To Self-Publish or Not Self-Publish

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I’m seeing more and more aspiring writers and future authors impatiently go the self-publishing route. I say “impatiently” because it indeed takes some time to go the traditional way, namely knocking on publisher’s doors and, often, getting rejected over and over again before something happens.

Like many bloggers, I’m a writer who aspires to have her books published, but I don’t feel it necessary to constantly post or discuss it. As a matter of fact, I prefer not to discuss it. Having said this, for the sake of this post title, I’ll finally mention it. I’ve written a memoir titled Scars of Valor, but I am also considering it as fiction “based on a true story” about my experiences as a former Army wife who struggled through our nation’s period of heavy deployment to Iraq and then to Afghanistan. It’s an insight into depression and isolation caused by moving from base to base, town to town, and enduring Army life, PTSD and, then, divorce.

I won’t get too heavy into the specifics of the book because this post isn’t meant to be a query letter. But if I were to go the fiction route I’d have re-edit to add or alter stories, as of now names are changed and that’s about it. But that’s a post topic for another time. The book itself is a much heavier piece than the dark comedy fiction novel I’m currently writing (I’m about 32,000 plus words in, so about a third of the way done). Granted it’s been tough also managing two blogs (tvshowjunky.com is the other) and trying to get a third one on parenting off the ground. As many know blogging daily or weekly can be a lot of work, but throw in a newborn baby, my daily long-form, word-count goal and pitching everything to literary agent can be challenging, to say the least.

Some of my friends have gone the self-publishing route. As a matter of fact, a friend of mine K’ Anne Meinel has written 72 stories (including novels, novellas and shorts) and is now a publisher herself helping other writers. She’s also an extremely fast writer and in some cases can write up to 40,000 words over a weekend! And although a publisher, she’s still technically self-published. Like many, she initially tried going the agent route only to grow too frustrated. Over time, one of her books sold 100,000 copies!

I’ve mulled over the pros and cons of self-publishing, always coming back to the realization that I preferred to go with a traditional publishing house. My biggest obstacle has been finding an agent who is interested. Although, I’ll admit I haven’t tried submitting to a ton either. Some years ago, I briefly worked at a talent agency. One of my tasks was to simply throw unsolicited manuscripts in the trash. You usually need a referral to get face time with an agent, and even getting that is tough because honestly, a good portion of most humans out there aren’t interested in sharing contacts. It’s rare if you find someone willing to introduce you to their agent. Also, having worked at a talent agency I can say those agents wouldn’t give me the time of day. Regardless, either traditional or self-publishing does not guarantee book sales.


The Bottom Line:

I used to be totally against self-publishing, but recently I’ve been rethinking all of my options. Sometimes the misconception is that you’re not a “real” published author. I’m open to any feedback for those that know more about this subject. The most important thing is to write and get your story out to the public. Whether five people buy your book or five million, keep writing and finding ways to share your story and your perspective. It might just change a life, especially your own.



Lori Lesko



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30 thoughts on “To Self-Publish or Not Self-Publish

    kannemeinel said:
    August 14, 2015 at 9:16 AM

    When I started my publishing company so many authors were coming to me for ‘free’ advice that I felt I should get PAID for my knowledge and expertise. Over the years my mistakes and my knowledge has enabled me to produce very good-quality and professional product-books! I constantly compare myself and my authors books to others, it’s a compulsion now, and I have to say, it’s top notch. I do not give up my authority but I make it a team effort to train my author’s and sell books! We are in this TOGETHER and to be successful having a mentor (publisher) who stands behind you is important.

    Liked by 1 person

      lilpickmeup responded:
      August 14, 2015 at 9:24 AM

      It’s a huge accomplishment that you’ve written as many books as you have. Any suggestions on those trying to get an agent? What was your experience with literary agents? What made you go self-publishing?

      Like

        kannemeinel said:
        August 14, 2015 at 9:28 AM

        I’m still TRYING to get an agent…to help me with the burden of self-promoting and other ‘details’ that keep me from publishing and writing. I think my mind NEVER turns off and as an A-type personality I must create. I took two plus DECADES of running businesses and turned myself into a company. I technically am no longer a self-publishing author and yet, since I own the company, I consider myself so. If you self-publish you can’t get into some of the bookstores, if you self-publish you get discriminated against on so many sneering levels. Also, using someone who knows the ins and outs isn’t a bad thing and paying them for their expertise and learning from them…that isn’t a BAD thing!

        Liked by 1 person

    K'Anne Meinel said:
    August 14, 2015 at 9:31 AM

    Finding the RIGHT people to work with you though IS important. You have to feel good about the publisher you go with, even the agent. You have to know they aren’t just putting out product that is sub-par. After all you put your best forward, you want them to do the same…and to communicate. I know some publishers take your manuscript and your rights and just put it out there…I’m not about to do that. I want you to participate and LEARN how to promote yourself.

