Real Writers Don't Self-Publish

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 8.21.53 PM

One of the things I love about doing what I do is that I have the ability to connect so closely with you guys and speak on the topics that matter to you. Yesterday, a fellow writer shared an article from The Guardian, For me traditional publishing means poverty. But self-publish? No way. She wanted my take on what the author had to say.

All right.

For those who’ve been following this blog for any amount of time, I hope I’ve been really clear that I support all paths of publishing (vanity press doesn’t count).

All forms of publishing hold advantages and disadvantages and, as a business, we are wise to consider what form of publishing is best for our writing, our work, our goals, our personality, etc. But my goal has always been to educate writers so they are making wise decisions based off data, not just personal preferences.

We don’t self-publish because all our friends are doing it and we think we can make a million dollars fast cash. But, at the same time, we shouldn’t hold out for traditional out of some misguided idea that self-publishing/indie isn’t for “real” authors and that traditional publishers are somehow going to handhold us.

The author of this article has the right to publish as she sees fit. I am all for empowering authors and trust me, I know that self-publishing gets a bad rap for good reasons. I am not blind to all the book spam and authors who write ONE book and camp on top of it for the next five years selling to anyone who looks at them.

But there were some egregious errors in many of the article’s assertions that I’d like to address so that your decision is based of reality not an opinion piece. I won’t address them all today for the sake of brevity, but here were the major ones that jumped out at me.

Myth #1—Serious Novelists Don’t Self-Publish

Tell that to Hugh Howey, Bob Mayer, Barry Eisler, Joel Eisenberg, Vicki Hinze, Theresa Ragan and y’all get the point.

Myth #2—Self-Publish and ALL Time Will Be Spent Marketing Not Writing

Or maybe they’re doing it wrong?

Myth #3—If You Self-Publish You Will Act Like an Amway Rep Crossed with a Jehovah’s Witness

Many do, but that’s a choice not an inevitability.

Myth #4—Gatekeepers Know Best

LOL. Sure. Because Snookie’s It’s A Shore Thing was published for its literary value.

Myth #5—Private Apprenticeship is Better for Author Growth

Public feedback can be brutal and isn’t for everyone, but rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic in private isn’t necessarily a better, nobler path either.

Myth #6—Awards Are Everything

For some genres, perhaps. But can the literary world keep ignoring that some of the best works of our time are not coming from legacy presses?

Myth #7—To Look Pro in Self-Publishing You Spend a Fortune

Network better.

Myth #8—Traditional Publishing Creates a Far Superior Product

Tell that to the romance authors who, for years, couldn’t expect that the cover would match their story. Pyramids on a romance set in the Highlands? It has happened.

The (now) late Vonda McIntre (who is a brilliant Nebula Award Winning Author) even posted some of the truly awful covers her publisher (traditional) thought were a good idea. And, because she was a mere author and had no control over the covers? She had no say.

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 11.51.12 AM

Myth #9—Self-Published Authors Can’t Make a Living

Many don’t. This job is not for everyone. But then again, most traditional authors would make more flipping burgers.

Myth #10—Amazon & Self-Publishing Have Destroyed Author Incomes

Definitely a NO. For the first time in history more authors are making a living wage than ever before. Mega-bookstores like Barnes & Noble did more to damage author incomes than almost any other factor. They almost single-handedly destroyed the bookstore ecosystem and many writers who were making a good living suddenly were forced to get a day job if they liked eating.

Refer to my post The Ugly Truth of Publishing.

Now that I pointed out the ten contentions I disagree with, I’d like to zoom in on this idea that traditional publishing is only for real writers and that self-publishing is for amateurs. Namely this quote from the article rubbed me the wrong way:

Despite royalty rates of 70%, I think self-publishing is a terrible idea for serious novelists (by which I mean, novelists who take writing seriously, and love to write).

This statement is so far off-base I need this book…

Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 9.19.49 AM

I’m back and I can “literally even” so let’s go 😀

The Long and Short of Publishing

I know we are going through a lot of birthing pains right now and we still have ways to go, but a lot of the changes in publishing have been for the better. For years, traditional (legacy) publishers were the sole gatekeepers and this had a lot of disadvantages for authors and readers.

