If I were an unpublished author, would I self-publish?

I’ve done several conferences this year and noticed a distinct change in the air regarding publishing.  Agents and editors seem more subdued, no longer swaggering around as if they held the keys to the kingdom.  Because they don’t.  Traditional publishing held the keys in terms of distributions for many decades.  They no longer do.  I am currently selling more copies of my Area 51 series in a day than Random House did in six months.  I have two titles in the top 10 on Amazon science fiction and one in top ten in men’s adventure.

At these conferences, I’m invariably asked by writers whether they should self-publish rather than seek traditional publishing.  I’ve thought a long time about this, putting myself in that position, but using my 20 years of experience in traditional publishing and 2 years in indie publishing and having been successful in both.

My answer:  No.  I wouldn’t self-publish my first manuscript. I’d be querying the traditional publishing route (primarily agents) while focusing on writing my second manuscript.  Then when I finished that, would I self-publish if I hadn’t gotten an agent?

No.  I’d still keep querying, getting feedback from beta readers, and be writing my third manuscript.  Also, I’d have the three books be part of a series in terms of theme and content.  Same characters, setting, whatever, but they should essentially be the same genre.  When I finished that third book would I self-publish?

Yes.  If I had gotten positive feedback from agents (but no sale) and beta readers and made the corrections.  I’d put all three titles up.  Then spend 50% of my time promoting while writing my fourth book.

The problem right now is too many writers are putting their first manuscript up and spending 75% of their time trying to promote as they try to write their second book.  The focus isn’t on the writing, it’s on the selling.  And sales are going to be terrible.  I’m selling 1,100 ebooks a day and honestly, most new writers, with no backlist, would be very happy to sell that in a year (ask my business partner her numbers with an ePublisher for a year and she’d tell you the same thing).  I didn’t sell my first manuscript.  I was on manuscript #3 before I got an agent and rewrote the book based on his comments, and then sold it.  And now, as I go through my early books as we upload them, I cringe sometimes at the writing.  (They’re great books, buy them, yes, right now)  I’ve learned so much over the 20 years I’ve been writing full time.  More in the past two years than the first 18.  I can see where I had point of view problems.  Sentence structure problems.  Character development.

The more I think about it, the more I feel for a new writer with no backlist, the most important thing to do is write three manuscripts first, before investing heavily in promotion.  The investment is time.  That is our most valuable resource.  It needs to be spent on learning the craft of writing.

I posted recently about Indie vs Trads. There is this argument on the Trads side that indies haven’t paid their dues. But what are the dues? There is no author training like having to go to medical school to be a doctor or the training I went through to become a Green Beret. Author training is two-fold. First, the writing. Second, the publishing.

The best promotion is a good book; even better promotion are good books.

About Bob Mayer

Bob Mayer is a NY Times Bestselling author, graduate of West Point, former Green Beret (including commanding an A-Team) and the feeder of two Yellow Labs, most famously Cool Gus. He's had over 60 books published including the #1 series Area 51, Atlantis and The Green Berets. Born in the Bronx, having traveled the world (usually not tourist spots), he now lives peacefully with his wife, and said labs, at Write on the River, TN.

Posted on June 20, 2011, in Publishing Options and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 66 Comments.

  1. I have to agree with you here, Bob. Practice is key. Being able to complete a book is a big deal. A bigger deal than I think many people realize. Even after all the books I’ve written sometimes it can still be a challenge to get to the end and be happy with the product. It’s a lot of work. And if you’re impatient to become a success you’re likely going to fail.

    Finish multiple books. Put in the time. Get as much feedback as possible. Show the publishing world that you’ve got the chops to finish a book, submit a book, sell a book, and then take all the feedback you get from editors, agents, and readers and make your next book better. Wash, rinse, repeat.

  2. Great advice for exactly the thing I was wondering about. Thank you.

  3. Excellent advice Bob! Thanks for sharing your wealth of knowledge with those of us who are still at the beginning of the path.

