Self Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing – How Much Do You Want To Write?

Hi everyone!

A month ago, I read an article that, like so many others, bashes self-publishing.  One of the biggest reasons?  “When you’re self-published, you don’t spend a lot of time writing.  You spend most of your time advertising, marketing, working with cover artists, basically anything but writing.  You’re lucky if you spend 10% of your time actually writing.”

The author goes on to say that if you would rather be a writer, you should work on your craft until you are worthy of traditional publication.

That statement bothers me.  “Until you are worthy of traditional publication.”

Why does it bother me?  Well, partly it goes back to another recent article I’ve written where we explore major motion picture studios compared to smaller ones, such as Netflix.  Big-name studios are less likely to go with a story that is unusual or different from what is currently mainstream.  Netflix is more willing to try to break the mold and think outside the box.

Traditional publishers, even ones that claim they love searching for talent, all boil down to one fact: they want a story that will definitely make them money.  Not because they are greedy, but because they are running a business, and cannot publish more books if they have to shut down.  It’s just a fact of life, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But the elitist idea that your stories aren’t good enough if they don’t get picked up by a traditional publisher?  Hogwash.

Was J.K. Rowling’s story, Harry Potter, unworthy when it was rejected by a dozen publishers, before finally being picked up?  What about Carrie by Stephen King (rejected 30 times before being picked up)?  Or Dune by Frank Herbert?

A story can be brilliant and written incredibly well and still rejected by publishers.  Just as a story can be horrible and poorly written and still picked up by publishers.  It all depends on where the market is going, what is currently trending.  IE: what will be the safest bet in the market, what will more likely make money, regardless of quality.

Now that I’ve got that rant out of the way…

Should You Self Publish?

Despite the generally negative tone the article had about self-publishing, it was right that being a self-published author means you have a lot of work outside of writing to do.  And if you’re going to do it well and do it right, there’s more than I ever realized.

I’m not quite yet ready to divulge what my current project is, but I’m in the midst of a huge endeavor involving self-publishing, and the fact of the matter is, almost none of it is writing fresh content (lots of editing, though.)

And compared to the amount of work I put into the first run of The Sword of Dragons, it’s a lot more work, a lot is involved, and you could even say it’s taken years to get to this point.  I still have months of work ahead of me.

I could be spending that time writing, instead.  Writing and trying desperately to get an agent or publisher to pick up my existing stories.  So am I hurting myself by doing all of this work?

Some people might answer with a ‘yes.’  There are those who say you should write something every single day to keep your craft honed.  Maybe they are right, maybe not.  I do agree that practicing is the only thing that will make you a better writer.  There’s no secret trick, there’s no fast-path.  Practice makes perfect.  So the more you can write, the better.

Have you decided to self-publish?  Then I’d recommend striving to write at least once a week, if not more.  And by write, I don’t mean an entire novel a week.  Just write something if you can, to help keep yourself in practice.

Having said that, self-publishing definitely is not for everyone.  Marketing is hard.  Cover design is hard.  Book layouts is hard.  And there’s even more I’m learning about this whole publishing trade, and it’s no wonder publishing houses have so many people on staff from so many different fields of expertise.

If you think you would enjoy learning all of these fields and practicing all of them, then I am a huge proponent of it.  Go out there and publish your work!  But if dealing with all of these different pieces of the puzzle, many of which I haven’t even touched on in this article, is not your cup of tea, then perhaps working more on finding an agent for your works is the better course for you.

I am not a hater of either.  I think both have their places, and to be honest, if there came a day where I didn’t have to do all of the things involved with self-publishing, I’d be happy.  I’d much rather write full time, and do other artistic things as a hobby on the side.  But I AM enjoying most of the aspects I’m working on now.  Not all, though.  My biggest bane in self-publishing?  Marketing.  That does not come natural to me at all.

But the results are very much going to be worth it.  I promise you, my silence about my writing lately has not been because I’ve been idle.  Something big is coming :)

Thanks for reading everyone!  I’d love to hear any feedback on this topic, what do you all think?  Would you rather self-publish or go traditional publish?

-Jon Wasik

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