Self-Publishing – Vanity or Entrepreneurship?

There is a very real stigma associated with self-publishing. The publishing industry even coined the derogatory term ‘Vanity Press’. Only in the publishing industry is investing in yourself considered vain, something (dare I say it?) shameful. In any, and I mean ANY, other profession, say insurance, consulting, or dentistry, throwing money at your own business makes you an entrepreneur—someone to be respected, emulated, even envied. But authors who choose the self-publishing route are considered vain.

Granted, with the development of new technology, pretty much anyone can self-publish. A very real danger exists for the proliferation of less-than-perfect books.

The self-published writer must work twice as hard to deliver a quality product to the public, and here’s why. The author is also the publisher. Work doesn’t stop with writing a book. Oh, no. The author is also responsible for ensuring well-edited content, a professional cover, all technical aspects of formatting and uploads, the ongoing promotion of the book, and all financial, legal, business, and tax aspects.

This requires a healthy investment , both in time, money, and, occasionally, sanity.

Vanity or entrepreneurship? I would love your input.

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8 Responses to Self-Publishing – Vanity or Entrepreneurship?

  1. As someone who self-published almost eight weeks ago, I vote for entrepreneurship. It’s not that I’m vain, but I was running out of time.

    Traditional publishing moves so slowly. I once waited over 18 months for a publisher to reject my book. (Of course I was writing another while I waited)

    I love having control of my career. If I make it – it’s because I worked hard and wrote a good book and spent the time and money (cover, editing) to make the book the best it could be. If I tank – it’s all on me with no one to blame.

    Seeing as how my book A Dozen Deadly Roses is currently on Barnes and Noble Top 100 Nookbooks list, and currently on Amazon’s Top 100 Police Procedural list…I think my hard work paid off.

  2. Melanie says:

    Entrepreneurship definitely. You’re embarking into business for yourself. Okay, your business is writing but with it comes a number of other tasks.

    There are some excellent self-published books out there (and some not so good ones) but the same holds true of books published in the traditional way. I know I’ve put down some of the latter and wondered just what the editor saw in them.

    Onward and upward, Maureen!

  3. Lorrie says:

    I have read books on all sides of the coin. I found some to be terrible, some to be great–again on all those sides of the coin. I have not self-published–yet.
    The author has to do as much work after release with any way they decide to go.
    Since you can read the first chapter, or more, of any book you consider purchasing, I consider this a plus to readers choosing which books appeal to them and if the writing is worth the price. The stigma is lifting, the prices are lowering.

    • Maureen Fisher says:

      I agree, Lorrie. I think the stigma is lifting. The entire publishing business is in a state of turmoil.

  4. Maureen Fisher says:

    Thanks for the well-thought-our response, Nathan.

    As I see it, the main additional monetary costs for the self-pubbed author include professional editing, a cover designer (for those not artistically inclined), and, optionally, certain types of promotion. The main additional time costs are e-book formatting, and, in my case, a huge one-time learning curve.

    As you say, these costs will amortize across the life of the property.

  5. “Less-than-perfect books” have been around since just shortly after Gutenberg started his little vanity press. What’s changed is actually a little more complex than simply the advent of print on demand and ebook markups.

    I think self pub (and small press indie pub) can be a viable path to a sustainable career even in the face of the shrinking mainstream midlist. I also think the stigma you refer to is actually being applied more by authors than readers or publishers these days. There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that publishing houses — even the Bigs — are finding new talent in the self published catalogs.

    Sure there are some readers who poo-poo the self pub author’s work, but the quality differences between the best selfpub and the best mainstream pub are very small. Most people won’t really notice that this book from “Blue Steam Press” isn’t actually an imprint of Hachette — except that the price will be something they can support.

    The amount of work an author is expected to do — especially if they have a mainstream contract — is often underestimated and mis understood as well. More and more agents are looking at the digital footprint of new authors. Do you have a platform already? How much work will it be to find your audience? These are things the agents are selling to editors and editors are looking at those same things when considering what properties to take on. The days of “the author hides and writes while the publisher sells the books” are long gone. From the author perspective, you’re going to do the same amount of work whether your book comes out through Random House or through your own label.

    Sure, there will be some front end production costs, but those amortize across the life of property measured in years and not just in the few weeks that a mainstream publisher will leave a marginal performer on the shelf.

    JMO. YMMV.

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