Rob W Hart recently wrote this article for Salon in which he calls self-publishing “a cult”. He claims to have “happily” self-published a novella while trying to traditionally-publish his novel. I would venture his “happiness” with self-publishing stems from the likelihood that the legacy publishers steadfastly refused to publish his novella due to its short word count. Meanwhile, his novel — or, as I distinctly gleaned from the article, his “real” writing — is seeking an agent and ultimately, a traditional publisher.

Salon, by the way of perspective, is not exactly wrapped in tradition itself. Included in this particular issue were articles such as “I Was A Liberal Mole At Fox News” and “Sex In A Hospital Bed”. And these articles are in the “news” section. So you kind of get the idea of where their heads are at.

Meanwhile, Rob says: I know self-publishing offers the best royalty rates, but if you got into this game with the sole intent to make money, you got into the wrong business.

To which I reply: If you got into the trad-publishing game with the sole intent to make money, Rob, you got into the wrong business. Even if you got into it for the “cachet” (your word) of being “in bookstores” (your words), you got into the wrong business, since you have less than a 1% chance of succeeding. And if you do succeed, it will far more likely be the result of insider contacts than a cold, dispassionate decision by an editor that your book was worthy of admission through the pearly gates. Even then, you will probably never earn back your advance, small though it certainly will be, since your book will wither on Barnes & Noble shelves. spine outward, until it gets returned and ground into pulp. And even if your publisher goes out of business, which looks likelier for a lot of them with each passing day, you never get your rights back.

However, your chance of making money as a self-published writer is far greater than <1%. I’m certainly not making a living at it, since my books are fairly well-buried in the Amazon rankings, but the money I do make is a lot more than most of my trad-pubbed colleagues, who toil away on a midlist somewhere, receiving indecipherable royalty statements every six months (for a period often one year earlier). These statements never show any money earned beyond their advance, while they sweat out their next deadline, wondering if the publisher will drop them from the “family”.

Rob, you’re not a “heathen”, as you say your friends are calling you. Far from it. But you are still laboring under the myth that being traditionally-published is somehow a real badge of acceptance which is utterly unattainable in the world of self-publishing. It sounds as if you still believe the “gatekeepers”, as they so loftily refer to themselves, are primarily concerned with only allowing the best of the best to slip through the door into their world of eternal sunshine. Kind of like being upgraded from coach, solely on the basis of your ability, to the hidden, curtained world of first class.

Well, all I can say is, go for it. A few years from now, when your novel makes its brief appearance, you’ll be struck by the reality of it all.

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  1. My first traditionally published book will come out next spring. I’m jazzed about it, and grateful to Stark House for the opportunity, but it doesn’t change my opinions on publishing in general. The book will do well, or it won’t. My next book well sell to a publisher, or I’ll bring it out myself. It would be nice for my parents to see a book with my name on the cover in a bookstore, and the launch party will be fun with my friends. Maybe it will lead to something else. Or not. The reason I write, and the expectations I place on my writing, will not change. I like to do it, and I have it on good authority there are people who like to read it. Anyone who gets into it for any other reason is setting themselves up for disappointment.

    I think the best a fledgling author can do is to see how things shake out and react accordingly. As you have done, Mike, and I’m happy to see it’s working out well for you. It’s well deserved.

  2. Excellent post, Mike. As you know, self-publishing has worked out very well for me: My self-published debut thriller, HUNTER, went to #4 on the Kindle bestseller list, hit the Wall Street Journal “Top 10 Fiction Ebook” list, and sold over 50,000 copies in 35 days. The experience of self-publishing has completely changed my life and given me a new career…after age 60!

    As for Mr. Hart’s column, it’s perfectly obvious why he has sold only 200 copies of his novella. I present my own response to him here.

    Keep on plugging, Mike. You’re doing all the right things, and it will be only a matter of time till your sales take off big-time.

  3. Dana–Congrats on your Stark House deal. From everything I can tell, they’re a great outfit. I have a few of their books myself. You couldn’t ask for much better.

    Robert–Thanks for the good words. You’re certainly one of the leading candidates for self-publishing poster boy. Your story is something to which we all aspire.

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