Self Publishing: Not a Plan B

Self Publishing: Not a Plan B

Hi community of awesome! I’m Ava Jae, and
this is bookishpixie. So given that I’ve traditionally published,
most of the time when I talk about publishing on this channel, it’s about traditional publishing. The reason for that, honestly, is just because
traditional publishing is what I have the most experience in. But, given that self-publishing is a totally
legitimate and popular option, I want to talk about that today too. Specifically, I want to talk about why self-publishing
is not a backup option. If you want to self-publish, and you want
to be a successful, self-published author, then you need to do it right. What I mean by that is you need to treat self-publishing
like career—because it is. The self-published authors who are successful
are the ones who take it seriously. They hire editors, formatters, cover designers, etc. Self-publishing, for these authors, is the
end goal. But if your ultimate goal is to become traditionally
published, then you might want to think twice before self-publishing. First of all, you can’t sell a book that you’ve
already self-published, unless it sells, like, a bajillion copies. And, honestly, even that transference from
a book that was a massive bestseller as a self-published book, to a traditional print
format doesn’t happen quite as often as it used to. That’s not to say that it *never* happens,
but depending on that scenario is kind of like depending on the lottery, which is not
the most reliable option. When you go into self-publishing with the
goal of eventually becoming a traditionally published author, you need to think about
how your self-published books are going to affect your career as a traditionally published
author. Because once you start self-publishing, people
start to care about your sales numbers if you want to go into traditional publishing. Again, that might work for you if you sell
really, really well, but it’s a risky thing to depend on. The self-published marketplace should not
be where you upload your manuscripts just because they were rejected by gatekeepers
in traditional publishing. Because the truth is, if your manuscript isn’t
ready to be traditionally published, then it’s probably not ready to be self-published,
either. There are totally hybrid authors who publish
both traditionally and independently, so I don’t want you to think that it’s impossible. But when you consider self-publishing, you
need to remember that this is a career-altering move, and not a stepping stone towards traditional
publishing. So if your goal is to be a successful, self-published
author, then go for it. But if your main reason for wanting to self-publish
is because you haven’t yet been able to break into the traditional marketplace, then I encourage
you to take a step back and think about your options carefully. So that’s all I’ve got for today, if you liked
what you saw, don’t forget to subscribe and comment, and I’ll see you guys next week!


  1. FIRST!!! And loved the topic of the video. I have a question that might be off topic tho.

    I'm in the middle of writing down the ideas and components for my story, and I would like to know how long an outline should usually be (and how long was yours for reference.) Should I drag it out and write down every single detail about the characters and events, or should I just write a quick description of the characters and write a linear flow chart from beginning to end of the plot.

    Oh yeah, I also intend on making this a series, too.

  2. I'm a hybrid author and I intend to keep it that way. I find that a mix of self publishing and working with some publishers I trust with my stories is the way to go. I agree with you about taking it seriously. You still need an editor, someone to format for you, a cover designer, and someone to help with your marketing. If you are already good at any of those, a DIY approach helps, but only if you really know what you're doing. There are enough poorly edited books and crappy covers out there for you to realize those don't work.

    What I slightly disagree with is self publishing as a stepping stone. I know quite a few authors (I can think of at least three off the top of my head) that sold their books to a publisher after self-publishing first. You are right, sales matter, but not as much as you think. What reviews and how many reviews your book gets also matter when sales number aren't that high. Some of them always intended it to be like this. Self publish to prove their worth, and then approach a publisher.

    Most self-publishing authors I know (or hybrids) choose to do so because they want more control over their book and they don't want an editor they haven't chosen or a publisher to have final say on their story. It sometimes has more to do with not wanting to stick to formulas than anything else.

  3. The few times I've come across self-published books by authors who say they did it because traditional publishing kept turning them down, said books have been a disaster. Shallow characters, bad writing, terrible pacing, that kind of thing. It's only been my experience, and I HAVE come across great self-published work. But I've also noticed a slight pattern.

    There are many, many, many reasons why agents and editors might turn down manuscripts. It doesn't always have to do with the objective quality of the piece. But at the same time, that could be a very real reason why it was turned down .

    Like you said, Ava, it's just very likely the book might not be ready for ANY kind of publishing.

    (OH. And even though I said it on Twitter this morning, happy book birthday 😀 Hope all is well)

  4. What you thinly cover is the battle to get a Agent or a book published by a famous traditional publisher. Thousands of excellent books are turned down year after year. It looks as if you did it but your success is not the story for many authors who are good writers. Stephen King's family for example…all his kids and wife are now published…do you really think if their father wasn't a mega successful author they would have been accepted…too many times it comes down to who you know! I don't agree with most of what you said … but you're still just too cute!!!

  5. Love this! Too many people don't understand these things about self publishing. Some people even seem to think it's easy, or at least easier.

  6. Can you make a video on your writing process? As a writer, it's interesting to hear how other people construct their stories. Maybe a tour of your workspace too. That's always interesting as well to see how other writer's have their things organized. Thank you!

  7. Great points! I used to think that self-publishing was the easier option but I've now come to realize that it's just as difficult and requires just as much work (getting a whole team of editors and designers together, marketing yourself, polishing your manuscript, etc.). It really does take some thoughtful consideration before deciding which option you're going to take and if you do want to use a hybrid approach.

  8. Even though I'm a traditionally published author, I actually thought of doing self publishing. But then after a while I was like: "Nope. That's not me. Traditional publishing is the way to go. Not self publishing". I'm glad I decided not to go forward with that descision. I love being traditionally published, anyway.

  9. I have a question that Ive been struggling to understand. I keep hearing that, in traditional publishing, you'll need to self market. If this is true then why go traditional? If you have to spend time and money for marketing then what are the benefits from traditional publishing? I just don't see the logic or I'm missing something. If it's solely based on distribution then why not just go ebook first and when the royalties and numbers grow then try the print. Am I missing something?

  10. Hi, I'm in the early stages of developing a scifi-fantasy novel series. This will be the first major work I've written, and my plan is to first write 3 short novellas set in different areas of the world and at different points in history, I was going to self publish these and then work up to the much longer novel which I was thinking about having traditionally published. But after seeing this video, I'm now not so sure. Do you have any advice? Thanks.

  11. 8( Thanks for sharing this, a hundred times over. Until five minutes ago I was treating self-publishing as Plan B. I will think a lot harder about it now.

  12. Thanks for your comments, bookishpixie. After 7 years, I have finished my first book and I expect to self-publish. Why? From what I have gathered, I will be responsible for spending my own time and money on promotion anyway. I am a complete unknown — and I'm old! – , so why would a publisher, let alone an agent, take me on? As I'm in my late 50s, not in my 20s or 30s, I don't have years and years, left in my life, to shop around for an agent. Given all that, it's better for me to own 100% of a teaspoon of pennies than 15% of a tablespoon! I am an established, self-employed professional, and I am certainly not relying on book proceeds to pay my rent! I do have a niche market in mind, however. You are the expert, not me; am I missing some key information here?

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