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Seven reasons why you shouldn’t self publish

7 March 2016

75 Comments to “Seven reasons why you shouldn’t self publish”

  1. Bless his heart.

    • I think he’s adorable! Don’t know what he’s saying but I like the accent. So cute!
      Seriously, I can’t say bad things. I think he means well…
      Does make me wonder if self-publishing in GB is a whole lot different than it is here.

    • I do love the accent, and I suspect he means well, but he certainly needs an editor.

      And please… Mr. Agent-with-no-name… no need to bring up what’s in my drawers. You should be in charge of your own drawers, I dare say.

  2. Oh, bless his sweet introverted heart, as I keep listening, it gets worse and worse.

    “You shouldn’t self-publish because writers are really really bad at everything except writing and most of them are bad at that as well.”

    • I was thinking he must have a few filing cabinets full of his own ‘bad stories’ and that he finally gave up writing to become an agent (if he talks like that in real life I’m guessing a bad agent …)

    • I couldn’t listen far enough to be blessing his heart. You are a strong woman.

      • I should not have put quotes around the “quote”. He didn’t actually say that but that’s the vibe. He is adorable but a wee bit behind the times.

  3. the Other Diana

    Pay for typesetting?

    Never heard of ebooks?

    Spend thousands to self publish?

    I spent $25 the first month (for 2 stock images). Made my money back the first month, with lots to spare.

    I do agree that the first thing written probably shouldn’t be published. I thought my first piece was perfect. Now I know better. Still, as flawed as it is, it still makes me money every month. So why stick it in a drawer? Fix it and publish it. Earn some money so you can continue to write.

    I thought it was funny that he said a publisher would be impressed if you sold tens of thousands or a hundred thousand books. If I sold that much, I wouldn’t need a trad publisher. (Although I do see why some people might decide to go with a trad publisher at that point- to reach a wider audience)

  4. Oh bless…

  5. Sorry, I clicked off at, “it’s expensive”.


  6. He forgot reason 8. He doesn’t make money from self-published authors.

  7. This is very biased advice from an agent’s perspective. There are germs of truth in what he says, but he’s only presenting one side of a very complex story.

    Basically it’s like listening to a full-service Travel Agent list all the reasons why you should NEVER book your flights/hotels yourself via airline/hotel websites or Expedia. No, those are bad/inferior and you should feel honored to use (and pay for) his bespoke services instead.

  8. Well, that was insulting.

  9. “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

    Abraham Lincoln

  10. Al the Great and Powerful

    I think he self-published that video.

    • ^^^^ This!!! ^^^^^^^

    • Wow, I hope he has some burn ointment handy for that one. 🙂

    • If he’d paid a videographer a. His face would be in focus, not his bookshelves and b. there would be lighting on his face, not his bookshelves. If he paid a sound editor there’d be fewer pops and slurpy sounds. If he’d paid a make-up artist focus could have been taken away from his harelip and bad teeth. If he’d paid a presentation consultant he’d have some kind of wardrobe that made him look like a professional that makes you money.

      I didn’t watch to the end so I don’t know if there were end titles, but a videographer would have created a title sequence that told the viewer this guy’s name and location. Like the title page of a…. What’s that old technology… Yeah, a book.

      • So yeah, I don’t agree with most of what this agent says but I thought this was supposed to be about the subject of traditional vs. indie (book) publishing and not the quality of his videography? I get what you’re trying to say about farming out the aspects of this video-making project that he’s not a pro at, but don’t you think you crossed the line by publicly taunting his appearance, and especially pointing out a physical birth defect he has no control over?

        • PS> The term hare lip is an unacceptable and offensive term that describes a cleft lip; when the tissues of the lip and/or palate of the fetus do not fuse correctly early in the pregnancy.

          • In the UK it is called a hare lip. The palate is cleft, not the lip. I do agree that it has nothing to do with the subject at hand though.

