my first (and probably only) controversial post


Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

When I started pursuing publication a decade ago, I was strongly advised against self-publishing. I was told editors liked to find debut authors. Self-publishing would mean I wasn’t a book virgin any more. Times and opinions have changed. But mine hasn’t. I may eat my word some day, but I never intend to do a “selfie” when it comes to publishing.

Now, I’m well aware that like most things associated with publishing, there are always, always exceptions. You and I can both name novels like Christoper Paolini’s Eragon that were self-published, that were later acquired by what I’ll call a traditional publishing house, resulting in financial gain and critical acclaim. But those books are rare. We can agree on that, can’t we? (And I think it’s worth mentioning, it’s very likely that Eragon and others like it were “re-edited and polished” after the publisher bought the self-published version.)

If you’ve self-published, I’m not here to make you feel bad. I’m sure you put a lot of thought into your decision, did your homework and understood up front how much work it was going to be to wear a stack of hats as author, publisher, sales agent and promoter. I genuinely hope you’re glad about your decision and that it’s bringing you the satisfaction and success you were seeking. I really mean that.

But let’s say you’re not published yet, and you just want to exhale. You’re fed up with submitting and putting yourself out there, only to feel like you can’t get traction. Self-publishing sounds like an attractive option. Maybe. And it’s true the quality of self-published books has been elevated substantially over the last decade. But I’m sad to say I can still spot a self-published picture book long before I’ve reached the bookstore shelf. Maybe the author is proud of her work or maybe she is simply relieved to have a book out (such as it is). Is that what you want–relief?

Let me encourage you to read wise author Darcy Pattison’s insightful blog post Out There: The Wrong Goal of Self-Publishing. Think of Darcy like a master chef. Please gobble up her food for thought and digest her message.

See, I don’t think self-publishing is inherently evil (not even close!) or that it’s necessarily a cop-out or a short cut. But I think it can be if you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. Your work deserves the best you can give it. By that I mean, it deserves the benefit of a professional editor and the perks of a publishing house. Most of all, children deserve only the very best. Does that mean that traditional publishers only produce stellar works? Hardly. But aren’t the chances for success exponentially better? I think so.

Let me encourage you to write your best and to do the best by your work, whatever you decide that to be. I’ll do the same. Cross my heart and pinky swear.

Phew. Now let’s go eat some chocolate.

You should always be well and bright, for so you do your best work; and you have so much beautiful work to do. The world needs it, and you must give it! ~ Marie Corelli

6 responses »

  1. Yes, this is the thought process many of us have after working so hard for so many years. If I decided to self-publish (years down the road), I would want to hire a professional editor – an amazing editor with years of experience at a traditional publishing house. Yes, it would cost a lot of money. But I would learn so much from the process, and it would only be a sliver of the cost of an MFA program. Actually, there are times I wonder if I should seriously consider hiring an editor now, not to self-publish, but to better prepare for traditional submissions. To go beyond the many conferences and workshops I’ve attended, and work in-depth one-on-one with an editor. I dunno…


    • That’s an interesting thought, Kristin–sinking the dollars you would spend on a few conferences into hiring an editor. I guess that’s what I’m doing with my ICL class. It’s not quite the same, but it gives me the opportunity to receive consistent, one-on-one feedback through the entire process of writing a novel, start to finish. It’s been worth the time and money so far. Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing. My best to you whatever you decide!


  2. Thanks Vicky! I certainly understand not wanting to wait…after 13 years of work, hundreds of submissions and two agents later, believe me, I get it. But like you, it just wouldn’t be the same for me if I chose self publishing. It’s just something I won’t ever do. So I choose this path over and over again, and just pray for “joy in the journey, good news along the way, better books after each bend in the road and lots and lots of chocolate!


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