9 Signs Self-Publishing Is Out of Control: Opinion, or Fact?

9 signs self publishing

To paraphrase the immortal words of Truman Capote, there’s a difference between writing and typing. And, to put it gently, we can say with a good amount of confidence that most self-published books were typed, not written. Because communicating with letters assembled into words is a skill most learn by the age of 5, and because written communication has become so ubiquitous in American life, everyone now thinks he’s a writer. Until recently, the publishing industry had been our sea wall, protecting us from a tidal wave of boring life stories and dreadful novels. But now, the ease of self-publishing threatens to drown us all in mediocrity. Here are nine signs the situation is out of control.

1.    The estimated 700,000 self-publishing authors around the world

In a world of 6.8 billion people, 700,000 trying to make it big by self-publishing may not seem very significant. But compare it to the number of books traditionally published in America each year: 80,000. Of those, one author says, “most of them [are] not needed, not wanted, not in any way remotely necessary.” Assuming the U.S. makes up just one-tenth of the market (almost certainly a low estimate), AND assuming each author has the decency to self-publish only one title, that means self-publishers stand to nearly double the number of books published in the world every year.

2.    The 20,000 titles Lulu adds each month

Lulu is a self-publishing company that has been in business since 2002 and is generally regarded as the leader in the field. One need look no further for proof that self-publishing is getting out of hand than the Lulu web site that reveals the company publishes 20,000 titles for unpublished authors every single month. The site shows no signs of slowing, as 12,000 new “creators” sign up every week, and the number of titles is growing about 10% each month. But as the founder of the company says, the average run is “less than two.”

3.    The many seriously considering whether self-publishing is a bubble on the verge of popping

Basically, an economic bubble is created when a good is bought and sold at a much higher price than it is really worth. For example, the dot-com bubble burst when traders realized Internet companies had no way to justify the hundreds of millions of dollars at which their worth was being valued. Pundits are now looking hard at the massive popularity of self-publishing and asking: How long until self-publishers realize tens of thousands of them have grossly overvalued their products and the market crashes?

4.    The huge influx of companies to the industry

The dilemma of finding a publisher is no more; say hello to the dilemma of choosing which publisher is right for you. From Author Solutions to Author House, from Booktango to BookSurge, there is a plenitude of publishers from which to choose to help you produce your book. But there’s also an entire sub-industry that has sprung into being from the self-publishing movement: the “how to self-publish” manual industry. Like any “get-rich-quick“-style book, these books will always sell better than the vast majority of the books they encourage people to self-publish.

5.    The giant number of ebooks available for free

Millions of titles are available for free download in various formats. The average price of a self-published Kindle ebook for titles in the Top 100 on Amazon was $1.40, and this price is trending downward. Although many of the free titles hosted by companies like Amazon are books in the public domain, a huge mass of them are self-published titles that first-time authors are giving away for free in the hopes of receiving exposure. This means that deserving works are buried in the pile, and there is just too much for customers to sort through.

6. The respected voices advising everyone to self-publish

As if self-publishers needed any more encouragement, many visible commentators are using their platforms to breathlessly urge everyone who considers themselves a writer (which is basically everyone) to self-publish. On Dec. 13, 2011, USA Today featured a story about self-publishing success story Michael Prescott, who is “threatening to change the face of publishing” with his enormous success. “It’s a gold rush out there,” Prescott proclaims in the article. Over at Techcrunch.com six weeks later, traditionally-published and self-published author, blogger, and investment guru James Altucher was advising every entrepreneur to self-publish a book, basically anointing books the new business cards in the process.

7. The 4.2 billion words published by Smashwords

As one of the first comers to the new self-publisher industry, Smashwords alone has published more than 80,000 books since being created in 2008. It took one company less than four years to match the annual total of traditionally-published books in the U.S. To date, authors have smashed a whopping 4,242,989,557 words into their self-published books.

8. The number of copies of self-published books that are selling

On average, authors who self-publish sell 100-150 copies of their book. Considering the average Facebook user has 130 friends, this is right in the wheelhouse for explaining who is buying most self-published books: friends and family of the author. Of course, as this is an average, there are a handful of breakout self-publishing authors who are keeping the number elevated and making up for the thousands of writers who sell 50 or 25 copies, or worse.

