Are Self Publishers Doomed No Matter What

The other day I read an interesting article online in THE BOOKSELLER, about a teenage girl signing a book contract with a reputable publishing company. The title of the article read ‘HarperCollins pays six figures for teenage author’. The article starts with:

“A teenage author who has built a huge following online has been snapped up by HarperCollins.
On Wattpad, the novel has been read more than 17 million times.
She published her story in episodes online.” 

It is not the first time an author has signed a huge publishing contract with one of the big publishing companies based on the number of followers-readers, online. The media and especially the internet is full of such success stories.

Are we to think that this may be the new norm of submitting a manuscript? Publish online and if your work attracts a huge number of fans, if you are thus successful, then and only then will the publishers seek to sign a contract with you.

Recently I have been following all the talk about online reviews of self published books. There’s too much hearsay about authors paying people to read and review their books online. The controversy surrounding these discussions is that if the author pays for the review, then there’s no doubt that the review will always be positive and overwhelming.

If you are a self published author you very well know that you cannot submit your work to be reviewed by literary magazines and journals since self published books are not eligible for submission. The same way they are not eligible for submission to any literary award. So how do you go about it? It seems like being caught in the Bermuda triangle, you are doomed no matter what.

The late actor Roger Bowen, who considered writing his true vocation, had self published his book Inga. He would always introduce himself as a novelist and say:

“Before I’m an actor, I’m a writer. I don’t need the publishing world to accept that fact for me to accept it.”

He has been dead since 1996, but his advice to writers and playwrights was:
“You tell your stories honestly. You work every day to improve your craft. You don’t need to be knighted into a special writers’ club by a publisher.”

Invaluable advice to self published authors and novelists. But is it enough for today’s writer?


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12 Responses to Are Self Publishers Doomed No Matter What

  1. Thoughtful and incisive. Lots of food for thought.

  2. kepagewriter says:

    I think it is quite an interesting time to be self publishing with createspace and the like offering opportunities to build up a following online. The difficulty is trying to promote yourself in a sea of other authors all trying to do the same.

    • chichikir says:

      So true! Every time I decide to do something to promote my book I can’t, and I end up writing instead. It’s so difficult to promote myself and I envy people who can. 😦

  3. Zen says:

    I wouldn’t say they’re doomed… there are a lot of options for self-publishers. With the rise of ebooks, self-publishers can benefit from relatively high royalties even if their books are cheap, and the fact that their books are cheap will allow people to takes their chances on them. It’s not just Kindle of course, Smashwords is another great site. Also, the presence of book blogs allows self-publishers to promote their books, and social media helps a lot too!

    The main problem is that some people still don’t look at them as really published. =/

  4. It is quite a controversy. I’ve heard about the other half of the coin, where publishers are not interested in producing work that has been ‘self-published’ digitally and/or put up on blogs or websites, and that, as writers, we should be careful how much of our unpublished (in the traditional sense) work we should reveal digitally. It really makes me wonder which is the best route. I suppose, if one had thousands of followers, this might be an easier decision to make, but how do we get those thousands of followers if we DON’T put our work out there for all to see? That is the dilemma.

    • chichikir says:

      There’s no win win situation for the self-published author. I don’t like the fact that publishers don’t want to deal with self-published authors, and yet at the same time if the author has followers online they are ready to sign contracts withe them. The problem is in promoting yourself 😦

  5. combs2jc says:

    Yes I think it is enough advice for writers today. I also like what Stephen King say, “If you write something, someone pays youse that money to pay a bill; then you are a successful writer.” My own take is that the police, police; firefighters, fight fires; and writers write. Too many writers talk about writing on facebook while actually doing very little if any writing. That is a bigger danger to a writer than any publisher.

    • chichikir says:

      You’re so right. Talking about writing online or on Facebook is so addictive sometimes. Especially if you are not that confident as a writer and you think you need the approval of others. You want to belong to the bigger circle of writers that you deviate from your main purpose, the actual writing. I try not to, but…Happy writing 😦

  6. Judy Goodwin says:

    One other thing that must be considered–while the major reviewers may not accept self-published authors, if you start up your own business as a publisher, you can list your publisher name (your Doing Business As) on the book and presto! You’re not self-published, but a small press. You send then an ARC that you created on Createspace, and you can look more like the big guys. And if you have any other pseudonyms, you’re a multi-author publishing house.

    Funny how that works.

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