Home » Self-Publishing » 10 Reasons You Should Skip the Traditional Publishers and Self-Publish Ebooks Instead

10 Reasons You Should Skip the Traditional Publishers and Self-Publish Ebooks Instead

29 May 2012

From bestselling author Robert Bidinotto:

So, let’s assume you’re a writer contemplating publication. You’re agonizing over whether to follow the traditional publishing path, or whether to take the plunge and self-publish. Okay, maybe you’ve long dreamed of winning validation from the publishing establishment—of earning acceptance from a New York agent and a venerable publisher—of seeing your book stacked in pyramids on bookstore tables—of the NYT #1 spot, and awards, and a reality show, and, gosh, maybe the cover of the Rolling Stone

How could self-publishing possibly compete with that?

. . . .

1. Nobody Can Stop You from Publishing Your BookAlong the path to a legacy book contract you’ll be confronted by hordes of gatekeepers: literary agents, acquisition editors, editorial committees, bean counters, and publishing-house CEOs, all answering to the international conglomerates that actually own most major “American” publishers. Odds have become vanishingly small that you can run this gauntlet without being stopped dead in your tracks by a rejection letter.

You see, rather than gamble on fresh, challenging works by unknown writers, publishers prefer to play it safe. They invest mainly in the few established, best-selling authors, and they exploit trendy fads by releasing formulaic knock-offs of past bestsellers. So after Thomas Harris we were fed countless serial-killer tales. John Grisham’s success launched the “legal thriller” subgenre; Tom Clancy inspired armies of “techno-thriller” clones; Stephanie Meyer gave birth to legions of vampires. Now, E.L. James is making adult porn—oops, “erotica”—the literary dalliance du jour.

. . . .

5. You Can Publish Your Book Incredibly Fast. One of the worst things about legacy publishing is that it takesforever to get a manuscript published.

Most publishers insist that you submit your manuscript through a literary agent. It can take months of query letters to enlist one. Then you’ll wait days or weeks to sign a contract with her. Then more weeks working together to hone an acceptable “pitch” that she’ll send to publishers. Maybe she’ll also want you to rewrite some of your book.

Next come months—maybe a year or more—of submissions to publishers. In the increasingly unlikely event that your agent corrals an interested publisher, weeks of contract negotiations follow. The publisher may insist on more rewrites and editing. Then the book goes onto their publishing schedule. Due to long lead times, it will be another year, eighteen months, or even longer before the book rolls off the presses.

So if you’re really, really lucky, you’re looking at a minimum of about two years from the time you query agents till you see your baby sitting on bookstore shelves.

But by “going indie,” you can squeeze that publishing process into a few weeks.As I described in my previous post, it took just 17 days from the time I finished HUNTER until it was available for sale online. It took only three more weeks until the print edition went on sale.

Had I gone the traditional route, I’d still be looking at another two years, minimum, to see HUNTER published. I would have wasted all that time—and lost all the income that my bestseller generated during this past year.

Link to the rest at PJ Lifestyle


25 Comments to “10 Reasons You Should Skip the Traditional Publishers and Self-Publish Ebooks Instead”

  1. I’m quite convinced to self publish. I don’t have all day to wait around for an agent or publishing house to decide if they should take a chance on me or not. I’ll let the readers decide that.

  2. Seventeen days from finish to publish for Bidinotto? Really? Sounds to me like the editing/proofreading might have been skimped a bit.

    I’m a bit more patient (and thorough). Novel should be finished next week. Publication date is scheduled for the second week in August. I have a lot of work to do after the first draft is done.

    • Meryl – His “finish” might have come after more than one draft and editing. I’ve read the book and it’s well done.

      • Good point. And my schedule will get faster after the first one, I’m sure, now that I know that I can write a lot faster than I planned for. I’m devoting two weeks to line editing, two weeks to copyediting, two weeks to proofreading, then waiting on pins and needles for the excellent Julie Dillon to send me the cover art. The extra weeks in between are for the business end of things. I won’t need them next time around, come to think of it.

        Thanks, PG. You’ve just brightened up my schedule for Book 2. 🙂

  3. Does he mean to tell me that Twilight, The Fountainhead, Harry Potter, and Jonathan Livingston Seagull were worthy of publication?

    • Do you mean to tell us that you have the authority to determine that they were not?

