Ask Daphne! About Self-Publishing

July 7th, 2008 • Kate

Good morning, readers! Hope you all had a wonderful Fourth of July weekend, enjoyed some fireworks, and got in some relaxation and/or reading. Rexroth and I certainly did, along with some great time spent with friends. But on to business! Handmade shoes for J.P., who writes:

What do you think about Self-Publishing venues like Createspace.com (Amazon’s Self-Publishing branch)? Do you think they would hurt the chances for a prospective agent for a writer or help?

Well, J.P. I don’t know Createspace personally, but I know other self-publishing venues like Xlibris pretty well, and I will tell you my impression of them — they’re a fallback. Can’t get an agent or a publishing deal for the book you’re certain is a bestseller? Self-publish it, and you can prove all those naysayers WRONG!
Except the thing is, a vast percentage of the books that are self-published never do end up proving anyone wrong. They sell a few copies to friends or family members, and take up space on your bookshelves with amateur-looking covers and design that will never truly hold a candle to a book published by a mainstream publisher.
But say you went the self-published route for some other reason other than as a last resort, and now you’re submitted your book in its self-published form to agents and editors. Does it do you any good?
Again, no. It doesn’t count as a publishing credit, because there’s no editorial process involved in being self-published — all it takes is money. And most agents don’t want to receive a bound book to consider — we want your first 5 chapters, or fifty pages, and if you send them to me as a book, I will tell you in all honesty that it will go to the very very bottom of my reading pile.
So, JP, there you are. If this publishing thing is just to get your words out there to a small group, and you’re so sure they’re perfect you can’t imagine anyone could improve them, and you have the money to burn — sure, go ahead and self-publish. But if you have greater aspirations for success as a writer, and know that you have a long road to travel, keep submitting your work the traditional way. And good luck.

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6 Responses to “Ask Daphne! About Self-Publishing”

  1. Travis Erwin Says:

    What about a small publisher. One that pays a small advance and royalties. Does this forever label an author as a blip on the radar or can that transition to greater things.
    I know there are some really respected small publishers but I'm talking about the tier even blow the Algonkian type of publishers. The mom and pop type that seem to be all over th Midwest in particularly.

  2. Kate Says:

    Hey Travis –
    Self-publishing is a completely different fish than a small publisher. More and more every day, as I come in contact with fantastic small publishers outside the New York area, I am reminded that they're doing great and wonderful things, and many of them have had the kind of successes that translate into big numbers for subsequent books.
    If your book has a regional slant, or fits a niche market that you may not feel is represented in a New York publishing house, or for many other personal reasons, a small, independent publisher may very well be the best route for you and your book.
    My primary reason for denigrating self-publishing — the lack of an editorial review board — doesn't apply to a small publishing house.

  3. anonymous Says:

    But there are exceptions, right? Those who did it for themselves and then wanted to take it farther?…who spent the time and money on a proper editorial process?…who have demonstrated a certain amount of decent sales outside of their family/friends circle? In the end, it still comes down to the quality of the manuscript, right? I mean, an agent wouldn't turn down good writing just because it was self published, would they?

  4. Kate Says:

    Anon –
    No, of course not. It's all about the writing. And there are always exceptions — the kid who wrote ERAGON is a self-publishing success story, to name one.
    And I said above your self-published book would go to the bottom of my reading pile — but it would get read, and if you blow me away, then we're all in for a wild ride.
    But I would hope that you might weight the time and money that you'd put into self-publishing against the time of an agent search, and consider which might be a better investment in the long run.

  5. Elmie Yan Says:

    Hi Daphne!
    I admire you for being so generous with your time in answering our questions.
    In your reply to JP, do I interpret it correctly that there is still hope for self-published authors to seek a literary agent for as long as the first five chapters or first fifty pages are submitted and not in its book form? Should I tell them that my book has been self-published through a company and is retailed on line? Thank you so very much in advance for your kind help!

  6. elmie yan Says:

    P.S.
    My apologies : I should have addressed the above message to Kate instead of Daphne (?).
    This is my first time to post, and I'm not sure of the procedures. I'm thinking everything is written by Daphne.
    I wish you, Kate, and everyone a great day!
    Elmie