            • I’m sorry to belabor the point, Margaret. But the term harelip is no longer acceptable in any country. Some may still use it, as they may still use terms like club foot, mongoloid, etc.. but just because they use these unacceptable terms doesn’t make it any less offensive. It just means they are unaware it is not acceptable. (or they don’t care)

              The correct term is once again called a cleft lip. Yes, there is also a cleft palate too. I worked with many children in Asia who lost their birth families forever after being abandoned due to being born with a cleft lip and/or cleft palate. It’s a very sensitive subject to many around the world.

              • I won’t argue the point. I am no longer an old age pensioner, it seems, but a senior citizen. Or has that changed while I wasn’t looking? Mongoloid is certainly not a term I would ever use but then I have a son who has learning difficulties (which is the polite way of putting it nowadays). He went to two special schools: One had written on the signpost ‘school for the educationally subnormal’ (shock, horror), the other ‘school for the mentally handicapped’. What is club foot nowadays then? He had one of those as well. I really can’t keep up.

                Anyway, the mention of the man’s lip is really not relevant to the discussion and should never have been mentioned. Would the poster have pointed it out had the man been blind, or wheelchair bound? (blind isn’t politically incorrect, is it? Shouldn’t be ‘sight challenged’ or some such, should it?)

                Is it all right to refer to his total lack of knowledge about self publishing? Or is there a special pc word for that, too?

        • Presentation counts as much as — or even more than — content. If you want to make a persuasive video, it needs to be professional quality. If it looks badly amateurish, credibility goes out the window. And people won’t watch it past the point they realize it’s so poorly done.

          An analogy to books is one that’s professionally edited, laid out, printed on excellent acid-free stock, and beautifully bound with an enticing cover. Versus something unedited, with typos and grammar mistakes, printed with smeared ink on cheap newspaper stock, and staple-bound with a crappy cover.

          BTW, the second paragraph, above, is good advice for a self-publisher. 🙂

          • To continue the analogy to books, this sounded to me like one run-on sentence from heck (which I’m guilty of at times) with no chapter breaks, I had to go back more than once to find where he’d supposedly switched to his next point. (I think he feared giving people too much time to think about what he was saying.)

      • If he had hired a scriptwriter, he might have made more sense without so many repetitions and errs and umms. If he had hired an experienced independent author, he might have some inkling of what he is trying to talk about. £2000? You’re having a laugh, mate. So far it hasn’t cost me a penny to publish 20 reasonably successful books. People who don’t know what they are talking about should keep their mouths firmly shut and their inane thoughts to themselves.

        He is quaking in his boots because he can see that authors no longer need him.

  11. I can’t believe none of my favorite snarky people touched on the fact that he’s got the same last name as James Bond’s arch-enemy!

  12. That was entertaining. I’m curious to know the agent’s name–not, of course, so I can go tell him where he’s getting it wrong, but just curious. The best response to this kind of silliness is to keep writing great, professionally packaged books and ignore the naysayers.

    • Easy enough to check the YouTube channel, leading to:

      “Piers Blofeld is an agent at Sheil Land”

      • Thanks, Robert! I was on mobile when I posted that and being a bit lazy, to be sure.

  13. Jacket design, copy editing, proof reading, typesetting, blurbs cost money. . . .

    It should be the big corporations that pay the money, not the individual authors . . .

    The reason these services are expensive is because they’re complicated.

    . . . Yeah, he said that. (about a minute into the video)

    I’ve seen indies catch flak for spending time with marketing and promotion instead of writing. Shouldn’t this fellow be reading manuscripts instead of creating marketing videos.

    • Shouldn’t he be using a video services company for his videos? After all, it’s so complicated – grips, dolly, electrics, best boys, second best boys, Best Western, restraining orders…
      Shouldn’t he be agenting?
      Frankly, he should disclaim the conflict of interest. As an agent, he stands to gain from those who take the same ‘focus on what you do’ advice that he ignores by self publishing his videos.