    IF I NEVER find an agent, I’m okay with that…I’m learning a lot on this journey and sharing it with my authors…

    Liked by 1 person

      lilpickmeup responded:
      August 14, 2015 at 9:54 AM

      You have to know the legal contract and everything you’re signing up for, that’s for sure. I have yet to reach that contract stage in this game. 🙂

      Like

    To Self-Publish or Not Self-Publish | K'Anne Meinel said:
    August 14, 2015 at 9:50 AM

    […] To Self-Publish or Not Self-Publish. […]

    Like

    Mark Henwick said:
    August 14, 2015 at 9:57 AM

    It used to be that if you went the self-published route, you picked up a smell that put agents off and you’d never get into the traditional publishing arena. I’m not sure agents are allowed to be that selective any more. If you’re really worried, self-publish under one name and submit (different scripts) to agents under another.
    However…once you’ve got an agent, it still doesn’t mean you’re going to be published. It’s like winning a lottery ticket… the prize of which is a lottery ticket.
    I know experiences vary enormously, but I’d also comment that authors I know who publish traditionally are liable to laugh hysterically when you mention all the ‘support’ and ‘promotion’ they get from publishers. 99% of all publisher effort goes into about 0.1% of traditionally published authors. If you’re aiming to be in that group, best of luck, someone has to make it.
    I’ve been self publishing since 2012. I write s l o w l y compared to K’Anne. Forget 40,000 words a weekend, I run at about 4,000 words a week averaged over the year. 🙂
    But I’m happy!

    Liked by 3 people

      lilpickmeup responded:
      August 14, 2015 at 10:32 AM

      Congrats on being a self-published author since 2012! I know it is like winning a lottery ticket. And I am with you on writing speed. I am not in the 40,000 words a weekend arena either! Look at “The Boy with a Striped Pajamas” John Boyne wrote it in 2 days. Unreal.

      Regarding promotion- I guess now days, you have to promote yourself self-published or traditional. But, what do I know. 🙂

      Like

      lynettedavis said:
      August 14, 2015 at 11:27 PM

      “It’s like winning a lottery ticket… the prize of which is a lottery ticket,” not to mention the fact that the entire traditional publishing model, is designed to benefit (monetarily) everyone involved in the production process,

      Liked by 1 person

        lilpickmeup responded:
        August 14, 2015 at 11:35 PM

        I don’t know enough about self-publishing, but I am trying to research it as much as possible. But, also comparing traditional vs. indie. It looks like judging by your blog, you’ve got a wealth of information. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        lynettedavis said:
        August 15, 2015 at 12:56 AM

        Thank you for stopping by and following my blog. From what I can see, traditional publishing is great if you have a large enough platform so that everyone can get paid. It’s a business based on what product will yield the most money and the author receives the smallest share of the earnings. Self-publishing can and does work if the author is willing to take the time to learn how publishing works in order to produce a comparable product and the majority of the earnings will go to the author.

        Liked by 1 person

    alexandsam said:
    August 14, 2015 at 11:11 AM

    I’m one of the “impatient” ones and have been self-publishing since 2012 as well – but I never intended to make writing my career. I’m a librarian and love my job, and writing is only a fun sideline for me. I think if I wanted to make a career of it, though, I’d have definitely tried the traditional route, because I do think that self-publishing is still not thought of as “serious” writing.

    Liked by 1 person

      lilpickmeup responded:
      August 14, 2015 at 11:56 AM

      Yeah, unfortunately there is a stigma there. Hopefully that changes? Who knows. I know that talent agencies are opening up a “digital publishing” section for their authors they represent. The talent agency I used to briefly work for (way back) has done this. Borders bookstore closed, Barnes & Nobles- I am not sure what their sales are but digital publishing and selling books online now has sort of changed things. Still, I think the sigma is there with self publishing.

      Liked by 1 person

    unanimouslove said:
    August 14, 2015 at 12:36 PM

    My book has been published, I just need to get the word out, by either people reading it for free online or purchasing the book at this site http://larryczerwonka.com/books/helpfulthoughts.php and is available as a e-book, I enjoyed going through a gentleman named Larry Czerwonka for publishing my book, who helped with editing and is working to return the power to the artist by giving most the profit back to the writer instead of the publisher, As well payed all up front cost. A publisher who cares for people. As well, he accepts manuscripts with out a agent. One problem my book is not in stores. I would like to inform people who have the ability to change the world about my book.

    We have been horribly abused as children and not taught what is needed to function so that we do not create pain and suffering for ourselves.

