There’s been some recent internet controversy over the value of self-publishing, and it’s really gotten me thinking about the whole process. Since I do self-publish and I am a member of a community that still predominately promotes the traditional publishing route, I wanted to add my voice to those indie authors trying to explain the value in self-publishing.
The easiest way for me to describe the difference between self-publishing and traditional publishing in today’s market would be to compare it to doing the dishes by hand versus with a dishwasher. The end result is still clean dishes either way as long as all the steps are followed. The difference isn’t the amount of work you put into the process, but where, when, and how you put the work in. The dishwasher is all about the prep. You need to rinse the dishes and maybe presoak the pots. Washing by hand is all about the elbow-grease while scrubbing in the water.
To me, traditional publishing is like using the dishwasher. To have success, a large amount of up front prep work is needed. Synopsis refinement, query letters, and verbal pitches are often all part of the pre-publication process. However, once accepted, the traditional publishing machine takes over the brunt of the work, with the exception of manuscript revisions and shared marketing.
Self-publishing is like hand washing the dishes. I can skip the dreaded query process and the writing of the synopsis and go straight to working with the copy/line editors, proofreaders, and cover designers. Only, I have more control over each step to buff the manuscript into the story born in my head. Much like handwashing the pots, I don’t stop buffing until the manuscript meets my satisfaction.
The biggest source of contention in self-publishing is the missing validation of the work by the “gate keepers,” the acquiring editors who exist in traditional publishing. It is wrong to believe self-publishing does not have “gate keepers” like traditional publishing. It does. Only it’s a large group of people who hold that position. Readers. They are the ones who validate the manuscripts published. If my book isn’t good, the readers will say so through the lack of reviews, negative reviews, or through low to no sales.
I’m not here to tell anyone that one route is better than the other but only to say both routes have value. Both take a large amount of work to produce a professional book at the end. Yes, some self-published authors may skip steps that result in less than professional work. But, both methods should have the opportunity to provide the same amount of credibility in the publishing community based on the success of the final work in the market.
I have three kids and have raised them to avoid using words like ever, never, and always because there are usually exceptions that make the use of them untrue. Likewise, I would advise not to label the self-publishing process as only good for producing subpar works. Success can be found in self-publishing, just like in traditional publishing.
On a side note, although I’m self-published, the dishwasher does my dishes.
by: Melissa Haag
Melissa Haag lives in Wisconsin with her husband and three children. An avid reader she spent many hours curled in a comfortable chair flipping pages in her teens. She began writing a few years ago when some ideas just refused to be ignored any longer.