9. The eight out of 10 people who think they have a book in them

If there’s any doubt self-publishing is already out of control, millions of books could potentially be in the pipeline for self-publishing in the near future. The New York Times has reported that 81% of Americans think they have the makings of a book in their brains, and that they should publish that book. An estimated 25 million novels and how-to books have already been written by Internet users in the U.S. but have yet to be published. If just 1% of those authors self-publish, the country’s annual book publishing by traditional means would be instantly tripled.

*Today’s article was written and brought to you by the staff at www.accreditedonlinecolleges.com


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So, writers, what’s your take on the topic? Do you agree with the author of this article? Is self-publishing really out of control?

Note – Today’s article does not necessarily reflect the views of The Graveyard Shift. However, we do believe in giving all sides of any topic a fair shot at having their voice(s) heard…within reason.


52 replies
  1. Richard Sutton
    Richard Sutton says:

    I’m wondering what “Out of control” means anyway. The Western/American concept of marketing itself must be “out of control” if you apply these points to any business that manufactures product. Publishing is a business to sell books. Writing is another matter altogether. The reader market decides. It always decides. The proliferation of self-pubbed titles has little effect on most mainstream publishers, because they rarely deviate from the block-buster/best seller mass market titles. Many self-pubbed authors write in genres that are decidedly not mainstream, so as a result, if they want to publish, their choices are to self-pub or find a small/independent press who will publish and work to sell their book. The “explosion” of self-pubbed books is really only found online in eBook form anyway. If a self-pubbed writer had published a great title, can develop a solid market and is willing to put in the hours and hours of marketing necessary to actually sell books, then they will not go un-noticed ,but to paint a broad, alarmist brush-stroke over all such writer’s work is ridiculous and short sighted.

  2. Donelle Lacy
    Donelle Lacy says:

    I admit, you’re right about this being the opinion most people have about self-publishing. At least, at first. It was interesting to read through all the responses, and as a self-pub skeptic, I welcome anything that can convince me it’s worth it.

    My boss recently enlisted me to help him put together a how-to manual for car-buyers. He immediately thought of self-pub, but I told him it’s possible to write a proposal and query this thing too. He hadn’t even thought of it!

    So, now I’m in the process of researching which approach would be better – indie pub or traditional pub for his book. I appreciate the insights this article has spurred people to post.

  3. Jenny Milchman
    Jenny Milchman says:

    The only thing I can add, beyond my own thanks as well, Lee, for posting something so worthy of thought, is that I wish this didn’t have to be a war. (The commenter who said, “We’ve won.”) The traditional publishers aren’t fighting you. They’re thrilled this option exists–from it they have discovered authors who did a portion of their work for them: proving an audience exists for a book and building a readership. Some of those authors went happily from indie to trad–I know many who did–others want to stay where they are. It’s great that both paths exist.

    There is value to be had on the traditional side, and one thing writers who are trying to decide need to be aware of is that authors who are happy with their publishers seem to be less vocal in this conversation. But there are many who are. And there are unique advantages on that side, which should be known and understood in a considered way.

    Polarizing the debate serves no one.

  4. Linda Hays-Gibbs
    Linda Hays-Gibbs says:

    I think there are a number of people self-publishing now but it is still preferable to get published by the traditional path. It is so hard to decide when so much hangs in the balance. The information offered here is very enlightening, a very interesting interview.
    Linda Hays-Gibbs
    My Angel, My Light As Darkness Falls

  5. Zakgirl
    Zakgirl says:

    Great article!

    I’ve read some good self-published books and some shockers.

    What I like about self-publishing is having the choice. What I dislike is the lack of editorial nous.

    Having said that I did enjoy an autobiography (poorly written and edited). I persevered through the errors, roughly ten to twenty per page! It gave me an incredible insight into that persons life.

    However, I gave it to a friend of mine and she read the first two pages and told me she couldn’t read that rubbish. Fair enough.

    Each to his own.

  6. J Q Rose
    J Q Rose says:

    So much fun to wade through all these responses. Lee, you certainly pushed the right button to stir the pot of controversy over trad vs self pub. Noone mentioned the fact that though the book is pubbed, the real begins in selling sell it…yep, promotion. I am with a small press which immediately gives me a network to help promote a book. A self publisher, unless having an already established platform, is on her own. Scary. Writing the book is fun, promoting it is not. Lots of hours involved and one never knows what works. I really enjoyed the post. We are discussing it tonight in our writers chatroom. I wonder if it will be so controversial in that group. woo hoo, gonna be there for sure to find out. Thanks.

