Why Self-Publishing Is Not For Me

Self-publishing is booming. Self-publishing is the newest trend. Self-publishing is better than traditional publishing. Self-publishing is the way to go.

Or so I’ve heard.

Call me a traditionalist, but I’m simply unfazed by self-publishing and have zero interest in the market. I’ve been asked by readers to write about my thoughts on self-publishing for awhile now, but I’ve been very hesitant to do so because I know it could alienate those who have self-published. However, my thoughts and my reasons are purely that: mine. I truly admire anyone who self-publishes.

It just isn’t for me.

I’ve been told by both readers and friends that perhaps I should consider self-publishing because an agent hasn’t scooped my (remarkable) talent up yet. With self-publishing, I, as the author, am in charge of it’s success. I can reach readers by selling it all over the interwebs at places like Amazon, which is a huge deal, right?

To me, though, it’s like sitting at a craft table and constructing something beautiful out of glitter and glue and trying to sell it to the rest of the world; it might seem wonderful to you, but you’re going to have a hard time selling it without the proper tools.

Self-publishing is great, in theory (and in practice for so, so many writers, so I don’t mean to completely disregard the process; it’s just simply not for me), but I don’t have it in me to devote 100% of my time and resources to selling a small amount of copies of an e-book to my friends and family, while hoping that all of the social media-related “promotion” (see: tweeting to all 200 of my followers and posting status updates incessantly urging my “friends” to give me their money) works.

I want an agent. I want somebody who believes in me, who has the wherewithal to sell my book to a publisher because they believe, like I do, that my writing is sellable in a mass marketplace. I want to work with an editor to make sure it’s as polished as it could be. I’ve done so much on my manuscript, painstakingly edited it, had beta readers help me out, and got it to the point where I have a hard time spotting typos. But that doesn’t mean it’s without flaw. I want to put forth my best effort. I want to one day get in the mail a hard copy ARC of my book from a publishing house, complete with gorgeous professional cover art. I want to know that my book will be sold in bookstores like Barnes & Noble all across the country. I want to go on a book tour, have book signings, go to my very own launch party. I want to walk into a store, go to the Teen/YA shelves, and hold my book, feel it in my hands, smell the binding, and flip through it’s perfect, pristine pages. I want all of that, and with self-publishing, that doesn’t really exist. Ok, maybe with a few presses you’ll be able to pay to have printed copies, but self-publishing doesn’t lend itself to the same level of success (which, by the way, is such a subjective term, especially in this case. Like I said, what is successful for me — in this case, traditionally publishing my manuscript — might not work for everyone) that traditional publishing does. Bookstores, in general, don’t carry self-pubbed titles.

I’m not in the “writing game” to make exorbitant amounts of money; I know how hard it is to make a living purely off of book sales. I’m not expecting JK Rowling-levels of success. But it’s nearly impossible to make money self-publishing. It’s even more impossible to get noticed from self-publishing. If you’re self-publishing, you have to really “catch on” and spread like wildfire in order to get noticed and reap the benefits of all of the painstakingly hard work and detail you put into writing your book. I know how hard it is to write a book. And for some, self-publishing might be enough; however, it isn’t for me.

I have many friends who are successful published authors, as well as friends whose debut novels haven’t yet come out, but are about to be published by big houses. I went to grad school in the publishing hub of the world, New York City, at The New School, immersed in an environment of agents, editors, and writers. Surrounding myself with successful writers for most of my adult life, I’ve learned that most major publishing houses won’t touch a book that’s been self-published unless it’s reaches unparalleled levels of success; there is still a stigma attached to self-publishing within the industry.

For me, it’s like this: “Didn’t you believe in yourself enough to fight for your manuscript before self-pubbing?”

Especially because going that route requires way more time, money, and general resources than I have to make a mark on the world.

This is how I would feel:

I would be sitting at my computer, day-in and day-out, obsessively checking sales statistics, unable to eat or drink water without feeling incredibly pissed off that I’m not moving billions of units of my book. I would be wasting my time and resources trying to sell something that I don’t even have a physical copy of, and if I could afford to print the books and sell them by “hitting the streets,” I would be a frazzled mess if I wasn’t generating admirable sales.

In short, my anxiety levels would sky-rocket.

I don’t think I could ever feel satisfied by self-publishing.

