There are myths about every aspect of the publishing process, and myths to lambast or pedestal both traditional and self-publishing abound.
As a self-published author, I’m most qualified to focus on the latter. Whether the myth spins self-publishing in a positive light or whether it tarnishes self-publishing’s good name, misinformation is still misinformation. So here are six self-publishing myths to learn about and learn better from.
Myth One: “If you self-publish, you get all the profits from your work!”
Let’s run through the things you will have to budget for if you do all the publishing yourself.
As a self-published author, you either have to pay for people to do your marketing, book design, cover design, and possibly cover art, or you have to do it all by yourself. If you do it yourself, then you are essentially paying a time cost for both the practice you’ll need do do these things well, and the time spent crafting the actual product. And even if you cheap out on everything else, you will need to pay for an editor.
Not only do you have to budget for that, but depending on what publishing platform you use, you genuinely won’t get “all the profits”. For example, Amazon takes 70% of the profits for a paperback copy . . . and they calculate that after the printing costs. You’ll be lucky if you see two or three dollars from a book priced at industry standard.
If you want a higher cut of the profits, you’re going to have to sell your book through significantly more indie venues. Those venues don’t generally have the same search power as the big players. Which means more marketing work on your end.
It’s incredibly difficult to be traditionally published, but on the author’s end, querying is also incredibly cheap.
Myth Two: “Self-published stories are lower quality than traditionally published stories.”
The truth is that self-published stories have a wider range in quality and variety than traditionally published stories. Traditionally published stories have to fit into a narrower range of acceptability, which means that they’re scoured more thoroughly than self-published stories; they’re more likely to have flaws like poor grammar and strange formatting wiped away . . . but they’re also more likely to have unconventional features scrubbed out of them to make them more marketable.
There’s a standard that they have to measure up to, for good and for ill.
Since a self-published author has more control over the end result, the quality of the ensuing product depends largely on them. A competent, studied, and driven author will produce fiction that rivals any traditionally published story. An inexperienced shortcut-taker will produce bargain-bin work.
Either way, if you’re into niche fiction, as a lot of queer fiction happens to be, then most books in that category are liable to be self-published. Ignoring books solely based on a lack of backing by industry giants means missing out on gems in the rough.
(Also, publishing platforms do have some bare-bones quality control in place. You might make an ugly cover, but at least the barcode and spine should be in the right place!)
Myth Three: “Authors who opt to self-publish weren’t good enough to make it in traditional publishing.”
There is some truth to this statement, but not in the way that you think. Though some authors do turn to self-publishing if they can’t get their story out through the traditional route, that’s not necessarily about the quality of their work. Sometimes, a story is just too niche for a traditional market, or isn’t favorable to traditional publishers in the moment.
Rejection comes from a lot of places, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that a writer isn’t good enough to be read.
Furthermore, there are some authors who never took interest in traditional publishing in the first place. It’s a valid path to go down, but it’s not for everyone. I like having full control over my plot, my design, and my marketing, so self-publishing is a better path for me.
Myth Four: “A unique book will sell itself!” / “You don’t need to market if the writing is good.” / “Reviewers will find your book on their own.”
If you’re publishing fiction with popular tropes and premises, then you’re entering a saturated market, and are liable to be missed among the swarm of other books being constantly released. If you’re publishing fiction with niche appeal, then chances are that there are fewer reviewers out there thinking to specifically seek out your niche.
And the truth is, the most well-known reviewers are overwhelmed with books that smart authors have already handed to them. If you want someone to look at your book, then you need to be the smart author putting it into their hands.
Myth Five: “If you self-publish, then you can never traditionally publish.”
Hybrid published authors beg to differ! If you self-publish well, that looks attractive to potential agents and publishers. Self-publishing poorly can potentially hurt your chances of traditionally publishing, but that all depends on how you deal with the fallout of an underwhelming release.
Myth Six: “You have to do it alone.”
Here’s the truth; you only have to “go it alone” to the degree that you want to.
If you’re ever feeling alone, then I recommend that you reach out to people. Show off your writing to your friends, chat with your beta readers, ask your editor questions, tell a book designer that her covers look lovely, give a friendly comment to a review blog (every blog loves interaction), so on and so forth.
It’s worth remembering that the marketing process is inevitably social! As I said, you’re going to have to search out reviewers yourself if you want to be seen, so learning to talk to other people about what you’re working on is a valuable skill.
Your publishing journey is in your own hands.
And that’s it for publishing myths for today. If you find this helpful, then you can support me as a creator by buying me a Ko-fi or purchasing Shadow Herald, my debut dark fantasy novel! Thank you, and have a lovely day.
3 thoughts on “Six Self-Publishing Myths You Shouldn’t Buy Into”
Love this – really interesting read!
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Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it.
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Thank you! So much truth here. People assume that self-published means you tried, but your book wasn’t good enough for a publishing house, which is so frustrating. I’ve read that those guys only publish >1% of the manuscripts they get, and 90% of those were rejected at the query letter stage. There’s no way that over 99% of those were as terrible as many people assume self-published books are. Plenty of us don’t even try, because we actually want full creative control. Self isn’t automatically worse than traditional. ❤
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