  7. Sally Carpenter
    Sally Carpenter says:

    My feeling is that the Big 6 publishers brought their woes on themselves by closing the door to new writers. When I was marketing my book, I was told that agents only wanted to handle published authors. So new writers turn to small presses and self-pub as the only way they can see their work in print. Of course not all self-pub is good but much of what the large presses churn out is not Shakespeare either. Nobody complains abut “too many stores” or “too many malls” or “too many TV channels” but there’s an issue with “too many books.” At least readers have a variety of stories to choose from and are not stuck reading the limited selection offered by the Big 6.

  8. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    This disclaimer and offer to rebut is at the bottom of the article.

    *Today’s article was written and brought to you by the staff at http://www.accreditedonlinecolleges.com

    So, writers, what’s your take on the topic? Do you agree with the author of this article? Is self-publishing really out of control?

    Note – Today’s article does not necessarily reflect the views of The Graveyard Shift. However, we do believe in giving all sides of any topic a fair shot at having their voice(s) heard…within reason.

  9. MeiLin Miranda
    MeiLin Miranda says:

    No, I meant, Lee, that I literally smelled bacon. Breakfast was ready. I had to go. It’s Mother’s Day! 😀

    You should have said you meant to rebut in the post. The way you’re presenting it makes it appear you’re endorsing the position of The Staff of Accredited Online Colleges. Dot com.

  10. Karen Cantwell
    Karen Cantwell says:

    I definitely do not agree with this post and that is because I come from a particular vantage point that I don’t think the author has: experience. I independently published my first novel on Kindle back in 2010 and enjoyed a higher-than-expected number of sales within just a couple of months. During that time, however, many books that were self-published on Kindle were less likely to be professionally edited and the covers were often obviously home-spun, so I can see where self-published works gained a bad rep. Then, B&N and Apple joined the band-wagon of opening their doors to authors to publish their own works. The beauty is, authors began to realize the need to produce more professional products – they started hiring editors and proofreaders, file formatters, and cover artists. The number of quality, independently-published works has grown immensely. And readers have now become the vetters, as it should be.

    Are there bad self-published works out there? Sure. But there are plenty of bad traditionally published books out there as well. I can’t tell you how many dollars I’ve wasted on traditionally published books that I just couldn’t finish.

    The bottom line, and the most important point: authors can now have full control over the production of their art as well as the financial reward. Many may not WANT that control, and for them, trad pub is the way to go. But for those who enjoy the business side as well as the artistic side of writing (and enjoy seeing a royalty check every month instead of twice a year), the world is their oyster.

  11. SZ
    SZ says:

    Hi Lee,
    I was surprised to see you are getting hate mail about this article. If someone does not agree, just post why. There are pros and cons with anything in life.

    Lighten up gang ! It’s just a posting.

  12. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    MeiLin Miranda says:
    May 13, 2012 at 12:27 pm (Edit)

    I smell link bait. Also bacon.

    Yes, MeiLin, this is a site about police…police officers who devote a ton of their free time to helping writers get top dollar for their work.

  13. Kai
    Kai says:

    I’d happily do a guest post on the subject Lee. And I don’t agree with this article – but then again, I’m self publishing so I kinda set myself up into that position.

  14. Lori
    Lori says:

    Woah! Some people have rather large chips on their shoulders. To a degree, I can understand. E and Indie publishing have had a long hard struggle to gain credibility and they are still working at it. However, people need to put on their grown-up undies and remember that they should behave as professionals if they want to be regarded as such. No need for sniping, especially to someone who is simply posting an article someone else wrote that is only asking a question to encourage discourse on the subject. As someone who poo-pooed self and e-pubbing for years, I am now giving it some thought in light of the technology expansions into the area and the economic set-backs of the publishing industry. I’m watching,listening and learning and definitely keeping an open mind and would like to hear more. Thank you, Lee! I understand and appreciate what you attempted to do. Sorry for those who had a knee-jerk reaction.

