why I refuse to self-publish

A lot of people often ask me about my writing, and in particular about how I’m trying to get published. There are a lot of resources out there for writers in my position, and I’ve probably read more than enough. Still, the journey to publication can, at times, be a frustrating one. It can also be killer on your self-confidence.

I think the most important thing to understand about me is that I am not interested in self-publishing. I don’t think there will ever be a time in my life when I’m willing to pay someone else to bind up my book and give it an ISBN. As a bookseller at a major chain, I feel bad when I have to tell some self-published author that it’s just not possible that we carry his book in the store. There are proper channels to go through, and keeping print-on-demand self-published titles in stock at our store at the request of an author just isn’t going to happen. I feel bad for these authors and I already know I will not be one.

Self-publishing probably works for some people, especially those who want their writing in book and bound form to give to parents, family, and friends. But I don’t think anyone who is yearning to walk through Barnes & Noble and see your book on the shelf alongside JK Rowling or Rick Riordan (my last name begins with an R, by the way) would truly consider self-publishing.

For one, most self-publishing companies will print anyone. I am the type of writer who wants to be the best I can be. If I can’t get published by a respectable publishing house because my writing isn’t good enough, then I don’t want to be published at all.

Two, being a writer is a job. Sure, it isn’t the highest paying job in the world (unless you’re JK Rowling or Stephen King), but it’s a job. Someone should pay you to do your job. Therefore, you should get paid, something, to publish a novel. You should not pay to do so.

And third, going through the proper channels — getting an agent who pitches and sells your novel to a publishing house, having an editor from that house work with you in the revision process, having the publishing house form a marketing and promotion campaign — that’s the way to ensure that your books end up in Barnes and Noble.

I mentioned above, briefly, that B&N doesn’t carry self-published titles. That isn’t to say we can’t order one for you, but I guarantee it’ll be a pre-paid title because it’s print-on-demand. But it’s very unlikely that your neighborhood store will be willing to carry multiple copies of a self-published title. Now, B&N corporate has a small press department, and that department deals with titles published by small presses and that, I believe, are self-published. However, that department acts just like an agent / editor / publishing house. People there will read your book and judge it and decide whether or not it’s something that should be carried in a mainstream bookstore.

I think a lot of people who self-publish do so for one of two reasons. One, they don’t like the judgment that comes from other people reading your work and saying yes or no. (Heck, I hate rejection like everyone else does, but I deal with it!) Or two, they think they’re the best writer ever and everyone else who says no is just wrong and doesn’t know what they’re doing. Both thought processes probably mean you shouldn’t be writing in the first place. Or, maybe you SHOULD be writing, and self-publishing is the only way to go. Just don’t walk into a bookstore with the determined expectation that your book should be on the shelves. And please, don’t rant and yell at a bookseller just because the store won’t carry your book. Booksellers are people, too. Have a little respect, please.

As I’ve said, self-publishing isn’t for me. I know a lot of people who will argue that it works. For example, the mega-hit book The Shack was originally a self-published title. I’m sure there are many others. However, I am vehemently against self-publishing. (If you couldn’t figure that out yet, what were you reading?)

This is what I think: If I’m going to do this, I’m going to do this right. And if I’m not good enough, well, then eventually that’ll sink in and I’ll give up. But I’m definitely nowhere near the ‘giving up’ stage in my career yet. I’ve just begun.

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