  4. Jenni Holbrook-Talty

    There is a big difference between slapping a book up there for sale that isn’t ready and putting a quality book up for sale. Who gets to make that judgment? The reader does.

    All books need to be edited. It’s just that simple. All writers need to grow and develop and even authors with careers like Bob can become even better writers.

    I’ve stepped away from the craft for the last year or so because I’ve been building a business that for me has changed the way I think about publishing, and frankly, it was a smart thing to do. I know that by stepping away from my writing, I will have to fumble my way to good writing again when I start this next project. It will take time. I will need beta readers and the help of a good mentor and the advice of my agent.

    I think the best we can do is keep learning.

    • Good thinking, Jenni.

      As a reader, I hate to see an author take a writing hiatus, but the work you have been doing is so important to all of us–readers and writers–that I’m glad you took the steps you did. You guys are cutting paths and charting obstacles for all of us. Thanks.

  5. Really love the idea of waiting until you have a decent back catalog before self-publishing. It would make the self-publishing/marketing process that much easier if you had multiple related products, to use the business analogy.

  6. Thanks for the blog. This is a question I have been pondering and you have given me some direction and more to consider. When we get to the time to self-publilsh, is the promotion work done mostly on-line through blogs, facebook and twitter? Thanks.

  7. Great perspective, Bob!
    There’s such a push for EVERYONE to self-publish and as a new, unpublished author, I feel so bombarded. I’m a mom with two young boys, a full-time job, and I have a hard enough time (Like every other writer out there) finding time to write, let alone market, post on the blog, create a league of followers, and all the other jazz that’s require to really MAKE it as a self-pubbed (or traditional, for that matter) author.

    If I’m not confident about my writing ability – and I’m not – some days it’s so overwhelming I’m tempted to bag it. I feel like if I can do just what you outline here – spend time on my craft, write the three books of this series I have sketched – and have GREAT products to put out there – I’m better poised to build a business.

    You’re awesome – thanks for looking out for all us newbies.

  8. I echo the others who say thank you. I can see it from the perspective of my e-reader, and the laziness when I want to grab a good book. I’ll go for the author’s I recognize.

  9. Bob, your emphasis on craft is so refreshing. A good book comes first. With all the mania about publishing, that’s easy to forget.


  10. Jen, you just have to keep pushing. The writing will get you there. A little bit every adds up.

  11. What about people with a Masters in creative writing? Should they write three manuscripts and query agents as well?

  12. Thanks for the post Bob.
    I’m stuck with the third manuscript….while the other two on submission get comments like this. It’s a great book but we have trimmed our fiction list or cut back or are really squeezed but it’s a great book and should be published sorry sorry sorry….Am wondering if it is the power of three….

  13. You make some good points, Bob, but Vicki Lieske might not agree. (She might. I can’t speak for her but she has sure done well as a previously unpublished author)

    Which side is right for new writers? Maybe both. Maybe it depends on how good the writer apubd and what their own goals are. I don’t think you can make a rule that writers have to start out by pitching their work to agents and publishers for years in order to get good enough.

    For one thing, it will take them years to get back the rights to that novel and they will need to spend JUST as much time in promotion for a trad published novel as for a self-published one.

    I sold my first novel to a small publisher and my second and, come to think of it, my third. Yeah, one gets better, but that doesn’t mean the first ones aren’t good enough to be enjoyable. Frankly, I think if you’re ever going to be good you start out that way. You improve but I’m of the “writers start out able to write” school of thought.

    So… If someone wants to go that route, sure they should. If they want to go straight to self-publishing with the awareness that it is going to be tough, sure why not?

    We now have that valuable thing called CHOICE.

  14. There are no rules, except the three rules of rule-breaking:
    1. Know the rule
    2. Have a good reason for breaking the rule
    3. Accept responsibility for breaking the rule

    If you succeed, great. If you fail, reload and start again.

    Certainly there are writers who’ve self-published their first book and are successful. And there are writers who’ve written 40 manuscripts and never will sell many.

