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.
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.