    Self-publishing, I don”t trust them. I want to work with people who care for each other and not compete.

    Liked by 2 people

    chrisr74 said:
    August 14, 2015 at 4:20 PM

    I think traditional published authors are taken more seriously. But, that doesn’t mean their stuff is good. Honestly, there are a lot of people published out there and their stuff is crap. I also think we’re going to see a big shift in the publishing world and I bet if you have enough social clout to promote yourself, you can be more successful than traditional published authors. Also, you get to keep more of your money. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    This British-American Life said:
    August 14, 2015 at 5:19 PM

    When I went to the Chicago Writers’ Conference last year, one of the talks was a “Meet the Agents” session. With all of the options for getting your manuscript out there, even they recommended self-publishing to some of their clients depending on the book/genre/market with which they were dealing. You just have to put the investment in to make your book look professional, and there are companies that can help you navigate that.

    Liked by 2 people

      lilpickmeup responded:
      August 14, 2015 at 5:22 PM

      Yeah, it would be really, really nice to go traditional publishing. But, you know what, I am not ruling out self-publishing.

      Liked by 1 person

    […] To Self-Publish or Not Self-Publish […]

    Liked by 1 person

      lilpickmeup responded:
      August 15, 2015 at 9:04 PM

      Thanks to writersweekly.com for stopping by and linking! I am going to check out that book suggested in the article. 🙂

      Like

    Kurt Brindley said:
    August 19, 2015 at 7:06 AM

    Great article, lpmu. Looks like all the key points of the issue have been covered intelligently and comprehensively already; so all I’ll add is that the key key points to me are that, now that the stigma of self-publishing has just about been eliminated (not completely obviously since it’s still kind of being debated here and elsewhere), are the independence, convenience, and speed of self-publishing and the fact that, like you said, the author is going to be responsible for the promotion of his or her work regardless of how its published so why give up the independence – and royalties – if the hardest part of the job (at least to me the promotion aspect is harder (and, so far, more discouraging) than the writing) remains the responsibility of the author?

    Thanks for the opportunity to discuss.

    Liked by 1 person

      lilpickmeup responded:
      August 19, 2015 at 12:02 PM

      I go back and forth with it. I really do. But, I also read a post that stated that traditional publishing ends up being a “prestige” thing. It doesn’t make you less of a writer if you go the self-publishing route. Especially if you manage to sell your books and do very well, even better. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    lbeth1950 said:
    August 23, 2015 at 4:47 AM

    Thanks so much. This post and comments are very helpful.

    Liked by 1 person

      lilpickmeup responded:
      September 25, 2015 at 2:54 PM

      lbeth1950 I am glad it helped you. It’s not easy to decide which road to take. They both take equal amount of work. Even if you land an agent, it is still highly recommended that the writer promote themselves and their writing. Writing a book and completing all the editing is only a quarter of the battle. 75% of the rest of the battle is getting an agent and marketing yourself. Good luck with your writing. Hope you stop by again.

      Like

    […] As I’m sure you suspect, I subject myself to the subjective and contrary literary values of these human reviewers and editors because, just between you and me, I (like most other self-published authors I suspect) would like to someday be an unself-published author and be recognized as a “real writer” within the old slow (really, really slow) world of traditional publishing. (A good read on the question of whether one should self-publish or not can be found here.) […]

    Liked by 1 person

    Are you almost ready? | jean's writing said:
    September 5, 2015 at 7:07 AM

    […] To Self-Publish or Not Self-Publish […]

    Liked by 1 person

    Maya Morrow said:
    February 13, 2017 at 10:38 AM

    Your memoir sounds really interesting and compelling, and I bet a lot of people would read it. Anything having to with psychiatric conditions and mood disorders is going to attract a large audience, because so many people are living with them and are affected by them, directly or indirectly. There’s just a huge demand for this specific type of content. I say go for it.

    Liked by 1 person

      Sonyo Estavillo responded:
      February 13, 2017 at 3:17 PM

      Yeah, I am actually making it into a novel. So, some parts will be fictionalized but most of the book is real. So, it’ll be an autobiographical fiction.

      Like

        Maya Morrow said:
        February 13, 2017 at 3:20 PM

        Yes! Like ‘The Bell Jar’ by Sylvia Plath! I think you’re on to something amazing. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        Sonyo Estavillo responded:
        February 13, 2017 at 3:25 PM

        I sure hope so, I pitched my second book to an agent who actually asked me “what else do you have.” I didn’t want to pitch this first book because of the pain surrounding it. I mean, it hurts thinking about that book. It brings back bad memories and my painful relationship that failed. But, then I actually got that agent to want to see it once it’s edited. Just when I thought I needed to “shelve” the book or burn it. You just never know. 🙂

        Like

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