Why This Publisher Teaches Self-Publishing Skills 11

by Meredith Maslich


Two facts about me:

1. I own a publishing company. It’s small and very indie, but it’s not a vanity press, or a self-publishing company. It’s a real live, profit seeking, but royalty based publishing company. We vet our authors for quality and marketability and don’t take every manuscript that’s submitted.

2. I like teaching writers how to self-publish and be successful at it.Blackboard with chalk

Are these contradictions? I say no, and here’s why:

First, I can’t publish every author who deserves to be published. That’s just a fact based on my company’s size, age and available resources. But the authors I don’t accept should still have a chance to share their work with the world. Since I use many self-publishing tools and conventions to run my company, why shouldn’t they benefit from my mistakes and successes instead of stumbling through on their own?

Second, I’m not a fit for every author, regardless of the quality or marketability of their work. Being a tiny, indie publisher means I interact directly with my authors a lot. A LOT a lot. In many ways this is a strength, but it means that my authors and I have to kind of like each other. Or at the very least get each other. Our styles and expectations have to mesh. But the authors I don’t click with should still have a chance to share their work with the world, and I’m happy to help them on their way.

Third, some writers are just really well suited for self-publishing. Like talented writers who have a large and active pre-existing audience. Like writers who are highly detail and task oriented, are unafraid to promote themselves, and have financial resources to devote to marketing their books. Those individuals would likely fair just as well or better, at least financially, by going it alone and keeping 100% of their royalties. But as with the other types of authors I’m not publishing, I’m happy to let them benefit from my experiences.

Fourth, most writers don’t automatically know what path to publishing is best.  Pay a company (vanity press) to produce and market your book? Do it completely on your own? Try to find an agent? Making the right choice is essential to a writer’s success and happiness, and I’ve already done all the research, so why shouldn’t I share it?

And fifth, I deeply support the self-publishing movement. I wouldn’t be here without it – without the technology, the social awareness that this is a thing, but mostly Possibilities Publishing Company couldn’t exist without the innovative and subversive energy that the self-publishing movement has unleashed on what was otherwise a closed, dusty, and intimidating world of book publishing. But like any subversive movements, it’s a rocky path to mainstream acceptance. Early on, the market was flooded with (let’s just be honest here) total crap. Badly edited, self-indulgent garbage, that swallowed up anything with potential. And many readers and agents and book store owners and literary journal editors and book festival coordinators went “UGH. This self-publishing thing is just for bad writers who can’t get published any other way. Keep it away from us!”  And you know what? They were kind of right.

But not anymore.

In the nearly decade since self-publishing went mainstream, it has evolved and developed into a major market for book sales and it’s forcing changes on the traditional publishing world. And yet, there is still so much social and institutional stigma attached to anything that has even a whiff of self-publishing attached to it*. And tiny Indie publishing companies like mine, who rely on the self-publishing technology and subversive spirit to exist? We definitely have a whiff of self-publishing on us, and it makes my jobs harder than it needs to be. So I want to help. I want to provide information, and resources and skills to help writers who are going to self-publish produce the best products possible.

I want “self-published” to be a descriptive term, not a judgmental one.

So the bottom line is that I teach self-publishing workshops because self-publishers are not my competition. We’re all part of one big literary community and if I have knowledge I can share, why wouldn’t I?

*Case in point: This Gawker article that starts with “There are also many more aspiring authors than good authors. This is where the self-publishing industry comes in,” and then goes on to mock self-published authors. 

Learn more about my upcoming How To: Self-Publish workshop on March 15, 2014. Enter discount code BLOG and save $20.

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11 thoughts on “Why This Publisher Teaches Self-Publishing Skills

  • Sharon Purvis

    I think the “badly edited” thing is what really gives self-publishing a bad name, but as for the Gawker argument about there being more aspiring authors than good authors, there are PLENTY of not-so-great authors who actually do get published by actual publishers, so there’s not a lot of room there for them to turn up their noses, in my humble opinion. What advice do you give people looking to self-publish in terms of having their work edited? I am actually a freelance copy editor, but I work on scholarly books, so I’m not trying to drum up business for myself–just curious.

    • Meredith Post author

      Hi Sharon,
      I agree that the badly edited thing is the biggest problem. It’s not only annoying, but offensive to the reader. We’re taking our time to read your book, you could have at least taken the time to edit it properly! As far as finding an editor for your book, I know there are companies you can hire, or plenty of freelance editors (as I’m sure you know). I would start by asking other writers you may know, or looking at sites like guru.com. But important thing is to make sure you connect with your editor, so be sure to look at other work they have edited, make sure its similar in genre and style to yours, and get references if possible. And if despite your best efforts you don’t end up liking your editor, don’t be afraid to terminate the relationship. You might lose some money, but its more important to have a final product you love and believe in. Good luck!

  • Jeri

    I’ve always been of the belief that sharing our knowledge always comes back to us in kind. As for finding the right path to publication, there are overwhelming choices. I’ve enjoyed self-publishing, but I don’t write genre-fiction, so that means I’ll be seeking an agent whenever manage to finish my first novel.

    • Meredith Post author

      Actually Jeri, fiction is the fastest growing and most popular category of self-publishing. And in my experience of publishing both genres, fiction is a LOT easier to market. You have to find the path that is right for you, but don’t discount self-publishing just because you’re writing fiction! 🙂

  • Susan Cooper

    I love this post!!! A year ago I would not have read this much less to have a thought of publishing anything I had written. Why? Because I am dyslexic I thought that it was an impossibility and I thought no one would want to read my simple stories, even though they loved hearing me tell them. Now I’m writing and I have help with the things that I once saw as an obstacle. Am I a good writer? That is not something I can answer. What I am, is determined to produce the very best I can and to teach others that anything is possible if you try. With all that said I love that you do what you do and that you find a way to help others in their desire to be published. 🙂

  • Jacqueline Gum (Jacquie)

    What a great artcile! This is what I do…wrote and I am also a founding member of the new PubSmart Writers Conference to be held in Charleston SC this April!!! To do precisely this…teach writers about the business of writing, and show them the different paths to publishing. This is such an insightful post….Thanks!

  • Virginia Colin

    #4 is why I am likely to contact you when my book about divorce in Virginia is finished. Don’t hold your breath, though! 🙂

    “Fourth, most writers don’t automatically know what path to publishing is best. Pay a company (vanity press) to produce and market your book? Do it completely on your own? Try to find an agent? Making the right choice is essential to a writer’s success and happiness.”

    • Meredith Post author

      Hi Virginia,
      I think #4 is a big issue for most writers in this day and age – that’s the downside to all the freedom and choices. I hope I’ll see you at my workshop – it might not only be helpful in figuring out the best way to publish your book, but having a plan might energize you to finish your book 🙂

  • Michelle W

    Great article! I am very interested in small publishing companies as well as self-publishing because I am working on a book (possibly 2 actually). I think it is great that you are willing to share your knowledge and that you do not consider self publishers competition.


    • Meredith Post author

      Hi Michelle,
      Wow – 2 books at once! That’s ambitious! If you’re local, I hope to see you at the workshop. And if you aren’t local, look for a web based workshop in the next few months 🙂