    As far as the MFA– there are some great MFA programs out there, but most seem geared to teaching someone how to become a teacher in an MFA program. I’ve had over 50 books published, hit all the bestseller lists, yet very few MFA programs would even consider me as a teacher since I don’t have that piece of paper they propagate.

    Everyone’s situation is different and I’m just making a suggestion.

    • I’m just playing devil’s advocate because I agree more than I disagree, Bob. I agree completely on your rules about rules. :-)

      Which ever route one chooses, in publishing it serves one well to learn something about it before jumping in and that includes going trad. I didn’t and paid for my early mistakes.

  15. Fantastic post with several great points! The craft and writing ability have to be there. Thanks for sharing!

  16. Great post. Just when I thought I knew which direction to go in, I have to pause and re-think. Of course some of us are a little longer in the tooth than others and that may also contribute to impatience with the traditional structure. Ahhh, if only I knew then what I know now–sounds like a time travel plot.

  17. Excellent advice! And it’s wonderful to see how well your books are selling.

    I wrote three novels that were basically my practice novels, and I’ll never try to publish those. *Embarrassment. Shudder. I’ve learned a lot since then.* I then wrote three novels in a series that were published by indie press. Those went on to receive wonderful reviews, including one for the first book in the series from Piers Anthony. I had so much fun promoting and selling those books, hearing from libraries that had ordered them and from adults who knew children writing book reports about them. What a wild ride! Then, when eBooks became so popular, expensive indie books were no longer selling so well, I got my rights back and self-published these three books and some short stories for 99 cents each on Kindle.

    Now another new market has opened up for indie presses – movies! The Executive Director for THE LORD OF THE RINGS movies is working with my indie publisher to secure books for movies and TV shows. I still have quite a few short stories with this indie publisher and am thrilled to be considered for this opportunity.

    In the meantime, I’m on my third rewrite of a science fiction novel about time travel and alien invasion. I’m so excited about this one, I’m definitely planning to publish it, whether that ends up involving the traditional, indie or self-published route.

  18. Bob, good stuff as always. I am really impressed with the number of new publishers like you’re doing out there now. I was just trolling around and shocked at how many existed.

    Here’s a question: do you think the new publishers like yourself are more of a editor/copyeditor house than a publishing house? It almost seems to me that anyone could, themselves, publish a book on Pubit, Amazon, Smashwords, etc, but the book is probably not professionaly edited for content and story. So the publishing companies that are now on the wild west of the new frontier are there to ensure the books people read are of a certain caliber and actually edited.

    Once again back to my “gate keepers” subject. :-)

  19. Thank you for an excellent piece. My first book was written on commission so I didnt need to worry about finding a publisher. But now Im grappling with exactly these questions: should I selfpub, how many rejections should i wait for before i put it out there myself? When is the right time to take that leap? I appreciate so much – experienced and successful writers like yourself, sharing your writing and publishing expertise. Thank you.

    • @Lani

      If I may be so bold as to answer your questions, there’s two things you need to look at:
      (1) How confident are you in your writing?
      (2) Are you ready to own and run your own busness?

      If you can’t answer ‘Very!’ and ‘Hell,yes!’, then take your time. Learn your craft and learn the business. There’s no clock ticking contrary to the impression some people are putting into the universe. People will always want stories. Trust your own instincts.

  20. Always worth the trip to your blog, Bob. Thanks.

  21. @Suzan Harden – Thank you for two excellent questions! I have been running my own business for over 10 years ( together with my spouse) so I can confidently say Hell yes to the second one. Thats not normally a question writers would consider, but as you point out, Im learning that this writing thing is more and more a business. And one needs to approach it as such.. As to the first one, I have my days when i can say VERY! and then days when a more subdued…”I guess so”. LOL. Having a published work out there that someone commissioned and then to have the Australian govt pay to print it – certainly helps with the confidence factor. I appreciate Mayer’s advice on writing more than one book before self publ though. I know that when i do put my next book out there – I want it to be the best that it can. And so lots of professional editing and etc will go into it.

  22. Good stuff here. Sound advice. Learning craft is essential.

  23. danniethewriter

    Great article, Bob. I agree with most of what you’ve said and that of many who have commended.