  15. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Okay… There’s no “link bait” here. Really, though, who cares if it was a piece they hoped would send readers to their website? These folks sent me an article that I thought was an interesting viewpoint. I may not agree with everything in it, but nonetheless found it to be controversial, to say the least. And that makes for good conversation and debate…normally.

    Besides, what’s the difference in having a guest author or police expert, as I often feature, with links to their sites and books? Isn’t that the purpose of guest blogging? To have people learn about you? I hear no complaints when writers blog on my site.

    Either way, there’s certainly no need for hostility. The title of the piece asks a question…is it opinion or fact that self-publishing is out of control? I just don’t understand the anger that’s been generated by this article. Not at all.

    I published this article by onlinecolleges because it’s how many people still view self-publishing. And, before anyone starts jumping all over that comment, please ask around. Yes, some people still think of self-publishing as something that’s “beneath” them. So, and this is MY opinion, why not use a well-read forum, such as this site, to inform those folks of the excellent progress and top quality material that’s being made and offered in the world of self-publishing?

    My plan was to debunk this article by following up with success stories from those who’ve enjoyed self-publishing. However, I think I’ll pass. It’s much safer dealing with robbers and serial killers than it is to deal with angry authors.

  16. L Lane
    L Lane says:

    I’m published both through small press and my own independent imprint, and I’m very happy to keep one foot in each realm. My choice to self publish came after I received rejection after rejection that was qualified with the same sentiment: “You’re a great writer and what you have here is very good, but it’s just not marketable enough for us.” You see, my passion is speculative sci-fi and horror with a literary slant, and “literary” genre fiction “doesn’t sell.”

    I might not be making a whole lot of money off my writing, but I can say I’m making more money off my three “unmarketable” self-published books than I am off my six mainstream erotica published through small press (although I do receive quarterly checks from both). I also do not have a supportive family, save my husband and two sisters (if you’ve ever seen FAMILY GUY, I’m the “Meg” of my family; I was just unfortunate enough to have been born a kind soul among a hoard of jerks) and I only have a handful of friends. All of my sales have come from my own PR work and the reviews (from strangers and other authors) that PR generated. Period. I realize there is a lot of crap in the self-published world, but like you said, there’s good and bad everywhere. Some of us are educated writers (I graduated Magna Cum Laude at a college known for its English program), who know their grammar, who know genre story structure, and understand what it takes to put together a good book. To throw us all into one category is terribly ill-informed.

  17. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    This article is ridiculous, outdated, self-serving nonsense. Either change with the changing world, or find yourself buried beneath the old world gatekeeper’s dead tree graveyard.

    Point 1: Smart indie authors will publish more than one book. It’s interesting that traditional publishers are now pushing their authors to publish more than one book per year, plus novellas and short stories.

    Point 2: Lulu is no longer the leader.

    Point 3: Self-published books are UNDER priced. Many indie authors are slowly raising their prices as traditional publishers fight to keep the agency model and over price their books. Readers are willing to spend $1-5 to try out new authors, but are reluctant to spend $14.99 on favorite authors. The price war is on.

    Point 4: So what?

    Point 5: I download free books several times a week. That doesn’t stop me from buying books I want. This point is mute.

    Point 6: Smart voices are turning the tide. Why should an author turn over their book to a publisher who does so little for them and takes away all of the control? Why should an author accept a measly 17.5% vs. 70%? Authors can hire freelance editors and proofreaders. They can pay for professional cover art. DIY. Make more money. Easy choice.

    Point 7: So what?

    Point 8: Where do you get your numbers from? Self-publishers can keep their titles up forever, therefore, earning out dollars for as long as they choose to keep the book available. So how do you even come up with an average? My personal average blows your averages away. No one really knows how self-publishers are doing, but a lot of indie authors have publicly shared their earnings -good, bad, and ugly. Your numbers do not add up.

    Point 9: Not everyone will self-publish the hidden book in their desk drawer. And so what if they do?

    Final Point: Perhaps online colleges are out of control? You are certainly not forward thinking or cutting edge.

  18. MeiLin Miranda
    MeiLin Miranda says:

    “The staff at Accredited Online Colleges?” That’s who wrote this? The hell are they, and the hell they know about publishing?

    I’ve sold way more than 100-150 books. I wish I had as many friends and family as I’ve sold books.