Because traditional publishing was taking on a large financial risk and had to also maintain high overhead, they obviously had to be picky about what works to publish. These works had to bring in a certain amount of ROI (return on investment). This devastated the literary landscape and drove many works to the brink of extinction.

For instance, in the 70s and 80s long epic works were all the rage. Readers actually liked a book so long you could take out a burglar with it. I mean, Clan of the Cave Bear  could have been registered as a deadly weapon. But the thing is, paper is heavy so it is expensive to ship. It costs a lot more to print a long book (Duh).

Additionally, big thick paperbacks? Only fitting a few of those suckers on a shelf. Why sell three books for $9.99 when you can sell ten books for $7.99?

Basic math.

So, the trend became to cut works off after a certain word count. Many agents would take one look at a query and if the work was over 110,000 words? Forget it. It didn’t matter that it was the next Lord of the Rings. 

They weren’t being mean, they simply knew that publishers were wanting shorter works because they could sell more of them and enjoy a higher profit.

But what if a story needed to be that long?

The other side also suffered. Short works. Pulp fiction got its start with the much-esteemed Charles Dickens and this form of storytelling really picked up traction in the early part of the 20th century. This type of fiction gave the general public access the larger-than-life stories with exotic and sexy characters. Pulp authors also made a really good living, some becoming among the richest people in the country.

We can thank pulp fiction for some of the greatest literary geniuses of our culture. Edgar Rice Burroughs almost single-handedly laid the foundation for today’s science fiction. Then we have Max Brand, H.P. Lovecraft, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and Ray Bradbury.

With WWII we experienced paper rationing and the pulp magazine fell into decline as publishers opted for longer works with…a greater ROI. Notice how these changes really don’t have much to do with the skill of the writer and have more to do with paper costs, shipping costs and ROI.

The beauty of pulp fiction was how it connected to everyday people who normally would not have considered themselves “avid readers.”

As publishing became bigger and bigger business, it had less to do with the story and the quality of the writing and more to do with, “Can we sell this?” Again, this is simply wise business. A publisher might love a vampire book…but unfortunately they already had taken on three other vampire books and filled that quota for the year.


Many forms of writing were driven virtually to the point of extinction. Novellas, short stories, poetry, memoirs (unless your were famous), and epic works all suffered terribly. To extend the logic, their creators were driven almost to the point of extinction.

Because what if you happen to be an excellent pulp writer in a paradigm that has no outlet for that? What if your strength is epic length high fantasy that just can’t fit into under 150,000 words? Then just because a writer doesn’t fit into the current business model of legacy publishers she is less…talented? He isn’t a professional?


Remember Traditional Publishing is a BUSINESS

Original image via Flickr Commons, courtesy of Casey Konstantin

Original image via Flickr Commons, courtesy of Casey Konstantin

This notion that an author lacks skill or talent or has nothing worthwhile to offer unless the Legacy Gods deem approval ignores history. Most noteworthy?

John Kennedy Toole’s work A Confederacy of Dunces was published posthumously and went on to win the Pulitzer for Fiction. Though Toole’s work was praiseworthy in his lifetime, after facing rejection after rejection he took his own life.

Was it Toole’s work was substandard? Or did it have more to do with the business model of the publishing world and his work didn’t neatly fit in? Would Toole have continued to be a great voice in literature had other viable models of publishing been in existence?

African American Author Zora Neal Hurston was an anthropologist whose fiction was overlooked in her lifetime. Luckily for us the first wave of feminism catapulted her writing to success…after her death.

Often traditional publishing is hesitant to make waves because…they are a business.

Notice the massive uptick in LGBT fiction? Thank indie/self-publishing for much of that because these authors had the freedom to push boundaries and challenge social norms in a way that would have been virtually impossible for traditional publishing.

In fact, the success of many of these indies has allowed legacy presses to relax and realize just maybe there is an audience out there who’d love to have a voice, too (I.e. Barry Eisler writing anti-establishment, anti-war thrillers with a gay lead). Eisler left traditional because of the stories he believed needed a voice and he knew there would be an audience who shared those views, too. Indies are aware of cultural shifts and are risk-takers willing to explore them for good or bad.

