Should Writers Self Publish?

So, Roy and Cathy and I have been emailing about self-publishing.  Well, really Roy and I have, since we seem to be the most loud-mouthed and vociferous in our opinions.  (Shocking, I know.)

The impetus (or inciting incident, if you want to use fiction terminology) for this discussion was Roy and Cathy’s visit to the Southern Festival of the Book.

Let me first announce loudly that I should have been in Nashville this past weekend for this event.  But, alas, I wasn’t.  So I relied on the reports from Roy and Cathy.

And they were not good.  In the past the festival has attracted huge southern writers (not huge in size but in stature) and seemed to have tons of amazing speakers and workshops and that always made me hugely jealous.

But apparently this time the only huge speaker was Rick Bragg, and according to someone who shall remain nameless, he is recycling his speech from previous years, when he actually had a book to shill.  (If, um, the book on the Jessica Lynch story counts.  I didn’t say that!  No I didn’t!  I’m still upset with the man for his uncredited use of stringers when he was at the New York Times.  And, guess what?  I’m not from the south, so I don’t have to engage in knee-jerk adoration of the good ole boys.  Not that that is a problem down there.  Just sayin’ I don’t do it.)

But I digress.  Lord, how I digress.  Kinda like a southerner.

He who shall remain nameless, but is the father of two children named Seth and Eryn, said that the festival was also disappointing because most of the booths featured self-published books.

And this provoked a passionate defense of all authors, even if they have written books about Jessica Lynch, from moi.  Because I KNOW how damned hard it is to write a book, any book, even if it is a crappy romance or a mystery without a dead body.  And if said authors can’t find a publisher but feel so compelled to present their tomes to the world, then I say more power to them.

And then I told him that I myself had gone over to the dark side, what with my recent foray into the Ebook world.  (Okay, it is just a beginning foray, but still.)

Whereupon Roy He Who Shall Remain Nameless begged me to come down off my high horse because what he was really talking about was outfits like the ones who charge you a lot to do what you could for yourself.

And then I had to shut up because I agree with him.

His point is that these businesses lure you into their publishing web by promising distribution and publicity, when in truth the books they produce are sneered at as little more than vanity publishing by the industry.  And he is correct.

Nobody is going to take these books seriously, folks.  Why?  Because there is no editor.  And what does an editor do?  He or she functions as an objective person who can read and comment on a manuscript.  We writers may not like this, but this vetting is a necessary part of the process.  We cannot be objective about our own work, period.  We need another set of eyes.  You won’t get this at one of these publishing houses.

I do so understand the frustration of pounding your fist against the door of a publishing house and not having anyone answer.  And I also understand why you might want to just say, enough, and publish your book yourself.

Honestly?  I think you’d be better off to start a blog and publish the book yourself, post by post.  Dedicate yourself to publicize it and network and you might just attract yourself a publisher.  Or take the money you’d spend with one of these publishing houses and publish the book yourself.  That’s what Richard Paul Evans did.

And , um, he’s rich.  He writes sentimental slop, but people love it and he loves it and he’s made millions.

Like I said, I respect even the authors of sentimental slop.  And those who write about Jessica Lynch. And I respect your impetus to share your words with the world.  Just don’t sell your soul in your rush to publish, okay?

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Self Publishing Redux | Charlotte Rains DixonMark DykemanCharlotteRoy Recent comment authors
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Hey Charlotte: Good blog. Yeah, it always shocked me to discover that people ‘paid’ to have their books published. I mean, writing is a profession, a job. And a darn difficult one at that. As is the case with any job, 1) you go to work; 2) produce a product or offer a service; and 3) receive financial compensation in return. Plain and simple, as the cliche goes. Plumbers don’t pay to fix sinks. Truckers don’t pay to deliver goods. Actors don’t pay to make movies. So why has it become acceptable for writers to pay to see their words… Read more »


Wow, Roy, thanks for your long and worthwhile comment. You said it a lot better than I did, and really added a lot to the discussion. Thanks! And kiss Seth and Eryn for me.

Mark Dykeman

I’ll admit upfront that I’m not very knowledgeable about the publishing business. I agree with you wholeheartedly that virtually any writer needs an editor (that would help me tremendously). On the surface, it does seem a bit counterintuitive to pay someone to publish your book for you. However, a book publisher of any stripe is typically the entity that assumes most of the financial risk related to publishing a book. I’m not familiar with “vanity press” publishers, although I think I understand what they are about. Their model seems to follow more of an entrepreneurial bent vs. writer as quasi-employee… Read more »


Hey Mark: Great comments! Read your posting several times. Traditional publishing houses and vanity press publishers (also known as self-publishing) are not alike at all. Scenario One: With traditional publishing houses, the writer/publishing house relationship is more of a business partnership with both partners taking on significant roles and risks. The writer risks his/her time, the time it took to create the book. The publisher takes on the risks of editing the book, producing the book, shipping the book, and taking back unsold remainders. And this doesn’t even include the money spent marketing the book, promoting the writer–all done at… Read more »


Wow, its always the posts I think nobody is going to read that get the most comments. Thanks for both of your thoughtful replies. I’m going to do a second post on the topic tomorrow.

Mark Dykeman

Thanks Roy and Charlotte for your feedback!


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