    There are writers out here who do what you suggest– write a number of manuscripts and then go in search of an agent and have a tough time of it. I’m a novelist and found out right away that pitches and queries are something I don’t have the flair for. I am learning and polishing my short game up, but at the same time I sat down and wondered if it is all worth the effort to chase, cajole, bow to and generally break my back so that I could have the priviledge of giving a lot of my royalities to someone who makes me jump through so many hoops.. The more I read the more it seemed that once a contract is gained you still have to do most of the leg-work.

    And beta-readers– do they fall off trees? I have plenty of friends but I want some quality readers who will give honest opinions. Love my friends, by the way. Where’s a good place to look for them?

    I do agree on the quality of the books that a writer must put out. If you don’t get your work edited– then don’t publish it. It hurts everyone– especially the readers!

    I love your blog and your books! You are one guy that will tell the truth, so please accept my words as those of an admirer. You do all writers a service by telling us like it is.


    • If I may…?

      I have EXCELLENT beta readers who started off as friends on Twitter. Writing friends, but friends nonetheless. I put out a call for betas when I completed my last book and 90% of them vanished into the ether. The most constructive feedback you’re going to get will be from other writers, because a/ they understand the need for it, and b/ they can phrase it in a helpful way which doesn’t make you feel like a hopeless writer (big consideration for me).

      And if it helps, I’m being childish about the query process and decided I’m just going to go ahead and self-publish. I think Bob’s right about having at least three books in hand before you take that leap, but I simply don’t have the patience to wait around for feedback from agents on two books. I will at least have another one completed soon after the first one is published. As Bob says, ‘take responsability for the consequences of breaking the rule’, so if my books bomb online, I’ll have no one to blame but myself. I actually prefer it that way :)

  24. Jenni Holbrook-Talty

    Lani–your questions and the answers Suzan and Dannie hit on a couple of things that we intend to talk about here in the upcoming weeks.

    Running your own business. As authors, that is what we do. If we are traditionally published often times we have an agent to help us. We have our publisher and editor. They are part of our team. When we self-publish it can be completely and totally up to us and that can be a daunting experience. Either way, we are running our own business. We make the decisions.

    Someone like Bob with extensive backlist can be confident in his writing. 45 something books? He’s managed a traditionally published career for quite sometime and has been very successful at it. Entering into self-publishing was not a decision he made lightly. I don’t want to speak for him, however as his business partner with Who Dares Wins Publishing it is safe to say that the process of getting from our start point to here has been a total team effort.

    Even with backlist, you don’t want to rush it. We still have 10 more books of his backlist to upload, 2 still without good covers (not for lack of trying on my part) but covers are a process all by themselves and in today’s market, cover is a huge marketing tool.

    Bob’s template is solid and make a lot of sense and when a writer finds its time to self-publish, the best thing they can do is find those authors who have done it, done it successfully and find out what they did (something Bob teaches in Warrior Writer).

  25. This is great advice for me right now. I’m working on my first novel. I absolutely agree that a novel must be polished and professional before it’s published (either self-pub or trad). I plan to polish this novel until it shines and seek lots of help in editing it. I’m also prepared to put it aside and work on the next one, bringing along everything I’ve learned so far.

    What causes me some anxiety with regards to traditional publishing….contracts, high ebook prices, lack of control. Etc. Reading Joe Konrath’s blog and a few others have begun to give me somewhat of an aversion to traditional publishing. If I were to land a book contract, would I really want it? I see other authors talking about punative clauses, low royalties, etc in traditional publisher contracts. And the release dates are so far out. Do the benefits outweigh the negatives?

    Will there be more small publishing companies that spring up to bridge the gap between self-pubbing and traditional publishing? Companies that serve the writer and the reader? I’m intrigued by Amazon’s new imprints (I think Barry Eisler went with their mystery imprint). It sounds like a combination of the benefits of both worlds. What’s your take on that?