I suppose this is one big reason I am puzzled a literary author would have so much against non-traditional publishing. Often it is literature that says what’s unpopular, that points out the pink elephant in the room. Literature is known for highlighting the lives and struggles of those groups who are largely ignored in the commercial realm.

Self-published authors have largely been responsible for many of the most beneficial changes in publishing history. Check out Why We Should All Hug a Self-Published/Indie Author.

Back to Business

Sure thing.

Sure thing.

Is Snookie’s A Shore Thing great writing? Or did the decision to publish this work have more to do with the fact that NY could capitalize on the popularity of a reality television show and, crunching the numbers, knew they could sell copies? Is 50 Shades of Grey a better book simply because a legacy press picked it up? Or did they pick it up because giving E.L. James a far wider distribution was a sound business decision?

What all of us have to remember is NY is not a non-profit organization; it’s a business driven by profit and loss. Sure, a lot of authors jump the gun to self-publish and they aren’t ready. Refer to 5 Mistakes Killing Self-Published Authors. But guess what? That is common in ALL business. There is a reason most restaurants don’t last a year 😉 .

Traditional publishing tests ONE thing…commercial viability. All across the arts from painting to music to writing, the greatest legends were very often overlooked by the establishment. From Picasso to Plath, genius is often not something that fits neatly into a P&L statement.

Traditional publishing is also not a meritocracy.

There are excellent writers who don’t make the cut for any number of reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the writing. We all know of talented authors we love who, for whatever reason, aren’t selling like 50 Shades of Darker…and we die just a little inside knowing that.

But this notion that only “real” writers publish traditionally? Patently false. We will take some time to explore some of these other myths, but rest-assured the decision of how to publish and when to publish is far more complex than it may seem. Also, self-publishing has evolved quite a lot. Yes, it used to be the equivalent of cheap vanity press, but that is light years from today’s reality.

There are good and bad reasons for ALL forms of publishing, so do some homework. Also, remember sometimes we need to try things on. If they don’t fit? Um…change.

What are your thoughts? Are you a successful indie/hybrid/self-pub author who gets tired of this misconception that you are not a “real” writer? Have you felt undue pressure to self-publish? Are you a writer of really long or really short works and think maybe you might have a new home?

I LOVE hearing from you guys!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of APRIL, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel.

I will announce March’s winner next post.

Before we go, I want to give you a heads up especially if you are thinking on attending a conference.

I’m holding my ever-popular Your Story in a Sentence class. Can you tell what your book is about in ONE sentence? If you can’t? There might be a huge plot problem. This also helps if you are ever going to query or pitch an agent. The first ten signups get their log-line shredded by MOI for FREE.

Also speaking of FREE, I’d like to mention again the new class I am offering!

How and WHY are we using FREE!?

Making Money with FREE! As a bonus for this class, my friend Jack Patterson who’s so far sold over 150,000 books to come and teach us how to ROCK the newsletter. This is in excess of two hours of training and the recording (as always) comes with purchase.

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook


32 pings

Skip to comment form

  1. Reblogged this on Claudette Melanson, Author of Dark Fantasy and commented:

  2. Solid info and applause (Perfect opeing image, too)

    • Newt Johnson on April 1, 2016 at 11:11 am
    • Reply

    As always, Kristen, you give us closet writers hope! Thanks for your experience, your fresh outlook, your humor, your wisdom, and the wonderful helmet-and-braids outlook. You’re more appreciated than you can guess!

  3. Reblogged this on Indie Lifer and commented:
    Well said, Kristen Lamb.

  4. Another winner! Great info for anyone looking to publish no matter the path.

  5. I was looking at the title and thought it had to be an April fools joke. i didn’t realize that people actually still believed that. Yes, publishing is a business.

    I have question. I heard that Amazon was talking about helping readers sell used e-books? ( I didn’t hear it today, so it isn’t just an April Fools joke) Is that true?

    • M Byerly on April 1, 2016 at 11:21 am
    • Reply

    The irony of this woman’s post was that what she revealed about her own career and numbers is that she probably has no future career in traditional publishing beyond her present book so she will never see being shortlisted for major literary awards, etc. Even literary publishers expect profits, these days, and, if you don’t provide them, your next book won’t be published, no matter how precious the word craft.