    I smell link bait. Also bacon. It must be time for breakfast.

  19. Linda Welch
    Linda Welch says:

    Self-publishing isn’t out of control. It’s in the control of readers. They now decide which books are hits and which go to the bottom of the pile. They are the new Gatekeepers.

    Item 8 made me chuckle. I know the author spoke in averages, but still. . . I’ve published six books; the first in my series has sold 26,000 copies since January 2010. I don’t have 26,000 friends and family members!

  20. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    You guys do realize that I didn’t write this article, right? That’s clearly stated at the bottom, but I’m guessing that many of you didn’t see it. Unless, that is, you simply enjoy shooting the messenger… 🙂

  21. Pete
    Pete says:

    Mr. Lofland,

    We have won. The struggle is over. Hope you and your agent and editor can find a nice literary colony somewhere in Vermont.

  22. Rolando
    Rolando says:

    Point #3: How long until self-publishers realize tens of thousands of them have grossly overvalued their products and the market crashes?

    Point #5: The average price of a self-published Kindle ebook for titles in the Top 100 on Amazon was $1.40, and this price is trending downward.

    Isn’t there a contradiction here? We are on the verge of a bubble due to overpricing of self-published books and their price is trending downward. Hello?

  23. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    J.R. – I’d love to hear why you think the article is nonsense. Don’t get me wrong, I like the new direction self publishing is heading. But to say something is nonsense without an explanation doesn’t really help us learn all the in’s and out’s. After all, lots of writers out there are still on the fence about this stuff, therefore, hearing good information from all sides is a definite plus. And that, by the way, is why I posted the piece. Not because I agreed with it (or disagreed).

  24. Kathy Bennett
    Kathy Bennett says:

    Just about the time I was getting serious interest from the publishing industry, I began to hear about self-publishing. I liked what I heard and investigated.

    After I did plenty of research, I made the choice to self-publish my book. For me, it’s all about having control over my work and my career. (Go figure, a former cop who wants to have control.) I knew that if my book tanked, I’d have no one to blame but myself. If I was a success, I’d be able to pat myself on the back.

    Following the recommendations of those who were doing well with self-publishing, I had my book professionally edited, I hired someone to design the book’s cover, and I paid to have the book formatted. While New York wasn’t quite ready to take a chance on me and my book, I was. I’d studied my craft for years. I KNEW I had a good story.

    My first ebook was a bestseller on both Amazon and at Barnes and Noble. I just released my second book a few weeks ago and it’s already a bestseller on Barnes and Noble, and my sales are climbing on Amazon.

    Yes, I sold my first book at $.99 and that’s the introductory price of my second book. When my second book came out I raised the price of the first one to $2.99. I will be raising the price of the second book to $2.99 with in the week. I felt I needed to have a very reasonable initial price point because no one knew who I was. I wanted people to take a chance on me…and they did.

    I will never say that self-publishing is the best choice for everyone. I know many self-published authors who aren’t selling many books at all. I know some of these authors have fabulous stories. I also know that some of these authors aren’t investing in professional help with their product when presenting their work.

    I will say that for me, self-publishing is the best fit for my personality and the vision I have for my career. Will I always feel that way? I don’t know. The industry is changing on a daily basis. But right now self-publishing is my path of choice and I’m happy to walk down that path.

  25. Carly Carson
    Carly Carson says:

    I run a loop for indie-interested romance authors (so you know my bias up front). Several of our members are NYTimes and USA best selling authors. They are published both traditionally and through indie and don’t intend to give up either avenue. However, from what they say, they make a whole lot more money on the indie side. I know authors whose books were originally rejected from the “sea wall” and then THE SAME agents and publishers approached them to buy the same book (after it was indie published). Given that, indie is here to stay. Yes, there is a lot of dreck out there, both on the indie side and on the trad. side. There will be more on the indie side due to the ease of publishing there. New gatekeepers will arise (bloggers and online book reviewers?) But the reading public will have more of a say in which books are successful. Authors will still have to work hard and hustle to be successful, but I believe they have a chance to make more money today than they’ve ever had before.

  26. Jenny Milchman
    Jenny Milchman says:

    The comments are as interesting as your post, Lee! I have to say–I agree with the balanced ones, which see both sides, and tend to shy away from what I call the Drink-the-Kool-Aid mentality: The traditional publishers suck, who needs ’em, the revolution is nigh, either join us or get out.

