Monday, January 31, 2005

Self-Publishing - A Bad Idea

For several months now, Lee Goldberg has been railing against vanity presses, especially the scam artists like Publish America. I thought it was time that I weighed in with my own thoughts.

The problem with self-publishing is that the resulting product will have no credibility and no exposure -- and very little chance of ever obtaining either. Everyone will know that the only way you were able to get your book published was to pay someone to do it, and they will judge your work accordingly. (In that sense, I think it’s even worse than having no book at all.)

A self-published novel will not be sold in bookstores, nor will it be reviewed in any newspapers or magazines. You might be able to get reviews on certain websites, but even that’s pushing it. The chances of anyone other than friends or family (and even that is probably a stretch) reading your book are so slim as to be insignificant.

I've had dozens of self-published books submitted to me for review and the vast majority of them are appalling. (So much so that I won’t even agree to accept them anymore.) Out of all the books I've reviewed over the past few years, a number that’s in the hundreds, only 2 of them were self-published. In each case, I had some personal contact with the author beforehand, which was the only reason I agreed to read their book. (And both books, for the record, would have benefited from being professionally edited.)

The ultimate goal of every self-published book is to get picked up by a traditional publisher. Anytime someone relates a self-published success story, that is the end result. There’s a reason for that. Vanity publishing is meaningless on its own. Success for a writer means having your book released by a trade publisher. Period.

Sure, it is theoretically possible to be successful self-publishing your work. It’s also possible to win the lottery. It is not, however, a realistic or viable option for anyone wanting to pursue a legitimate writing career.

The only thing self-publishing is good for is to have a chance to buy printed copies of your book for yourself, and to give them to your friends and family as presents. (Of course, even your own mother will know that you had to pay someone to publish your book, so she probably won’t want to read it either.)

Vanity presses prey on the hopeful, the gullible and the naïve. And that’s a damn shame.