to the point that I’m writing 3 novels a year, all top quality. Feedback and sales are a powerful motivator. Daily emails begging for the next book keep me chained to the computer… and loving every minute of it. Hugh’s a pioneer. He got the deal we all want: book distribution and keeping his digital rights. You should read a Wool story, you might be surprised, and see this in another light.
    I think well marketed dreck is still dreck, and won’t stand up to the reading public.
    Toby Neal

    • deanfortythree says:

      I read through the first book of Wool, and it’s never going to be my favorite (part of that is I’m very ‘meh’ on dystopian stuff), but it wasn’t bad. To be sure, HE does a lot right and is certainly what I aspire to be in a lot of ways. My issue is really with how he handles that platform and that he creates issues where there shouldn’t be any and offers no solutions to the real issues (see next blog post RE: credibility).

      Also, your books are awesome and I love them.

      • Toby says:

        Yay! *blush*
        I honestly think there’s no one way to success other than what we know for sure: write the best damn book you can and network & market your ass off!

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