Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Yes, You SHOULD Self-Publish

In a recent blog post, author Robert Sawyer advises everyone not to self-publish, because he says it's impossible to be successful at it.

He then cross-posts Kirstin Morrell's definition of success:

Now, let's define success. To me, it would be someone who makes a full-time living from writing SF novels, novellas, and/or short stories, without living below the poverty line. That's success as I would define it. And I don't know one SF author who self-publishes who would meet my criteria for success.

I really don't see how this can possibly be an appropriate definition, for two reasons.

First, according to this definition every author everywhere who has a day job is a failure. Poof! There went basically the entire literary fiction genre. Every last one of those people has a day job. Failures all?

Second, the standard of comparison being employed is absurd. To judge whether or not a self-publishing venture is a success, all you have to do is compare your outcome to your likely outcome if you had continued to pursue traditional publishing. Since the overwhelming majority - maybe 99.99% - of people who pursue traditional publishing will never get an agent, never get published, and never sell a single book, any of those people who pursue self-publishing and sell even one copy or net even one dollar made the right decision.

When someone asks, "Should I self-publish?" it's really silly to answer them, "No, because if you self-publish, you won't be as successful as Dean Koontz." The only method of analysis that makes any sense whatsoever is to say, "Ask yourself if you will sell more books, get more readers, and make more money by self-publishing or by traditional publishing."

I would tell everyone considering writing to self-publish. If you don't buy scratch tickets, self-publish. If you don't expect to win the Lotto, self-publish. If you pursue traditional publishing, the odds are overwhelming that you will never sell one single book. If you self-publish using CreateSpace and the Amazon Kindle Store, you at least have a chance to make some sales and get some readers. For every 1000 of you out there who decide you want to write query letters and keep your fingers crossed for a traditional publisher instead, 999 of you will utterly fail and never sell a single book to anyone.


  1. Today, Thomas Brookside wrote, "For every 1000 of you out there who decide you want to write query letters and keep your fingers crossed for a traditional publisher instead, 999 of you will utterly fail and never sell a single book to anyone."

    On January 15, speaking of his own forary into self-publishing, Thomas Brookside wrote, "On the paperback side, however, sales have generally been just a trickle, and it has not been uncommon for it to go two or three days between sales. This means its sales rank can never go higher than 100,000 or so, and right now it's floundering in the 700,000 range."

  2. Mr. Sawyer's comments were in response to a question about print publishing, so your own stats, Mr. Brookside, about your "floundering" attempt at print self-publishing which has produced "just a trickle" of sales, and "days between sales" hardly seem to refute him. You seem to argue for giving up even trying the traditional route, which clearly has much bigger potential gains. Rationalize much?

  3. 87.93% of statistics are made up on the spot.

    And of course your mother will buy your book. That doesn't make success.

    I carefully qualified my argument with the phrases "To me" and "That's success as I would define it." Then you decided to throw a little party with my name without even having the courtesy to invite me.

    So the question is, then, would you like to have a discussion of this topic, or was this a private party I interrupted, only to find a straw man dressed up to look like me?

  4. TB,

    I am with you on this. Curious as to your advertising channels. I am publishing with the same printers/providers as you, just starting out.

    Will follow up with email.

    Looks like your anon commentors just don't like to respond to what is written.

  5. Hello,

    I came across your blog today and I just wanted to say if it is okay if I can link some of your blog posts to a post I am planning on my blog, if I do mention you, I give full credit, put your link on my blogroll and I will direct people to where they can buy your book.

    I am the post I am planning is about publishing (e-publishing, indie) and the beginning of my journey with it and because you have written I couple interesting blog posts I would like to direct others to your blog.

    Take Care,


  6. Catherine,

    Certainly, that would be fine. I'd be delighted.