    That’s why we are seeing so many literary novels now offering plots and genre tropes to make them more accessible.

  6. Reblogged this on ugiridharaprasad.

  7. Kristen, thanks so much for addressing that article!

    It gets so frustrating to encounter the lingering attitude that self-publishing is a short cut for an impatient wannabe writer (aka, amateur) who isn’t interested in improving his/her craft and just wants instant gratification/quick money. As you point out, both trad-pub and self-pub are viable paths, and each has its trade-offs.

    We writers should stick together, not form an exclusive club to define who is and isn’t a “serious novelist.” Looking forward to your next installment! 😀

  8. I once had an agent, but she couldn’t sell my book because it has slavery in it (it’s set in America in the 1780’s, and guess what existed in America in the 1780’s?). She released me. I’ve won contests, and one editor who choose my entry as the winner said she would love to publish my work, but again, it contained slavery and that doesn’t sell (unless it’s from the slave’s POV). So yeah, I understand it’s a business, and they’re making business decisions. So, I self-publish.
    I suck at marketing though (being almost 50 with a toddler makes me exhausted). But, I understand that would be up to me even if I went with traditional publishing, so I don’t see what they would give me. I will admit that having the gatekeepers like my work meant something.

    1. Interesting! My novel is about a very real issue at the moment, that of child trafficking, inspired by my time volunteering in the Philippines and being made aware of it. I wonder if that could be one of the reasons agents haven’t liked my book! It has received only 5 star reviews from those who have read it and I have been asked by three book groups to give talks about it and the subject matter!

  9. Reblogged this on Jens Thoughts and commented:
    Great post that addresses self and traditional publishing.

  10. This might have left me with more questions than answers, but your introspection is appreciated nonetheless. It is a tough business for sure. I’ve got a 203K word love story friends and strangers alike have applauded after reading and yet, after querying 50 literary agencies I’ve only had one ask for the full manuscript. (This produced a “just not what we are looking for, but it is really good” response. After reading that once you self-publish most publishers would be hesitant to pick up that work, I will continue to exhaust any and all possibilities first, but it feels inevitable at this point.

    Thank you for your insights.

  11. Thanks for standing up for the self-published! Times are changing. I have traditionally published non-fiction but was never able to break through in fiction. In the past I never would have considered self-publishing, but I finally decided I wasn’t getting any younger so if I wanted to see my novels in print, I had to do it myself. I’m enjoying the process. It feels good to have control over my covers and when I publish rather than waiting on the timeline of a publisher. It’s a lot of work, especially the need to edit, edit, edit and proof copy, but I’m having fun.

  12. Thank you! Not all who self-publish secretly want a publisher.

  13. Reblogged this on Erotic Vampire.

      • Monica-Marie Vincent on September 11, 2018 at 12:00 am
      • Reply

      Kristen, I read this & LITERALLY heard you speaking the words to me in my head.

      You’re RIGHT. There ARE pros & cons to self-publishing, going with a hybrid, or going the traditional route. And it really steams my keyboard when I see some know-it-all voice THEIR two cents like it’s the holy gospel of ALL publishing. No two writers have the same voice, or the same path. The trick isn’t to brag on what route you went to get your work in front of the readers, it’s getting your book in front of the readers. Live & let live is the best policy when it comes to letting authors be authors.

      To quote Rodney King from back in the day: “Can’t we all just get along?”

      Thank you for laying it all out FACTUALLY. It’s posts like this that make you the one I tell newer authors to follow & utilize to help them along.

      Keep up the amazeballs work, my friend. You are an angel!!

      And as a hybrid author…I say, those that choose to call me a “fake author”, well, they’re entitled to their WRONG opinion. I might not be making a LIVING from my writing, but I sho nuff am a REAL writer, because I’m REALLY writing & I REALLY have readers… there’s that!!

  14. Loved #8 in particular. Probably because I identified with it because, a decade ago, when Passion’s Fire was originally published in the traditional way, my editor wanted to use a cover photo which had Mt. Fiji in the background …. Thankfully, I managed to convince her that would be ‘false advertising’ since the book was 90+% in Alaska and not a single scene took place in Japan, though Kilauea was mentioned…

  15. “I suppose this is one big reason I am puzzled a literary author would have so much against non-traditional publishing.”

