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Warnings From a Traditionally Published Author: Don’t be Bamboozled Into Self-publishing a Book

Author: Stacy-Deanne

I am a traditionally published author with Simon and Schuster. I’ve been in the business for almost twelve years and have taken most of that time to learn the ins and outs of the business. I’ve made mistakes and learned from them. During my quest to know as much about the industry as possible, I became published. Now that I am at a point in my career where things are taking off, I have become more aware of the prejudices in the industry. You may think I am speaking of the prejudices against self-published authors vs. mainstream authors but I am not. I am speaking of the prejudices that self-published authors have against the mainstream industry in general.

I often wonder what makes someone self-publish a novel. I can understand a technical book, poetry book or a diary but why self-publish a novel? Self-publishing can be the death and is the death of many wannabe novelists. While studying self-publishing, I came to the conclusion that many new writers were bamboozled into thinking that this was the way to go for their books. Yep, they are being tricked. You can’t even blame this type of trickery on sharks such as shady POD presses, vanity or subsidy presses. No I blame this on one group of people…bitter self-published authors. They spread bad advice and untruths like a disease and it’s damaging the careers of new writers.

It’s true. New writers are being duped into self-publishing by self-published authors. These types of self-published authors are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They lie and spread myths in order to feel good about their own poor publishing choices. Not only does this bother me because it gives inexperienced writers a false sense of reality, these same authors who glorify self-publishing have taken it upon themselves to talk down upon mainstream publishers and spew dishonest myths about the mainstream publishing industry. How can a self-published author who hasn’t had experience with the mainstream publishing industry, say what does or does not go on with such a company? Point blank, they cannot. It burns me when I see self-published authors speaking as if their books are the equivalent of heaven sent, while labeling mainstream authors sellouts. How are we sellouts? Mainstream authors paid their dues, not their money. I think these high and mighty self-published authors need to take a good look at the bigger picture. Who really sold out?

The method of publishing should be up to the author. If you want to self-publish, make sure you know the business and that it’s your choice. Do not be duped by doing it just because Pam, Dick and Jane said they did. Pam, Dick and Jane say that a publisher won’t want your work but that’s not true just because someone didn’t want theirs. Some self-published authors act as if they are a part of a cult or group of bloodthirsty vampires that are trying to gather as many unsuspecting writers into their cartel as possible. It’s maddening when you look at it. It’s like they dare a new writer to go the traditional route. And don’t dare be self-published then get a traditional contract! These cutthroat self-published authors will ban you from the island faster than you can speak! It’s scary to see how some of these cliques behave sometimes. I’ve found some self-published authors to be downright hateful towards anyone who disapproves of self-publishing yet have the nerve to turn around and say the industry is prejudice against them. Say what?

 Now that I’ve gone into that, I will clear up a few myths about mainstream publishing that some misguided and vengeful self-published authors push upon unsuspecting aspiring writers.

Myth 1: Traditional Publishers Take Full Control of Everything

I get so sick of self-published authors telling new writers this because it’s not true at all. First of all authors have different types of contracts and they vary. Also, traditional publishers do not steal your rights away like vanity presses do. For example, I hold the complete rights to my books which means I can do just about anything I want with them including acquiring film deals and other options. A publisher does hold control over some things more than the author but it’s mainly the business aspect (the reason why most authors choose to have an agent), not the creative side. Most publishers require an author’s approval before any changes can be made to a book. This means that the house editor can make some suggestions, but they cannot make you take them. It may be in your best interest if you do, but still, you have a choice. It’s publishing, not prison. Also you can always get out of your contract with a big house if you want to. It’s not like being stuck for years in some shady deal with a vanity press that takes your rights for twenty years.

Myth 2: New Authors Can’t Get Published By Big or Traditional Houses Without Agents

(Clearing throat), been there and done it twice. I do not have an agent. I sold my books on my own and so did many other traditionally published authors. Of course this is rare and has gotten more difficult during the years for new authors to do but it is not impossible. This is one of the biggest myths about traditional publishers. While most require agents, there are ways to slip through the cracks. This is where research comes in. Look at it this way, if a book is good and your writing is what a publisher is looking for, they won’t care how it got to them. A publisher is not gonna turn down an author they’re interested in just because they don’t have an agent. There are many authors who have been successful for years and have yet to get an agent. Do your own research and do not let self-published authors who do not know what they are talking about break your spirits.