I’d feel like a sell-out, like I didn’t try hard enough. I would feel like I wasn’t good enough to make it traditionally.

And if I never make it the traditional route, then it wasn’t meant to be. But I’m going to try until I’m queried every single literary agent in existence. Once I’ve exhausted the traditional path, if I haven’t made it, then maybe I’ll consider my self-pubbing choices, but until then, I’m holding steadfastly to the notion that I have considerable talent and that my voice will be heard by an agent that will consider me undeniable because I am undeniable.

Once I sign with an agent, once I sell my manuscript to a publishing house, all of the pain of the submission and querying processes, the anguish, the horror, the anxiety, the entire reason I created this blog which was to complain about said process, will be a memory — one that I’ll remember fondly as a time in my life when I fought for my talent and believed in myself when it seemed like nobody else did.

Self-publishing isn’t for me, but that doesn’t mean it’s not right for everybody. Don’t hate me if we disagree, because I’m well-aware that, for some, it might be the right path. Promise me we’re still friends?

This is, after all, just the opinion of one starving writer, struggling to make his mark.


  1. You are undeniable. You are everything. Your voice rings loud and clear on every page filled with every word you’ve bleed forth. I completely agree with you on the “traditional” approach to publishing. Keep persevering and know that there are many that stand behind you and your work. But in the end, your work stands on its own and it will prevail.

  2. Thanks for writing this! I get so annoyed when non-writers suggest I simply self-publish. But it’s too complicated to explain all of this to them, so I usually just nod and say “yeah thanks.” Maybe I’ll direct them to this post from now on. P.S. Love the blog’s new fall look.

    1. ABsolutely! Direct everybody to my blog! hahaha!

      No, but seriously…I was hesitant to write this blog…but I feel that, because I treaded lightly and it’s my opinion, that it’s well-received. Or maybe that’s just in my own head.

  3. So well put! To each [writer] his [or her, or their] own. Also, I’m very excited about THIS WEEK. Also, that Friends GIF is heaven on a stick.

  4. Hi there. A brave post and well said I think. I don’t know enough about self-publishing to comment with any authority. I do feel however that getting an agent is certainly the best path to take as they will give you an honest critique and take you on if they think you have potential. The publishing market is an absolute killer and the market is highly competitive to put it mildly!! Agents know their market and many are really good at what they do. Many folk say that getting an agent is harder than finding a publisher but once you have one … then keep your head out of the clouds and apply the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair (like the man said).
    All the best

    1. Thanks! Yeah, I was nervous about posting this, seeing as how self-pubbing is the latest trend, but I truly believe that getting an agent who believes in me as a writer is the correct path. For me. Getting an agent is hard as hell, but I’m more than hopeful!! Thanks for the well-wishes! Keep checking back…maybe I’ll good news one of these days!

  5. Very interesting. Self publishing is the newest craze I see it everywhere. Newspapers, magazines, all over the internet. Everyone is self publishing but they never say what exactly goes into it. It kind of sounds like those kiosks at the mall that ask if you want to be a model, then you end up paying out the nose to become a “model” for some tire shop in the middle of Nowhere, USA.

  6. VERY interesting to hear this side of the story. Most of the information out there is saying to self publish, but not too many sources talk about the downside. It sounds like the difference between making it as a singer and releasing your laptop recordings on MySpace (if MySpace still exists haha)

    Thanks for this and good luck!!

  7. I actually disagree with this. I think that self-publishing is great exposure and oppurtunity for writers to get published. There is a market for these materials. eBooks are the way of the future, and self publishing is on the front lines.

    1. I totally agree that, for some writers, self-pubbing is absolutely a viable option. Those writers are (or have to be, anyway) extremely motivated and dedicated to promoting, promoting, promoting, and they have to be patient. Even though the whole process feels very “instant,” it could take an extremely long time to see a return of investment in a way that feels successful. At least that’s how I feel. It totally is a great opportunity, though, so I don’t mean to knock it at all. It’s just not for me.

  8. My friend self published her book and it’s pretty much impossible for her to make any money off of it. in Fact I think she lost a lot of money because she tried to get it published in paperback and nobody outside of her circle of friends/family bought copies. She tried social media and getting reviews and such and it just didn’t do anything or go anywhere.


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