      Before you answer, remember this: No book was ever written but some snob dismissed it as worthless trash. By nearly unanimous consent, Homer and Shakespeare stand at the very pinnacle of the world’s literature; yet Plato wanted Homer banned from his ideal republic, and Tolstoy wrote a long pamphlet to ‘prove’ that Shakespeare was ‘objectively’ bad. Neither of those attacks had the slightest effect.

      The world will decide which books deserve to be remembered and which will be forgotten, without consulting the taste of sneering pipsqueaks.

      • Somehow, I think there’s a huge difference between Romeo and Juliet and Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

        • Tell me, Jack:

          Don’t you think that individual readers ought to be the ones to make determinations of personal value?

          Or do prefer that self-appointed “experts,” acting as if in loco parentis, treat the rest of us like little children, and make our literary choices for us?

          From your posts here, I’d be willing to bet in which category — child or parent — you’d eagerly place yourself, and in which you’d consign the vast majority of your fellow humans.

        • And there is a huge difference between Tolstoy and Jack Riddle. That difference is not in your favour.

          I’m not going to stop reading Shakespeare just because Tolstoy tells me it’s junk. And I am not going to stop reading anything just because some pseudonymous Internet troll tells me it’s junk.

          You are not the arbiter of culture. Deal with it.

  4. Okay, I work weirdly.

    In a previous life I was a professional magazine editor, so I know the manuscript will be decent, though not perfect. In addition, I edit my scenes and chapters on the fly, as I write. A big no-no according to all The Rules, but it’s a habit formed from magazine writing-and-editing days, and it works for me.

    So you see, I don’t do second or third or 57th drafts. When I finish the “first draft,” I’ve finished my final draft.

    Next, I had over a dozen highly literate “beta readers” ready and waiting to pounce on the manuscript the minute it was done. And they did. Many had experience as writers or editors; others had expertise pertaining to technical aspects of my book. So, it got a very thorough going-over from a lot of savvy people. They saved my butt on countless things, big and small, that my tired eyes missed.

    They also doubled as a wonderful focus group. I deliberately selected a broad demographic mix, heavily weighted toward thriller fans, to try to determine the book’s appeal. Their responses were invaluable in sorting that out, and in telling me where I needed to tweak things.

    Because of all that, I had a truly ship-shape manuscript after I entered all their suggestions and corrections. I never even had to hire an outside editor for this one.

    I had my cover ready a couple of months in advance. So, after a final read-through, HUNTER was good to go to my formatting/layout guy, Nick Ambrose, of http://www.everything-indie.com. Nick a pleasure to work with, his rates are very reasonable, and he turns around work VERY fast.

    Ergo: just 17 days from completed written manuscript to the ebook of HUNTER going on sale.

    Sure, your mileage may vary. But my example proves how quickly an indie author can bring a quality book to market. Others are faster than I am, and their quality doesn’t suffer for it, either.

    • Okay, now I’m blushing. My apologies, Robert.

      I edit much of my manuscript on the fly as well, though I never thought to use that phrase.

      Thank you for the information on beta readers. I have a few highly literate ones, and some in the target group (YA, so I’m using kids as a focus group).

      One of these days, I’m going to remember my decades-long adage to think before hitting the submit button.

      • But then we wouldn’t have gotten to hear Robert elucidating his process. 🙂

      • LOL! Meryl, absolutely no offense taken. I told you, I work weirdly. Seventeen days was enough (barely) for me to make a self-imposed deadline. But for most it will probably take longer to get a decent final manuscript. Still far shorter than legacy publishers would take, though.

        Your intended point, however, is true: Too many indie authors think they can skimp on editing, proofreading, formatting, and the quality of their book’s cover. That indifference to quality control is a fatal mistake if they hope to have lots of satisfied readers.

    • I work the same way — once a draft is finished it’s had a lot of reworking.

      However, it still needs proofing, and for me proofing needs time. (But much of that time is “shelf time” to get away form it, have somebody else deal with it, whatever – not work time.)

      But here’s the thing, I put in the same amount of editing and proofing work on manuscripts I hand in to publishers as I do when I self-publish.

      So the only time that’s different is from formatting on.

  5. Hmph. I wanted to read the whole article so I clicked through to the site, only to find that each reason is evidently on its own page and I would need to click ten times to read the article. No, thanks. What’s the point of that? More page views for the ads?

    Bidinotto gets points from me, though, for using the correct “horde.”

    • Oops…meant to make that a direct reply: Clare, you can scroll to the bottom of the article text and click “View as a single page.”

      • Ooh, didn’t see that. Thanks, Robert!

        (Of course this time I got a pop-up asking me to sign up for a newsletter before I could read the article… this is probably not a site I will be frequenting.)

