In the past few weeks, I've had some loving and well-meaning friends and family show me this article (or a similiar article) about a 26-yr-old named Amanda Hocking who has done extremely well self-publishing her books for Kindle. The article can be found by clicking here.
While I am happy for Amanda Hocking and her amazing success, I'm reluctant to just jump on the self-publishing bandwagon. As a person who has attended Southern Baptist churches all her life (and gone to three private Southern Baptist learning institutions), maybe one would think that I've just got a very Baptist mentality about everything, including publishing. "We've never done it THAT way before...." Only I have never really considered myself Baptist (I consider myself Christian and leave it at that--if you want to know more of what I believe, ask questions--don't rely on labels that often have very little truth). I try to keep an open mind to new things, and one would have to be pretty blind not to realize that the world is changing at a lightning fast pace.
There have been rumors and articles and such about the possibility of traditional publishing disappearing as self-publishing starts to become more popular. If one were to take the success of Amanda Hocking as the new norm, then the eventual closure of all traditional publishing houses would be a logical conclusion to make. However, Amanda Hocking's success is very much the exception and not the norm. This is why I grit my teeth and bite my tongue when well-meaning friends/family try to suggest self-publishing as an option for me. I KNOW they don't mean it in this way, but seriously. Every time someone suggests I try self-publishing, what that says to me is that they don't believe I can make it traditionally. They're saying to me that they think I'll have to self-publish because no one else will want me. While I know that's not really what they're saying, I wish people would think about how they might come across.
Personally, I'm just not going to feel like a published author if I don't see my book IN PRINT and ON SHELVES. I just don't think that having digital versions of my books floating around on Kindles and Nooks is going to feel the same. When reading books, I would much prefer to have the actual book in my hand. There's the feel of the book--the weight of it in my hands, the experience of actually getting to turn the pages. There's the smell of the paper and ink. There's the sound of the pages turning. All of these are experiences I love when reading a book, and scrolling down a screen just wouldn't be the same. According to this recent article, I'm not the only one who prefers actual books over a digital reader. I don't think traditional publishing is dying at all. Self-publishing may or may not be a fad. It may or may not be taking over the publishing world. But I don't think self-publishing is the same thing as traditional publishing. Traditional publishing involves more than just you (it involves people who know what they're doing and who know the publishing business), which, in my opinion, makes it more valid. If you think your writing is good, then it might be...or it might just be you. If an agent and editor think your writing is good, then yeah...it's probably good.
I am NOT trying to say that self-publishing isn't real publishing. What I will say is that there are times when it CAN be fake publishing. Amanda Hocking and others like her have proven that self-publishing can be a legitimate method of getting one's writing out to the world. She's built a strong online presence and has gathered a following. I applaud her for being able to do that. I'm actually a little bit jealous. With that being said, for every Amanda Hocking out there, there are probably about a gazillion John/Jane Does who think they can call themselves an "author" because they've self-published pages full of crappy drivel. I'm sure there are several good self-published writers out there who have put in a lot of time and effort editing and polishing their work before publishing it. I'm also sure there are several bad self-published writers who have not.
I don't have a problem with self-publishing in general. I have a problem with how easy it's become. Amanda Hocking tried traditional publishing before she attempted self-publishing. She put in the effort. It's not like she just decided "I'm going to write a book and self-publish it." She sent queries and got rejected before she went the self-publishing route--and now she's a millionaire. I have a lot of respect for her because she didn't just do things the easy way.
Now, let me also say that there's nothing wrong with self-publishing if you are just wanting to get a book out there for fun or whatever. Just please don't call yourself a "published author" in my presence unless you have some successful sale numbers to back up your claims. If you want to get something you wrote out there and have no goals of making any money or sales, then whatever. It really depends on what you want to accomplish through publishing.
I happen to have a dream of becoming a fairly successful author (and these days, a successful author can mean many different things). I don't just want to self-publish and have it done with. I want to see my name IN PRINT, my books IN PRINT, my books ON SHELVES. That's what I want. I also want an agent to represent me (because I have lousy business sense). The Amanda Hockings of the world apparently don't need agents to make a fortune and a name for themselves. I think that I do.
So I'm going to continue to try the traditional route. If the current book I'm trying to sell doesn't fly (it's my first book--first books are often dreadful), then I will look into small-time publishing NOT self-publishing. And then I'll try to seek representation for another book. Even if I go small-time on my first book (and the series that goes with it), I'm not giving up on my dream of being a successful published author.
With that being said, I have a lot of work ahead of me.