Myth 3: You Will Make More Money Self-Publishing Than With A Publisher

This is another huge myth. Some self-published authors become successful and become millionaires. But that is like one in half a million and they come around like once every five years if that. Also these are not novelists but people who have written technical books or self-help guide books. In other words the authors were experts to begin with. Many of them know the sales business and how it works which means they know how to promote. Do not look at one example and think that it proves something works for all. On average most self-publishers wind up in debt, let alone selling enough books to make money. Also, remember that as a self-published author, you put up all the costs, which means you’re out of thousands of dollars. This automatically pushes you below a mainstream author when it comes to that royalty check because the mainstream author didn’t pay anything at all to begin with. Traditional authors get paid for their work while self-published authors are trying to get rewarded for an investment. Do the math. This is another time when research and making up your own mind comes in handy.

Myth 4: Traditional Publishers Do Not Look at New Writers

This is the dumbest myth of them all. I don’t know who came up with this crap. I assume it was some hack that couldn’t get published and decided to badmouth the industry. If this were true, then no one would be published! Use your own mind folks. That’s what it’s there for. If something seems too stupid to make sense then it usually is. If someone can name one author who wasn’t "new" before being published then I’d love to see him or her because it’s no such thing. Publishers want authors who are good and show promise. If they didn’t want new authors there wouldn’t be the need for literary agents would there? The publishing industry would have stopped centuries ago I believe.

Myth 5: You Will Be Seen as A Rebel or Revolutionary if you Self-Published

Uh, actually you’ll be seen as a no-talent hack that couldn’t get published. You may be a great writer but the minute people realized you paid to get published, your writing won’t matter. I become tickled when I hear self-published authors spewing this crap to new writers because it’s not true and they know it isn’t. They are blatantly lying to other writers and getting their hopes up. Self-publishing can ruin your reputation as an author and most people will not go near a self-published book with a ten-foot-pole! Why do you think so many self-published authors only self-publish once then try to get a real publisher? They learned the hard way that this is true. Please do not fall into this trap. Don’t let someone gyp you into self-publishing. It’s not worth it.

Myth 6: The Reading Public Respects an Author Who Published Their Book

Maybe if they are your family but the general public has the same opinion about a self-published book and self-published author as the industry does. Remember that the general public didn’t just start reading when you started writing. Give them credit. They’re smart readers and can tell a self-published book from a mainstream one. Believe me they know the difference and yes, most times it affects their opinions.

Myth 7: Self-Publishing Will Lead to a Traditional Contract

(Sighing). It can, but will it? Sadly this is why most people self-publish. They think that they will sell enough to get the attention of the big guys. This happens once in a blue moon and you have to sell thousands of copies for a big publisher to even sneeze in a self-published book’s direction or even think of reprinting it. Most self-published authors do not sell five hundred copies of their books so this should tell you how hard it would be for many to sell thousands. Also, look at the source of this claim. I find it very strange that those same self-published authors who are so critical of the mainstream are the ones trying to hock their book to a real publisher on the side. Who’s the sell out again? If mainstream is so bad then why do these hypocritical-type self-published authors try so hard to break into it while badmouthing it? Simple, they know where their best interests lie. This is how you realize that they are not telling the truth and they don’t even believe their own claims. They’re just spitting loudly because they are upset and bitter because they couldn’t get a publisher. Go figure huh?

Now that I’ve exposed some myths, I hope you see the bigger picture. I am not downing self-published authors, please don’t think that. I support all authors. I am downing the ones with evil intentions who do not want to honestly help writers but who set them up for failure. New authors are constantly falling into the trap of self-publishing while believing they will land on Oprah or end up with a movie deal. Your book won’t even be in stores, so you can have an idea of how much you’d sell.

If you think I am trying to discourage you from self-publishing than you are right. I am. If you worked hard on your books then they should deserve the best. Why take the easy way out, especially if you really didn’t know what you were getting into? Self-publishing by choice is one thing but self-publishing by stupidity can cost you your dreams and career.

The bottom line is to examine your expectations and what you expect to gain in the future from your work. Don’t give up and do not let others step on your dreams just because theirs did not work out. Just because Pam and Dick couldn’t do it, doesn’t mean that you can’t.

So shame on those self-published authors who step on the dreams of unsuspecting newbies just because they can’t make it and don’t want to see others succeed. Writers should look after one another not push each other onto train tracks headfirst. We have too much against us as it is. We should stick together but unfortunately some authors do not. Shame on you, you know who you are. Shame.

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About the Author

Stacy-Deanne is a best selling author and novelist. She’s been in the writing industry for twelve years. She is a novelist with Simon and Schuster. Stacy was featured in 2006’s "Literary Divas: The Top 100+ Most Admired African-American Women in Writing". She was born, raised and resides in Houston, Texas. You can visit her sites to learn more about her and her books.