  26. I listened to you speak at a workshop a number of years ago in Dallas and enjoyed it very much, Bob. Way back then, the epub sales weren’t anything like they are today. Though I’m traditionally published also, I’ve found new success in some of my self-published works, including a teen fantasy, The Dark Fae, that probably would never have been in the hands of readers if I hadn’t offered it for sale on my own. And of course I’m excited to be starting the next book in the series.

    It’s truly a revolution in the book industry, and I’m thrilled to be part of it! Thanks for your excellent advice! It’s right on!

  27. Talking with traditionally published authors over the years, I’ve learned that most of them have written between 5 and 6 completed manuscripts before selling one. I was probably somewhere in this camp. I think that traditional publishing is worth your while as an audience builder. More people still read books on paper than ebooks, though that is changing as more people go to the smart phones, etc. I haven’t seen too many here talk about hiring editors, though, to work with their self-published books. It costs money, even if you’re just paying a flat fee–around $4 per 1,000 words for copyediting is a common rate. If your book is 100,000 words, that’s $400 up front. More “editorial” type editing would cost more. But I think it’s worth saving up for. (She says as she procrastinates. I plan to self-publish some things, just haven’t gotten there yet.)

  28. I was very happy to see this post. I’d just about come to the same conclusion; but it’s easy to be swayed by all the Indie success stories. Thank you for sharing this

  29. Author Kristen Lamb

    I think it really has to do with the individual author and what they are writing about. Self-publishing and indie publishing is also a great way for a new author to demonstrate to NY that there is a market for her book. For instance, my book We Are Not Alone. The agents said they couldn’t sell it. Told me to self-publish. I indie pubbed through you guys (thank you), and have since signed with SGG Literary. It looks like NY will take me seriously about a book on social media….but only because I showed something of value.

    This tactic also works for fiction. H.P. Mallory sold 100, 000 books in six months. Susan Bischoff sold 50,000 in four months. The writing team Saffina Deforges and Mark Williams used WANA to build their platform and they sold 75,000 books in less than six months and NY called them. All of these examples are people who didn’t fit a clean genre niche, so no agent would sign them. But, they buckled down, worked hard and wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. They focused not only on writing great books, but also developed their platforms.

    Maybe call it the Hannibal Method–Either we will find a way or we will make one.

    H.P. Mallory just signed a sweet three-book deal with St. Martin’s Press. Bischoff so far is happy as an indie and Deforges-Williams are signing with one of the top agencies in NY. I have more examples, but it just shows that there are many different approaches but they all hinge on 1) great books 2) building a team of support 3) hard work 4) patience 5) persistence 6) endurance.

    I think indie publishing is another career path option. The strong books and authors will survive. Authors who build a team/network of support will survive and thrive. Those who try to spam others to buy a sub-par book will burn out and give up.

    I believe that all writers should start building that author platform early. It gives us more career options and more freedom to choose. It allows us to focus on the writing.

    …but I might be a tad partial ;).

    • @Kristen

      Your points about niche are exactly why I decided to self-publish. The comments agents and editors gave me for my last couple of books I shopped were along the lines of “Great writng. Great Voice. I don’t know how to sell this.”


      Don’t worry. The first X manscripts I wrote will stay under the bed.

      And yes, X means I’m too embarrassed to admit how many there are.

  30. This is great advice. I have nine books traditionally published, but I’m think of self-pubbing my other books that don’t fit the publishers “mold.”

  31. This morning I went to Amazon to purchase Jinxie G’s book, which she has up for sale at the $0.99 mark. While I was there, I poked around to see what was new in some series cozies that I read. Couple of new titles, so I clicked on them–paperbacks were $7.99. Kindle editions were also $7.99. I’ve decided, as much as I’d like to support these authors, to wait and buy these titles at the Half Price Book Store. Publishers think they can drive readers to buy paper books by overpricing Kindle books. They are wrong about that.

    You guys who self-publish have the keys to your careers in your own hands, and I say, Good for You!

