It’s been noted that I can be somewhat negative. I’m not a negative person, but I play one on the internet. I write a lot about publishing in general, and self-publishing specifically, so I thought I’d be really negative about it for this post. So are you thinking about self-publishing? Here’s why you shouldn’t (edit: and here’s why you should, lest you think I am one sided):
You’re not writing, you’re publishing. All that skill you have as a writer? It means exactly jack when it comes to publishing. Publishing is a business, and business is about money. Artists are notoriously bad at business. You want to get your art, your story, out there? Good for you. But if that’s your object, you probably shouldn’t self-publish because it probably won’t get out there.
You have to do everything. Find an editor, cover artist, proofreaders, everyone. You have to market it, and sift through the litany of snake oil that is out there about how you should market your book (mostly in the form of “BUY THIS BOOK AND YOU WILL SELL A MILLION BOOKS”). Like point No. 1 up there, you have way less time to write because you have to do all that crap and/or pay someone else to do it for you. All the stuff you hear (and say) about having full editorial and artistic control becomes a giant chore.
Hugh Howey lucked into success and it will piss you off: Seriously. Him and every other story you hear about how someone makes like six figures a month because of their book that really isn’t that good and they did dick for marketing. You will pull your hair out and scream “that guy is a HACK how is he selling at all, my book is way better why isn’t it selling” over and over.
You’re doing it wrong. Even if you’re doing it right. “Tweet about your book over and over! Don’t forget hashtags!” “Don’t spam your followers, they will get annoyed and leave!” “You have to be always on!” “SEO!” “Social Media!” “Word of mouth!” “Keep writing!” “Offer it for free!”
Everyone else on the planet has a book out. A third grader self-published a book. This is your competition. Not the third grader per se, but every other jackass who has written a string of words in the last ten years. Somehow (this assumes you are a serious writer and don’t just have some half-assed MS*) readers have to find your book(s) among that pile, read it, love it and tell someone else to read it. It’s like finding a needle in a haystack**.
You are now a self-published author. This is conversational shorthand for ‘not a real author’. Even if you are making six figures a month at it.
(if this sounds super bitter, I will follow up with why you should self-publish)
*If you had to look up what MS stood for, I have some bad news for you.
**Good for the little girl and all, but seriously?