    • Felix J. Torres

      Maybe he is making marketing videos because he doesn’t have manuscripts to read?

    • The weird thing is… traditionally published authors have to do almost all their own marketing also. UNLESS they are already a “big name” or at the front of the list for that season, they are getting NO outside marketing help so the book is going to sink or swim based on luck or the author’s marketing. And exactly why is the publisher taking over the rights for so long… giving crappy contract terms like non-compete clauses so egregious you can’t write anything without their permission practically… and why are they taking SO MUCH of your money for such shoddy services?

      ANY business will tell you it’s smarter to pay for services in a business up front for a flat fee rather than giving people who do work for you a percentage for the life of the product. What this guy is teaching is BAD business. He thinks authors will listen because most are so bad at business. Or have been traditionally.

  14. He says it takes time away from writing.

    Yep, it does. And yet I’ve managed to publish eight novels in four years.

    He says authors usually aren’t good at all the other tasks of self-publishing.

    You know what I’m REALLY not good at? Begging agents and editors to pay attention to me. Also I’m not good at signing bad contracts that restrict what else I can write.

  15. Wow, trying to talk to people is one of the things this guy should hire a stunt double for …

    1 Expensive? Seems he thinks vanity press is the same as self-pub, very long long rant …

    2 Far too complicated he thinks vs having to find an agent and then find a publisher.

    3 You just shouldn’t self do? ‘Just like doctors shouldn’t self medicate?’

    4 Wait a long time for it? Vanity press again — though trad-pub will make you wait even longer.

    5 Disappointment? Bars too high? And he seems to think you should accept that getting rejected by trad-pub means to should try again and write a better book.

    6 it’s a shortcut?

    7 stops writers from writing?

    1 It can cost as little or as much as you want it to. That’s the wonder of self publishing.

    2 It’s only as complicated as you make it. All the things trad-pub does you can farm out to others if you don’t want to do it yourself — and you’re still in control, yours is the final say in if something is good enough or needs to be done over.

    3 How knows better than the writer what the book should be and how it should be presented?

    4 Publish when you think it’s ready, not on trad-pub’s schedule …

    5 We’ve all heard the stories of great books first being rejected countless times. Trad-pub can’t tell a good book from a bad — never has, never will. The readers will sample your wares, and will tell their friends what they liked/loved/hated — not the ‘bestseller’s list’ in the NYTs …

    6 Self publishing bypasses all those gatekeepers that don’t know a good read from a bad — and it doesn’t take months or years of rejection slips for the readers to get a look at what you’ve got to offer them.

    7 This guy seems to think a writer should be a nice little sheep and sign up an agent to do all their thinking for them. A writer trying to keep abreast of what is going on with their book in the hands of a third party must be wasting more time than one that knows where it is because they are handling it themselves …

    8 Control. The one thing he wouldn’t want to mention in this little recording. If after all the rejections you manage to get a contract with a trad-pub, you’ll find you’ve handed over all the rights to your story for very little in return — in fact, depending on how the non-compete clause is written you may not be able to use anything in that story in another without your trad-pub’s permission. Let’s also not forget that for mid-listers and below the trad-pubs don’t waste time/money on ads, and they’ve been marking up ebooks in the ‘to high to by’ ranges.

    Where as the end of the day the self-pub writers still owns the rights to their story. They pick their own editors and cover art, they set their own prices and don’t have to pay agents and publishers their ‘cut’. They decide where/how they will offer it to readers. And the best part? The self-pub writer can change their mind and raise/lower the price, change the cover, rewrite the whole dang thing if they feel the need. That trad-pub’ed writer doesn’t have any of that because they gave their rights away …

  16. He didn’t mention some of the costs of going the trad route. IP lawyers aren’t cheap, but you need one if you don’t want a horribly one-sided contract. At least you pay them once and it’s done. It’s not like they come calling for their share if you decide to self pub a novel on the side.