  32. I agree with Bob’s assessment. New writers should write four novels or the equivalent number of short stories in their genre to help them learn the craft of writing. I’ve written, polished and published all of my starter novels. Last year I sold about 1,500 ebooks. Nothing spectacular, but not horrible either. Every year I publish a new novel and hopefully keep getting better at the craft. That’s the key: always striving to make yourself a better writer and do the work – write. Over time, your writing will improve and your audience will find you. This is a long distance race, not a sprint, as Konrath is fond of saying.

  33. A self-published book is better than a book in a drawer.

    Jon Olson
    The Petoskey Stone

  34. I think you’re spot on. I spent ten years in serious pursuit of publication – critique groups, beta readers, conferences, many rejections – before I signed with an agent. The agency was very excited about my book. It didn’t sell, and I am no longer agented. I published the book myself – it’s getting great reviews from book bloggers but sales are slow. I am using my “backlist” of other completed projects to query new agents while writing more in the series I self-published. It’s going to be slow, however, I’ve learned much along the way that will smooth the launch of subsequent books.

    But your advice is very sound. Having just one book out there makes you hard to find.

  35. Good points! While I agree that our writings should be of good caliber, we now had the option to publish our work at little to no cost of our own. That seems to be a threat to traditional publishing’s clout.

  36. Great post and certainly more than right about first works. I look at the early editions of my first couple manuscripts and I am so grateful that they were never published. They wouldn’t be what they are now if they had and that quality is like the darkside of the moon compared to being on the sun. High quality work and several novels are the key to progress not just one work that may or may not be up to par.

  37. Great post and certainly more than right about first works. I look at the early editions of my first couple manuscripts and I am so grateful that they were never published. They wouldn’t be what they are now if they had and that quality is like the darkside of the moon compared to being on the sun. High quality work and several novels are the key to progress not just one work that may or may not be up to par. I ponder at what

  38. I really like this advice. It’s helped crystallise some things I’ve been thinking about lately with regard to my own fiction manuscript. Thank you.

    Since the advent of print-on-demand, I’ve tended to advise writers of non-fiction to self-publish (as first choice) if you’ve got a good platform and a good manuscript because the returns are a lot higher, but go the traditional route for fiction. But the publishing planet has shifted on its axis in even just the last 6-9 months, and the lines are no longer so clear.

    What we’re going through right now is as radical as the invention of the printing press. It will take a while for the publishing revolution to stop spinning and settle into its new shape. Will the Kindle even exist in five years? Who knows! But I like Suzan’s comment above: people will always want stories. We can be sure of that at least.

  39. Bob,

    I think this is a great article, and great advice…at least for some people. In my case, I actually would prefer to indie publish. I may entertain the thought of trad pubbing someday. But for now, I won’t be submitting to any agents or publisher. However, I do agree with the not wasting a lot of time on marketing right now. John Locke made a similar point. He said not to spend a lot of time on marketing until you’ve written three books. Otherwise, you’ll have no time for writing, and no products (second and third books) for your excited new fans to buy. So right now I will focus mostly on writing and not much on marketing, though I will likely still indie publish my first book (I think…we’ll see when it’s done) after editing by freelance editors.

    But for those who really do want to be traditionally published, I think your advice is very sound.

    Emeline Danvers

  40. I’m almost convinced. Being this is about the fourth blog/book that is telling me in order for this self-publishing thing to work you have to have more than one book available…I’m beginning to believe it. Although my hilarious novel 5IVE SPEED is limping along on Kindle (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004JHZ2CQ) and Smashwords and the reviews have been fantastic…there must be something missing. I guess I’ll back off the promotion part a bit and concentrate on knocking out the sequel to 5IVE SPEED, which all the readers are insisting upon. Thanks for the post

  41. I do believe it too – my two trad published novels are enjoying the boost of my backlist (six out of print collections of stories and a poetry book) coming online. I published them independently early this year, and I’ve seen results. They sell each other. My literary fiction is bought by those who appreciate the locations and research I put into all my writing. When a reader finds an author they like, they generally desire more. I give them more. No bestsellrdom yet, but a slow burn is what I aim at, and it’s getting there. Having a foot in both camps has taught me a lot about time and money.