    Don’t get me wrong–we needed a revolution. Traditional publishing is subjective, dependent upon the passion of individuals. This is its genius and its virtue. The minds and creativity I’ve encountered at my publisher are, quite simply, dazzling.

    Still, as such it misses gems and publishes…not-gems. Because 90% of titles fail to earn money (they were passionately loved, but not big sellers) traditional publishing has to depend on the top 10% of its list to carry the rest. Some of these are terrific blockbusters. Some are celebrity memoirs guaranteed to earn out.

    Indie publishing has in the meantime democratized access and resurrected something of a midlist. Something of one. Most authors still don’t earn much, as this post points out. But if you do have a gem that was missed for whatever reason, it can be found–and that is a great thing.

    There’s one other point about traditional publishing, and since as with every revolution the revolting parties tend to speak loudest, we’re not hearing much about this. But one commenter did touch on the fact that being with a publisher who is willing to invest in your career is an unmatched experience. It’s not to be thrown out without even considering its merit (“Who needs ’em?”)

    I advise writers to assess very carefully the potential their book has, its possible audience, their own personality traits as writers, what stage in their life they are at, and finally, what opportunities are presenting themselves.

    That’s a lot to consider. But I promise if you do, and you have a great book, that will book will stand a much better chance of success.

    Here’s to great writing and reading 🙂

  27. carlbrookins
    carlbrookins says:

    Hey Lee, I’d love to write a reaction. You’ll publish it? What’s my advance? Oh…..I see.
    Here’s my take. You got a good thread going here, milk it, baby. But how do you make any money with it? The post has some overtones of either distaste or envy, as in, “why didn’t I think of that?”
    There’s a flaw in the logic. Even if you monetize the original idea, because self-publishing is inherently democratic (note the small d) there is no bubble so there will be no crash in the economic sense. Many will try, many will stop, a few will succeed. The difference is they will decide on their own. .

  28. Janis Patterson
    Janis Patterson says:

    Lee, the lady you need to talk to about a blog is Marie Force (www.MarieForce.com). She is going like wildfire with selfpublishing and knows more about it than most of us put together.

  29. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    I’d love to hear more about everyone’s self-pub successes, and not-so-successful ventures. Anyone care to write a guest blog about the topic?

  30. One Writer's Wife
    One Writer's Wife says:

    Something self publishing gives now additionally is the ability to add back in to nonfiction parts of a book that the original publisher didn’t want. Case in point just published — my husband’s newest book had two book sized appendices that the publisher did not want. They are fascinating on their own and are both going to be available as ebooks. (One of them just went up today.) Those who would have wanted the almost 800 page book can buy the appendices now and those who agree with the publisher that the main book was enough have it.

  31. L. C. Hayden
    L. C. Hayden says:

    I have just recently left my traditional publisher and decided to Kindle the next Harry Bronson novel. Although I miss the advance, I’ve made more money through Kindle than I had from my traditional publisher–and the book was just released in February of this year. I take pride in my writing and like with everything, you’ll find authors who don’t care and those of us who do. We strive to put out a quality read that will keep the readers coming.
    Will I Kindle my next book? Maybe. Maybe not and it’s something that is very tempting.

  32. Margaret Koch
    Margaret Koch says:

    I love being in the middle of a revolution. Traditional publishing will probably survive for those who want and need it. Ebooks will be there for the more adventurous, and the price will be right. I write good books, publish ebook only, and I don’t market and advertise much, but nevertheless, readers are finding them. With trad publishing, it would have taken me time I don’t have to get six of my series out so far, with a seventh to come in September. The ego thing doesn’t mean much to me. I don’t care that most award-giving bodies don’t consider ebooks. I don’t care that the people who see the world in black/white terms think that all ebooks are drek. I want intelligent readers who think in terms of (chuckle) shades of grey, anyway. Intelligent readers talk amonst themselves and do not lack for friends who can give good word of mouth.

  33. PA Wilson
    PA Wilson says:

    It made me smile. I think one of the underlying problems with the article is that self publishers may not care.

    As long as it is free and easy to publish, people will. And that means there will be great books and not so great books. Just because they are self published doesn’t mean they are crap.

