If I were to tell you that I have a doctorate in psychology would you believe me?
Yes or No?
If I were to go on to say that I have written – and self-published – a book on the psychology of pain, would you believe me?
Yes or No?
Regardless of your answer, my next question is a simple one — WHY DID YOU ANSWER THE WAY YOU DID?
What is there in anything you know about me that would give you reason to answer either positively or negatively about my being a doctor, or the chance that I have written a book on pain?
Your answer would be based on the little you know from my profile, what you have read of my blogs, and what others have said about me.
Would you buy a self-published book from me based on that knowledge?
Yes or No?
I think the answer to that question is something that anyone considering self-publishing should ask themselves. If you desire to sell a self-published book, what reason would a potential reader have for buying it?
As I was thinking about the situation with book publishing today, I began to ask the question of why anyone would read a self-published book. In the past the clout behind a potential reader’s willingness to walk into a store, pick up a book, pay for it, take it home, and read it, was based on the fact that the publishers had deemed the author an authority, a success, or someone with the ability to write in such a way that the reader’s time was worth the reading.
You could make the argument that there were plenty of books that weren’t worth the paper they were written on, but at least an “authority” had made the claim that the writing would be of a certain quality or level.
Today, anyone can write anything about anybody or anything – download it to Amazon, and have their work accessible to anyone or anything capable of reading it – whether they are dependable, qualified, authoritative, or not. We have little in the way of determining their capacity to write on any given subject.
I could – literally – write a book on the psychology of pain, make the claim that I know what I’m talking about, and publish the work – without cost – on Amazon.
Is there any possibility that someone would buy it; that someone would read it?
Yes or No? I really don’t know!
I’m pretty sure that the purchaser would never buy anything I wrote again, because I really have little authority to write on the subject to begin with; but there’s a chance that someone would say, “I’ve never heard of this author, but the title – “Pain is Temporary, Death is Forever” – sounds pretty good.” If I could come up with a good enough blurb, a good enough cover, and a good enough description, someone may buy my “book”.
Now, on the other hand, it seems to be getting clearer that the big publishers are willing to publish anything that they can be sure will make a profit. It’s all about the money! Because of this it seems that anyone with a reasonably good chance of selling a couple thousand books can probably publish traditionally. Whether the writing is any good or not, if you can sell the books, you can publish the books. At least that sure appears to be the case.
You might say that fiction is not as critical as non-fiction, and you would probably be right. The potential of someone not getting a painful condition looked at professionally because I made the assertion that “pain is only in the brain, tough it out”, is much more serious than the “heart-broken lover” from my amazing piece of science fiction. But how are we to know that something available on Amazon is going to be worth my time regardless?
What about those of us that haven’t gotten a look by a traditional publisher? What if you really do have a work of staggering genius, but no audience?
As I thought about all this over the course of the afternoon, the advice that many have given, about pursuing traditional publishers even as you continue to improve your skills, seems to make a lot of sense.
There was a day in the not-too-distant past when I would have said my writing was about as good as anyone I have read in the genres I like. Now I know that my POV, my dialogue, my plot creation, and so forth and so on – all need to continue to improve. And I think I’m a better writer for the truth I’ve learned about myself.
I realize today that my writing is better now than it was a few years ago – all I have to do is go back and look at some of my earlier stuff. But on a daily basis I just keep writing, studying what others are doing, and trying to include those things in my next piece.
Is there a case for me self-publishing?
I’m sure there is, but I need to make my work as authoritative and professional as possible. I need to have people – other than my family and friends – tell me that the work is publishable. And I need to find a way to better my work, rather than believe that I may be one of the unique and unusual people who came out of the womb with the God-given ability to write fantastic pieces. I need to take criticism in the spirit of its ability to improve my work, and I need to find a way to truly evaluate my work against others.
So, regardless of how good your piece may be, continue to try to get a traditional publisher to look at it. Whether you publish traditionally or self-publish, your writing will be better for the critiques, the denials, the comments, and so forth you get through the process.
And, by the way, my work is available through Amazon! Ha