  42. I write exclusively for e-publishers nowadays and my shared of the royalties is abysmal, even given the amount of self-promotion I have to do. But at least I have the benefit of knowing that professionals want to publish my work. How could I be sure it was good enough if I self-published? And how much more promotion would it entail? Sigh.

  43. Bob,
    I do get the practice, practice, practice concept; however, sometimes rewriting that first book to make it a book you can be proud of is more important that getting that number of books written up by continuing to write and possibly making the same mistakes over and over again. That is why having good editors before you query those agents seem much more important. I think with good editing a first novel can be self-published and then later moved to a traditional publisher if that becomes the choice. I really don’t get why anyone would send a book that isn’t publish ready to an agent anyway. Forgive me if I’m wrong. However, even Writer’s Digest gets my point as evidenced by their upcoming webinar: http://www.writersdigestshop.com/product/securing-agent-self-published-book-webinar/?r=wdpb062611_selfpub&p=WDS233&et_mid=509119&rid=135905877.

  44. There is no hard and fast rule, but the ‘guidlines’ are, write, not one book, but several. While writing, begin building your platform. Start connecting, blogging and just generally participating within the publishing industry. By the time your second or third book is ready for public viewing, you will not be a total stranger within the industry. Very few come out with the bang. The ones that do are the exception, not the rule. Assuming you can write a damn good book that people want to read, the hard part (in my opinion) is mastering the balancing act of writing and promoting. For some really-big-named-lucky-paid their dues people, promoting is minimal, as their work speaks for itself. For the rest of us, write, promote, write, promote with a delicate balance.

  45. Good post, Bob. Thanks for making me feel better about being a hybrid (both traditional & indie) author. Usually I just get yelled at by each side for being a traitor joining the other team. But no matter how we get “out there,” promotion for us newbies seems to be a major job.

  46. Hi Bob,
    Thank you for your great seasoned perspective. I didn’t see anyone ask you. What did you mean you’ve learned more about craft in the last two years then the previous 18?

  47. It sounds like I need to keep writing. Thanks for the help.

  48. Great post and some solid advice – thanks. And it’s true that the trad publishers still have a function, in that they act as a quality control. To that I’d add another point. Booksellers I’ve spoken to in New Zealand tell me they’re often reluctant to pick up self-published books – and this must also be true for those making purchasing decisions via websites – because a significant proportion of them – certainly the non-fiction authors – turn out to be – well, not great.

    That’s not to say that gems aren’t among the dross. Last year a US author and lawyer sent me a book he’d ultimately had to self-publish on an aspect of New Zealand history. It was fantastic. It should have been picked up by a publishing house. It wasn’t. But that’s an exception – and the point, of course, leads back to the position of publisher-as-legitimiser. As you say, run the first book through the publisher/agent system. Make sure it’s good. Sound advice!

    Backlists? That’s another story. And for the author whose publishers seem laggard in keeping the backlist in print, well, self e-publishing is certainly one way to go. And the title already has a publication history which effectively legitimises it. Food for contemplation.

    Thanks again.

    Matthew Wright

  49. Would you ever self publish a small print run of your books and use that as a way to attract a potential publisher or agent though? I’m shocked at the very notion of doing this without having at least tried the conventional pitch, proposal, electronically submitted manuscript route. And even more shocked by the notion of a self-publishing outlet encouraging someone to do this.

  50. I think that self publishing is a great way for an upcoming writer to get their work heard. I have been doing it for a while now and have gotten so much more recognition than i have ever expected.

  51. Hi Bob,

    This article was at the right place at the right time. It really touched on the things I’ve been going back and forth on for months now. It can get disconcerting when you have finally taken the time to do what you’ve always wanted to do with your life and have dozens of well-meaning people around you all telling you what they think is best for you. Just FYI, we just started following each other on twitter, as in today, in fact. Quite a pleasant jolt when reading your article and recognizing ‘Area 51’ and connecting your name to it and twitter. Look forward to perusing more of your writing. – Heather

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