Self publishing – an outsider’s primer.

A  warning before we start, hard data on anything about publishing seems pretty much impossible to find. Especially as half the chumps writing on the subject are either trying to scam your coin or defend their turf. So if you are expecting numbers, I’m going to disappoint you. Sorry.

What I have tried to do is summarise what I’ve learnt during my own reading about self publishing. Hope it helps someone.

So after this reading do I want to self publish Game Bird?



Because I want to be a writer.

I know that’s a shitty answer, but hang with me.


As I said above, researching whether or not to self publish is pretty impossible in any meaningful sense. There is a metric shitload of commentary around the net, but not many (if any) proper studies.

What I have learnt is that there are three fairly distinct schools of though on self publishing. They are (I even named them for you);

1. The Selfies. These guys swear by self publishing – fanatically in some cases.

The sharp, angry end see publishers and agents as money sucking leaches, to be doused with salt of selfpub and flicked away as quickly as possible. They feel that the old school structure is just a dying barrier of flesh between them and their readers. Why? Some writers believe it philosophically, others seem angered by past rejections or the thought of someone else getting $10 for $1 they make. My comments: I personally don’t agree with this philosophy.

A happier middle seem to just prefer the autonomy and immediacy that self publishing offers. I can see the appeal. The freedom to write exactly what you want and have no one tell you what to do must be addictive. Equally, removing the sometimes year long wait between finding a publisher and actually hitting a shelf must be bloody tempting. My comments: Having a responsibility only to your readers is effing tempting.

The last of the Selfies are the lucky and the good – guys and girls who are loyal to self publishing because it has done very, very well by them. I’m sure you’ve read plenty of their success stories already. If you haven’t, Hugh Howey and Amanda Hocking’s stories are both very interesting. My comments: Lucky them. *Goes green*.

2. The Moderates. The net is full of them. These are writers who are interested in self publishing and broadly open to the idea, but have found it isn’t for them. Rather than me banging on from the sidelines about the pros and cons, check these great blogs by two of my favourite authors, Chuck Wendig and Charles Stross. My comments: This position is probably closest to my gut feeling.

3. The Haters. A chunk of people in the ‘industry’ seem to hate even the idea of self publishing. Their reasons vary wildly. Some just seem reactionary. Others have tried it and crashed and burned. Heaps love what a publisher can do for them. Plenty think that if you aren’t good enough to get through the slush pile, then that’s where you should damn well stay. My comments: Bully for them. If it suits you, do it.


For the lazy or busy writer who doesn’t want to do their own research, here is my two cents. It’s my take, based on the *very* small sample of anecdotes and opinions I’ve waded through.

Self publishing has some amazing things going for it. In no particular order I think its clear pros are;

  • Freedom. You live and die by your own wits. Write whatever the fuck you want and if it doesn’t sell, tough luck. Two minute noodles for the next year it is.
  • Speed. You go to market very, very quickly and get almost instant feedback.
  • ‘Some’ people are clearly making good money.

Things I don’t like about self publishing;

  • According to my Kindle there are about four billion fantasy books for sale. And, no matter how fucking good your book is, you are going to have to work insanely hard to keep its head above those waters. Which takes me to…
  • The Big One. If I wanted to be in marketing or advertising, I’d be in marketing or advertising. I appreciate in this age any author is expected to pull their weight here (If you are an agent or publisher reading this – I’ll flog my guts out, promise!), but I want to be a writer, not a salesman. It’s what I love and what I am incredibly passionate about. When I sit down at my computer to write the hours roar past and its suddenly midnight. There is nothing in the world as awesome and as fulfilling as telling stories. I didn’t get into writing because I wanted to spend endless hours endlessly spam-bullying my Twitter followers into buying my book. All the time I’d need to spend ruthlessly promoting my self published work, would be time I wasn’t writing. Not good.
  • Publishing houses and agents know their shit and I respect technical experts. I want to get their insights, their contacts and their advice. I can write pretty well, but do I have their talent for getting books in punter’s hot little hands? No way.
  • Talking of books, I love them. This point is stupid and romantic and I don’t care. I have a Kindle. I use it, it’s efficient, it does what I tell it to, I like it. But I love books. My house is packed full of them, they totter on my bedside table like a drunk girl in high heels and lurk under every cushion like me with a hangover. Even if it didn’t make any business sense, I’d want Game Bird to sit on shelves. There must be no feeling in the world like seeing your book in a book shop. I. want. that. feeling.

So that’s it. That’s my thinking behind wanting to find Game Bird an ‘old school’ publisher

I like self publishing and there are things about it that absolutely intrigue me. So much so, that next I might have a crack at two novellas, self publish them and then dip my toe in those murky waters. But for now, my priority is doing things the old way.

If you think I’m doing it wrong or right, or if you just want to rant and rave – post a comment. I want to hear from you.


2 thoughts on “Self publishing – an outsider’s primer.

  1. Thanks for stopping by my blog, which led me to yours. This is a great, balanced look at different publishing options, and I know many, many writers share your feelings about the whole marketing side of the equation. Sadly, even with traditional publishing, the author is expected to be out there marketing the heck out of his or her book. I say follow your heart and publish in the way the feels right to you.

  2. Thanks for the comment. I couldn’t agree more! That was the one thing that really struck me in my reading – the differences between the professional lives of self pub and ‘old pub’ writers seem to be shrinking all the time.

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