  17. Barbara Morgenroth

    A great many people should just keep quiet for a while. They can talk amongst themselves, of course, but pulling down their pants and mooning the rest of us is not winning us over to their side.

    • I read that wrong initially and thought for some reason you thought WE should be quiet… then I realized you were NOT saying we should be winning them to our side but they should be winning us. sometimes I really do forget how dramatically the power balance has shifted in such a short window of time.

  18. The recent Authors Earning Report is sufficient rebuttal.

  19. Never trust anyone with the same name as a James Bond villain.


  20. “Writers should be writing….”, i.e. not be distracted on unnecessary things, such as:

    – learning how to make an elevator pitch (to agents or editors)
    – learning how to make a medium length pitch (–do–)
    – learning how to do well at a conference interview with an agent
    – attending conferences for the purpose of pitching a project to agents or editors
    – researching agents and agencies
    – researching editors and publishers
    – engaging with agents or editors on social media and blogs so that, once you get to meet them at a conference, they might recognize your name
    – reviewing your agent contract
    – reviewing your publisher contract
    – engaging with six different departments at the publisher
    – getting to know a new agent/editor when the one(s) you had move on to new opportunities
    – trying to understand your semi-annual royalty statement
    – etc.

    Give me a break. The non-writing time commitment to try to become published with a trade publisher, large or small, exceeds the time required to learn to self-publish.

    • The non-writing time commitment to try to become published with a trade publisher, large or small, exceeds the time required to learn to self-publish.

      ^This. Totally.

    • Yes! I keep telling people that.

    • +1000.

      One of the reasons I chose to self publish was because the time spent on all the items you listed above was so unproductive–and much of it to stroke egos made large by an unbalances system. I looked at the hours I spent on a single query and thought “I don’t have time for this cr@p.”

      I think this agent could have cut the video’s time down to 3 seconds with one statement: #1 reason why you shouldn’t self-publish–I don’t get a cut.

    • I’d forgotten about so much of this list! That’s so true. And one of the main reasons I self pubbed was that I didn’t want to waste 90% of my time groveling and begging. It just appeared unseemly to me.

    • When I was querying my first novel, I wasted way too much time trying to follow all the different query guidelines various agents required. They wanted perfectly formatted sample chapters, but you couldn’t attach a file so the formatting would look good. No–you had to copy/paste it into the body of an email. I imagine there are some magical formatting tricks that I don’t know, but I can’t tell you how many times I did that and then looked at my ‘sent’ email, only to discover none of my formatting attempts ‘took’. I can only wonder how many of my queries were simply deleted without ever being read simply because my formatting was wonky.

      This doesn’t even include the time spent on places like QueryTracker and AgentQuery (thnk that’s the name–been so long! lol) looking for the next agent to query. And then there was getting the query critiqued at places like AbsoluteWrite or the forum at QueryTracker. Just nuts. I even bought a book on how to write queries.

      So much time wasted.

      • Oh I remember that routine when I sold my first book. Each agent had their particular format, and you had to visit each site and reconfigure your email to match.

        They did fall into patterns, so it was easy to repurpose as needed: short pitch, synopsis, pitch plus first chapter, etc.

        I think in the end, the time getting an agent and dealing with a publisher was about the same as the time to actually publish a book. I would have gone through the editing, rewriting, and proofing process no matter what, and I would still have to set up the web site, blog, and do promotion. The only difference is that I got a higher advance from publishing, but I could control my book from beginning to end in self-publishing.

        • Also with self pub it doesn’t take 2 years to get a book to market. And you can publish several books in a year no problem. And you don’t have to wait for numbers to come back to see if your contract is getting renewed. etc. etc.

  21. How many writers quit due to numerous rejections. That self-published book might just inspired them to keep writing the next one. And the next.

    • Exactly. For a writer, having ANY readership is better than having NO readership.And you can’t start building a large readership until you have a small readership. It’s just basic math and common sense.