        • LOL! Oh, sign up, Clare; read my article; then cancel the newsletter.

          It’s a good article. Try it. You’ll like it.

          • Oh, sorry, I wasn’t clear! I just had to get rid of the pop-up before I could get to the article–it didn’t force me to sign up. I did read the article and I liked it. It’s just that the website is irritating!

  6. I can see how my own perspective has changed over the last couple of years, to where I’m in total agreement with Robert Bidinotto. I can still see some short-term benefits to traditional publishing, but looking at it long-term, it just seems like a foolish thing to do. Like throwing money out the window.

  7. More and more are drifting this way. I’m not published yet, and I know I’ve been leaning this way for a bit now.

    I think most writers believe that traditional publishing is security, not realizing that it’s quite the opposite.

  8. This summary is terrific–and included in a small handful of Saves on the subject. I trad-pubbed four novels with two major publishers, from 1988-1993, and then spent nearly twenty years shopping for a new agent. Finally, I came up with an idea for a series that I knew had commercial potential. 150 form rejections followed. Then a couple of requests for Full reads. Not a word then for four months. I’m following up but have already committed to putting the full backlog of eight books written since 1993 out as ebooks. And I’ll include the latest in that # with a smile.
    Why? Because you’re right on the money: going the trad pub route, the soonest I could expect to see it on the shelves might be 2005–if it hadn’t been orphaned by the publisher.

    • Reb, you’re another Poster Child for what’s wrong with Legacy Inc. Contact me if you think I can help. I’ll send along stuff I’ve compiled from the true pioneers in indie publishing, folks like Robin Sullivan, Joe Konrath, Dean Wesley Smith, Bob Mayer, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and our host here, the Passive Guy. Drop an email to: RobertTheWriter [at] gmail [dot] com, and I’ll send along some email attachments that will probably prove useful.

  9. Excerpt from “E-Books: The Innovation Cauldron” (YA sci-fi author Susan Kaye Quinn’s Blog of May 29)
    “I think of the ebook revolution as a cauldron of innovation. And it’s just getting started.

    Here’s some of the things I’m seeing
    Playing with length: a proliferation of short stories, anthologies, prequels, after-stories, novellettes, novellas. I haven’t seen as many people (successfully) selling longer novels, but in theory that could work too – no limit on bits! The Indelibles put out an anthology that continues to have a lot of success.

    Serialization: a series of 6 or 7 or more shorter novels, really serialized novellas, rather than novels; or writing a novel chapter-by-chapter on your blog, then editing and turning it into an ebook; or building a fanbase for a mystery story by blogging the first half of the book, but leaving readers with a cliffhanger until the final novel is published (go Becca Campbell!). Several authors I know are planning on writing serialized short novels going forward, or have already found success with them (I’m looking at you Sarra Cannon).

    Companion books: mining the research already done to produce a novel or series, authors are branching sideways, writing companion stories, background material. I’m putting out a series of short stories (Mindjack Origins) based on this concept of branching sideways, writing about secondary characters.

    Mixing formats: short stories tagged onto novels; shorts mixed with poetry; writing travel guides with links built into the ebook; putting front matter (ISBN, etc) in the back to get readers right to the story; adding sample chapters to the back; cross-promoting with different authors; people are playing with formats, where there are literally no rules anymore. If you purchase Closed Hearts or Untraceable, you will see that S.R. Johannes and I have swapped samples in the back of our books, saying that if you liked one of our books, you’ll probably like the other (which is true, based on how often Shelli and I end up on each other’s “also boughts” on Amazon).

    Playing with price: authors using different price points, including free, to entice new readers, either with novels or short stories or anthologies. Free seems to work best with introductory material to a series, and I’m seeing many authors having success with this. I’m also seeing some authors using higher price points to make each sale more lucrative. My short story, Mind Games, just went free on Amazon, so we’ll see what that experiment yields.

    Playing with genre: literary novels, poems, other less-commercial forms are finding a new home in ebooks. I’m seeing a LOT of authors switching genres, crossing from YA to adult and vice versa. Switching from SF to mystery to romance. Sometimes they use pennames, sometimes not. There’s a lot of freedom to try new things without having to worry about whether you’re fitting into your “brand” or not.

    Playing with apps: The world of apps makes all kinds of amazing things possible with ebooks. One author has made a series of “hidden picture books” where kids can find hidden pictures within the ebook.”

    See the rest at http://www.susankayequinn.com/

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.