The Post About Self-Publishing

Office Vibes 20180923
Now that the house is (almost) settled, I’ve been able to enhance my writing environment. Ah…

I come in peace. No, really.

Lately, I’ve been going to writers’ groups again, i.e. write-a-longs and the Phoenix Writers Club. Invariably, the question comes up whether or not I intend to self publish. Since I’ve learned the hard way how controversial this subject can be, I just say “uh, no,” and suddenly become intensely interested in the clasp on my name tag.

That tactic doesn’t always work, however. For those times when someone insists on knowing why I worship other gods, I’ve prepared this post. My intent is to just refer people here and, I hope, save us both a lot of pain and time. Of course, my choice of what to do, or try to do, with my writing is nobody else’s business. I have given the matter quite a bit of time and research, however, so, for anyone who really wants to know what I think, here ’tis.

WARNING: You asked for my opinion. Sure, that may actually have just been a ruse on your part to try to get me to listen to your opinion, but that’s not my problem. You chose to click on this post. I didn’t call you names or spam this into your life. The existence of this post is not an invitation to debate. (Yes, I’ve turned off the comments for this one.)


  1. No one, anywhere, has solved the Shit Storm Problem. Speaking as a reader, I don’t know of any way to efficiently shop for self-published books, let alone sell them.
  2. I cannot conceive of any way to effectively market self-published works without trying to con readers into thinking they’re traditionally published, i.e. that they’re not part of the Shit Storm.
  3. Many, many readers have been burned by horrible self-published stuff and have sworn off it forever. (Did I mention the Shit Storm Problem?) I don’t want to be one of the writers many people decide to never risk reading.
  4. Many of the most visible, loudest, in-your-face self publishers are absolutely cynical, lying, sleazy bastards and I don’t want to be associated with them in any way whatsoever. The fake “awards” alone are disgusting, as are the fake publisher imprints, the fake “best seller lists,” the lists of “published” books that have never been read by anybody, and those worthless purchased “reviews.” My tolerance for bullshit is pretty low as it is, and ten minutes with these people makes me want to hug my Random Penguin and cry.
  5. I want to be vetted by people who know what the hell they’re talking about. Yes, I mean people with credentials, expertise, professional experience. People who love books and work with them every single day. People whose reputations and paychecks depend upon their judgment. Yes, I really, really do care what they think.
  6. I want the intellectual companionship that comes from having been traditionally published. You can’t buy that shit. You can only earn it. And, you sure as hell don’t get it just by hitting “send.”
  7. The minute number of people who’ve gone on to traditionally publish works that were originally self-published is so far from statistically significant, it’s like trying to find Larry the Angel Guy somewhere in the midst of all those unnumbered angels dancing on the heads of all those pins lost in all those oh-so-many haystacks. Every one of those “success” stories is just an example of people using thousands of dollars and hours to do what is usually accomplished with one query email. Give me a break.

Yeah, well, what about “hybrid” publishing? As a reader, I think it’s awesome. For one thing, it allows writers to reprint their back list items for their fans in numbers that the original traditional publisher would not find sufficiently profitable. It’s also a great way to “use up” novellas or longish short stories that don’t have a home anywhere else. The important point about hybrid publishing is, however, that the writer in question already has proven they are legit. Their reputation in traditional publishing makes their self-published stuff far less risky an investment of readers’ time and cash.

Is it possible a vetted, curated publishing project could also require monetary support from its writers? Perhaps, but this is in fact what’s already happening with traditional publishing, i.e. writers are seeing lower advances, less marketing support and greater demand to relinquish international residuals, etc. Of course, this all takes place after the work has been vetted, not before. The problems — the conflicts of interest and erosion of quality — occur when writers’ cash comes before the evaluation, when those who put up the cash are those more likely to be seen and “chosen.”

Hey, you asked. I’m outta here. I have writing to do.