  22. He means well. But let’s face it. Most indies are making money with niche publishing.These are the genres that big publishers don’t want anything to do with. As there’s not enough profit to cover all the overhead. But for a small one-man or one-woman self-publisher, they are gold. Markets like Urban Fantasy, Erotica, and sub-genres of Romance aren’t worth it to any of the big six. But they’ve made quite a few indies able to support themselves full time. So why would an author in those fields knock at doors where they are not wanted? It’s two totally different worlds really.

  23. He’s deluded (and worried). But he’s rather sweet, really, and he seemed to believe what he was saying, so I’ll forgive him. He knows not what he does…

    But I do. I’ve been published by trads and I’ve self-published, and I know which I prefer. So I’ll carry on self-pubbing, thanks very much!

  24. Poor little mite. So confused! He needs a cookie and a nap…

  25. Makes me wonder if the quality/quantity of what he’s getting, in terms of submissions, is going down. People on writing blogs have been wondering when this is going to happen for some time, with so many people self-publishing.

  26. I disagree with many of the things he says, but I like to listen to him. He sounds like Hugh Grant.

  27. What he’s really saying: “I’m becoming irrelevant. Please please please validate me and my relevance in this new world of publishing.”

    It sounds like a late night infomercial. And you know once something has gone to late night infomercial, all credibility has been lost.

    It’s also quite paternalistic “Isn’t writing what you should be doing?” It sounds sort of like: “Little lady, you have such a fragile constitution you shouldn’t be doing anything but cleaning the house and popping out babies. Let the men handle all this hard stuff!”

    UGH. Really? We’re going to do this in publishing also?

    Also, why does this guy think we CARE about “impressing a publisher?” We are interested in IMPRESSING A READER.

    And look, I’m making a living at this. I would NOT be making a living in traditional publishing. Trad publishing is the new vanity publishing.

    Yes… novels have to be “fantastically good” to be published… That’s why EL James was a success. And why we have books on shelves by Snooki. o.O

    Self-publishing doesn’t stop writers from writing… it gives writers PURPOSE for writing because we know that when we write something… it WILL reach our audience.

  28. The 80’s called. They want their video back.

  29. Poor dear.

    Though I must say I’m mildly irritated that he thinks writers can’t juggle more than one skill set. I became an artist to support my writing. I’m headed into game development (and have to learn all sorts of new skills!) so that I can tell other sorts of stories.

    How come celebrities can be “triple threats” but writers must only know how to write or else they must not be very good at it?

    • “I became an artist to support my writing.”

      And here I can’t do stick figures …

      But there’s even an app — or at least a program for that (with lots of free stuff online.)


      Like giving a kid a doll house, action figures and a camera and telling them to have fun (now if I only hand the skills of a kid … 😉 )

    • I, too, found that quite offensive. In addition to writing and self publishing, I dance and am learning fine art (drawing and painting.) Miraculously I am able to juggle all these skill sets. o.O

      It makes me wonder what he thinks of full time college students, juggling like 4 or 5 whole and DIFFERENT classes per semester, plus studying and homework/projects, PLUS a social life on campus, and MAYBE even a part time job!

      It’s almost as if most human beings are capable of more than just one tiny narrow little thing.

      If that’s what he thinks about writers and their abilities outside of merely being “the talent”, then maybe he should go ahead and exit this business with at least a tiny shred of his dignity.

      • Yes. I take the photographs to make my covers… At least some of them. I edit and format myself. I do all the social networking involved in being a visible author. I sing opera and jazz on the side. I’m a mother and a wife, just in case thatcounts. Oh, and I’m a lawyer too…

  30. Fundamentally terrible advice. Like telling photographers in the 1990’s that they should avoid digital at all cost and continue to shoot exclusively on film. Writers who don’t self-publish at least part of their work are simply shooting themselves in the foot long term.

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