  34. Alice Duncan
    Alice Duncan says:

    I have a feeling self-publishing will straighten itself out one of these days. The lousy authors won’t find a following, and those who are good will. I think it’s great that authors have a choice these days. Either get ripped off by their publishers or go it alone. Either way is scary and unpredictable.

  35. Janis Patterson
    Janis Patterson says:

    There’s another facet to this discussion. Most people have no idea how little most writers make from a book. For years the traditional publishers have seemed to regard writers as annoyances of low-level importance and paid them accordingly.

    Writers are getting fed up with publisher’s creative accounting that leaves the author of the work earning literally pennies – less than anyone else connected with it. There has been a great move among published writers to bring out their backlist themselves and making much more money at it. Publishers are realizing this and, in a mad attempt to regain control, are jumping through hoops and (in some cases) ignoring both law and contracts to hang on to these rights when – by their own contracts – they should be reverted to the writer.

    So – not all self-published works are from frustrated wannabes who have found the way around the traditional gatekeepers. Some of them come from respected writers who are just trying to make a decent living from their work.

  36. Catrina
    Catrina says:

    Let’s not forget that books like the “Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy” that a professional small publisher published that is so below par it’s an eye sore, yet is a worlds’ best seller… and a movie contract has been signed.

    I feel that self published or traditionally published doesn’t matter anymore. It is still the author’s responsibility to polish up the book and have it gone over by a professional editor.

  37. Chris Phipps
    Chris Phipps says:

    What makes a writer? The ability to tell a good story? A command of grammar and punctuation? A talent for dialogue or description? The craftsmanship to keep a reader turning pages?

    I have problems with well-known writers who blithely dismiss quotation marks, leaving me, the reader, to figure out whether a remark comes from the narrator or a character. Another leaves out apostrophes, sprinkling his text with didnt, dont, aint, which simply jars me out of the story. Then there are those inane best-sellers that become movies while I’m trying to understand why the drivel was even published, and the good authors I’ve read for years who suddenly publish a piece of crap.

    I think, until the publishing industry stops looking at platform as the primary motivation for publication, we’re going to have more drivel, few new writers, and more self-publication. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I just wish those who self-published would spend some time learning their craft.

  38. Patty G. Henderson
    Patty G. Henderson says:

    Self-publishing isn’t something that can “crash.” It is an expression of publishing freedom. I really don’t know why the Big Guys are so afraid that they must push for articles like this. Those at the top in control are always fearful of powerful revolutions.

    You, as a reader, can choose what you want to read and buy. If you happen to buy a crappy self-pubbed title, well then, I suspect that author will not have many repeat buys and either decides this wasn’t for him/her and never publish again and go in search of the next great thing, or he/she continues to publish because it is his/her right to do so. You, the reader, just won’t be buying his/her crap again. LOL.

    As the reader, you will not ever buy from this author again and either find self-pubbed authors you trust or continue sampling and trying out new authors. That type of freedom is a beautiful thing. For pete’s sake, if eBooks are anywhere from .99-5.99 or so, what is there to lose if you happen to get a stinker or two? Besides, use the great option Amazon supplies all Kindle users with. Sample a book. It’s totally free. I can tell whether I like the author’s style or whether there are enough typos or bad writing to not purchase through the sample chapters. C’mon, most readers will be able to tell whether they want to buy a book in a page or two in a bookstore. Same thing.

    Imagine the awesome variety we now have. There is nothing wrong with an over-abundance of variety. Self-Publishing has put fun back in publishing and reading and choice and freedom in the hands of the authors. This is what it looks like when the gatekeepers are the reading public. Not bad, I say.

    No, it’s ludicrous to hint that self-pubbing is out of control. This is just another scare article by the Big Guys on top. Death throes are not pretty to see and the sad thing is, it doesn’t have to be that way.

  39. Pat Brown
    Pat Brown says:

    There’s definitely has some merit. There are an abundance of people who are convinced they have a book in and most of them have never heard of a book editor or even what makes up a good story. There is going to be a lot of crap put out, nobody can deny that. There’s also a lot of very good stuff being self-pubbed. The problem is how to separate them and I don’t think anyone has an answer to that as yet. But to pretend the problem isn’t there doesn’t help anyone.

