With my recent post about being on submission, I've received a lot of questions about why I don't try to self-publish my book. It's a valid question. If traditional publishing has been so hard on me and I whine so much, then why not just do it myself? I will say this:
I have absolutely no desire to self-publish—but probably not for the reasons you think.
It's not that I think self-publishing is a "cop out." It's not that I don't think my book will have the validation or the reputation necessary to sell. I actually don't have a negative view of self-publishing at all. In fact, I have a lot of respect for people who do all that work themselves.
It takes a certain kind of person to be a good self-publisher. You have to be willing to sell yourself, which personally makes me very uncomfortable. If you haven't noticed, I am very low key on "publicity." Besides tweeting my posts on Twitter, I do not attempt to gather an audience at all. The following I have? All thanks to friends and, well, Nathan Bransford, my previous, extremely popular agent. Other people talk about me, which I am grateful for. But I have never asked anyone to do so. If I had to go out there and sell myself? Ummm, I would freak out. Seriously. Just the thought of asking someone to read my book—BUY my book—terrifies me. Which is funny, but true.
Having a publisher tell people they should buy my book? That, I can handle. It would be much easier for me to talk about what my publisher is doing, or to support their marketing efforts with some of my own. As much as marketing has been a stumbling block for me this year in acquisitions, I also have a lot of respect for those who are in that line of work. Soooo not my skill set. I would be more than happy to share that burden with professionals who know better than I do.
Also, self-publishing is a lot of work! There are some people out there who think it's just as easy as uploading your manuscript to Amazon and—tada!—you're making money! But it's not that way, and it can take a long time to build a following. I learned this from my very close friend Michelle, who has self-published.
She put in an incredible amount of work. Not only writing the book, but making it beautiful. She shot the cover photo herself, edited and sought professional editing help. She had to research reliable publishing options, choose the book's size and font and all the details. She had to figure out how to obtain an ISBN, how to do taxes properly, and how to offer different formats of her book. She held her own debut party, planned it, got bookmarks and business cards, sent out invitations.
I...couldn't do all that! I hardly have time to write, let alone tend to all the other details of publishing. I think there are a lot of writers out there who would love to have that control, who would be so good at it. More power to them! But just looking at the list of things to do scares the crap out of me. I want to share that work with others, and I don't mind losing profit to do it. That's a personal decision and nothing more.
There is also a financial issue. Currently, writing and trying to publish traditionally doesn't cost me anything. I never even sent a snail mail query! Oh wait, it did cost me about 3 bucks to mail my agency contract, but that's it. Honestly, I am not in a position to fund my own publishing. That advance thing? Yeah, I would need that money, and I'm okay admitting that. But for those who are in a position to invest more money? Why not?
And finally, the most shameful reason I choose not to self-publish: I like not having to shoulder all the blame.
Oh yes, I said it. As hard as traditional publishing is on me, as hard as the waiting can be, as hard as it is to hear "no" over and over, I personally would be worse off doing it myself. Why? Because any lack of sales or bad reviews or whatever would be 100% my responsibility. Or at least that is how it would feel to me—I should have picked a different title font, or changed the cover, or done that signing in Costco even if the thought made me want to throw up it's so scary.
In reality, for me, it's easier to not be entirely in control. It's easier for me to say "Oh, the market is tough, and I can't control that. It's okay, I'm still a good writer." If I put my book out there on my own and it didn't do as well as I hoped? The only person I'd have to blame is myself. Some writers love that idea, but I just don't! I want a team. I love having others to rely on, and I love the idea of my book ultimately being a team effort.
So, yeah, I think self-publishing is great for some people and they can be super successful at it. But it's just not for me, and I'm not afraid to say it.