  40. Hannah
    Hannah says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with the author. While I think some self-pubbed works definitely have merit, I simply don’t want to wade through the slush pile to find out anymore. Yes, I’ve definitely read traditionally pubbed books half-way through and dumped them. But generally because the subject bores, me the voice isn’t my style, etc. Never because the grammar is atrocious, or the main character’s name changes throughout, or 225 pages of “fast-paced mystery” could have been summed up in 16 lines.

    With as much reading as I like to do and the little amount of time I have in which to do it, I prefer quality over quantity.

  41. Rachel Howzell
    Rachel Howzell says:

    Hi, Lee and everyone

    Usually I lurk but today I write. Back in 2002, my first novel A Quiet Storm was published by Simon & Schuster. It was reviewed pretty well in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and Oprah Magazine. It was also a Borders Original Voices choice — even though many of the Borders sales folks were ‘Who? What book was that? Ummm…” There were so many books, a sea of books, that the books that had made the program weren’t even special enough.I was lost in the shelves of those big bookstores and honestly? It was embarrassing when friends and family reported back that the store didn’t even have it. And back then, marketing didn’t have Facebook and Twitter and the rest as tools. The novel (to this day) has sold almost 9,000 copies.

    Not good.

    But I kept writing. No book contract. Kept writing. Still no book contract. Close to a deal but publishing ain’t horseshoes.

    Finally, in 2010, I said, “This sucks. I write. My stories are good.” I’ve never been one to stay in my place or have always welcomed to the party – black woman living in America and all that. So, I decided to self-publish a novel that I had worked on ad nauseum with my agent. And I’ve sold almost 10,000 copies of The View from Here and given away more than 21,000.

    All this to say: yes, there are a lot of self-published books out there. And yes, some of those books are awful. And? So? There were an lots of traditionally published books on those shelves in Borders, too. Some of those were awful. Some readers found me. Millions did not even with my fancy publisher and good reviews.

    In my opinion, books are like truffles and readers will sniff and root out those that THEY consider to be worth something. I’m glad that writers like me have another route to take. And I’m thrilled that I get to share stories that many editors thought too risky or ‘not black enough’ (as though that is a THING, me being black all of my life but I have many rejection emails that say that).

    I’ll leave you with this: Snooki has a traditionally published novel. And so do the Kardashian sisters… Wonder what Truman Capote would say about that. It would be deliciously catty, that’s for sure.

    I hope to meet you at the Writer’s Police Academy in September!

  42. Susan Oleksiw
    Susan Oleksiw says:

    I think it’s too early to say how the publishing/self-publishing business will shake out, but I do think that many readers (like me) will continue to count on established houses (the ones that pay money to writers, as little as it may be) to vet mss and publish them with care. I’m far less likely to buy a self-published nonfiction book than a novella, but if it’s free and recommended I might look at it. For me it’s now a matter of time as well as money. I don’t want to waste my time on drek, so I avoid self-published authors unless they come with strong recommendations.

    Also, I don’t think the self-publishing economy can crash in the same sense of the real estate market. It will certainly shrink at some point, when business people decide they’re not making enough, and more people figure out how to do the whole thing on their own. Eventually the market will come up with a way to help the customer sort through things, but what that will be I don’t know.

  43. Michelle
    Michelle says:

    The same thing can be said for films, music and artwork for sale or display by artists looking for exposure. Just tune in to You Tube, Amazon, ebay, CD Baby. Is it all crap? I’ve read countless traditionally published books that half through I discarded because they were the very predictable form- following dribble agents bank on. I swear I will never purchase from those publishers again. If a writer can pump out three books a year does that mean they’re a good writer? No it means they don’t have a real job and they spend all day pretending they are creative and innovative.

  44. Yvonne Mason
    Yvonne Mason says:

    the article speaks for itself. Traditional publishers are scared of us. They can’t control us and many of their authors are fleeing the sinking ship. They have found out just how much they can make self publishing. I would like to copy this and do a blog about it with a link back to this site.
    We will not go away that genie is out of the bottle and will not go back in.

    Traditional publsihers scoffed at us, turned us down and sent us packing no more. We have a reader base and they are loyal. We don’t write the same thing over and over again and it shows. We will not be controled and they have no way to fight it.

    We are in the 21st century while they sit in the past. We are the present and the future.

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