    This literary author of an LGBT novel understands the difficulty with pushing boundaries and finding an audience, whether that audience be an agent, publisher, or readers. I received so many personal rejections by agents who loved it but not the characters, agents who loved the characters but not the story, agents who were actively looking for literary but thought mine was too philosophical, agents who loved literary but thought mine was too easy of a read, agents actively looking for LGBT but…

    I found a publisher who loved it, but there is difficulty for authors of small presses in getting books in front of readers–very similar problem as self-published authors. There are multiple avenues for authors with new things to say, but no matter the path the author chooses and no matter how much networking an author does, the “noise” of the new publishing paradigm can be overwhelming. Let’s face it, certain genres (most notably romance) does better than others. Literary authors probably have it the hardest when it comes to non-traditional publishing, and the statistics show that.

  16. I like being a self publisher and in complete control of my business. There was a time when I would not have gone this route but times have changed.

  17. Loved everything you shared, and am so thankful that you shared it! This is the type of information I am craving right now but it is pretty hard to find honest, factual critiques. I really appreciate what you are doing.

  18. Reblogged this on Nancy Segovia and commented:
    And you thought you knew it all. Think again!

  19. Great blog.

    It’s a difficult time to explore the facts from the fiction. The internet is awash with opinion on the upside, the downside, the outside, the inside, their side, our side. I don’t know who to side with.

    Your input comes across as a stable ship in a mighty wind of change. Thank you.

  20. So true. What fascinates me about the original piece is that it’s written purely in assumptions: a self-published author *will* over-market, under-sell, and end up pushing junk. “Always.”

    No, self-publishing simply gives you the chance to get each of these wrong… or right. And traditional publishing gives you One Chance to cover everything, or be locked out altogether.

  21. I read that article you mentioned. And I loved this guy’s comment:

    Henry Bugalho
    21 Mar 2016 9:47
    24 25

    Some good points, but also a very outdated perception of reality.

    Self-publishing has always been hand in hand with legacy publishing. Some of the most important authors in the History of literature had to reach deep in their pockets and finance their own books, at least in their first works, but some of them during their entire careers. Balzac and Edgar Allan Poe are the first ones that pop in my mind, but also Fernando Pessoa and Walt Whitman.

    What we saw in the course of the 20th century was the massive industrialization of culture, with editors and publishing houses claiming the status of gatekeepers. But there will always be good and bad writing in both zones.
    We can’t just turn a blind eye and pretend that there isn’t a lot of junk on the brick-and-mortar bookshelves because there they are.

    Self-publishing in the digital era just opened the door (to hell?!) to an unbelievable wave of writers-to-be, but surely there are some pearls to be found out there.

  22. Plenty of good points here. While you’re absolutely right, I do agree that due to the huge amount of cr*p out there, people turn to gatekeepers to tell them what them what to read, and it’s reasonable and understanble; I’d love to read all of them great books out there, but I’d need a freaking light year to search the mountains of rubble.
    I think getting accepted by a traditional publisher is “bankable” if want to go indie or self-publish.

    1. My argument against that is regular readers aren’t looking to see if it is a “traditional publisher.” They are looking at the cover art, title, story summary and sample pages. And other than the Big 5, would the average person even recognize a traditional house from an indie?

      1. No, of course not. But would the average reader even FIND you unless bloggers talk about you, you have tons of press releases and you’re easy to google? In order to get these things you have to invest amounts of money too high for the average pocket (which we all are in the beginning), or you have one traditionally published book to “bank” on when pitching to reviewers and journalists. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. My two cents.

        1. True but you can do all of that without a traditional publisher. Google-ability is all on the author. The publisher has nothing to do with that. These days you have to build all your social media yourself even the BIG NAME authors. I’ve worked with NYTBSAs who came to me panicked because the publisher was demanding they get more Twitter followers or more FB likes and on and on. So even a NYTBSA doesn’t get help in that area.

          As far as press releases? They don’t do anything to drive book sales and neither does traditional marketing. I talk about that in this post.

          Writers believe a big marketing budget drives sales but in reality? Untrue. I once talked to a big editor from Penguin and they had a NF author they really believed in. They spent a small fortune taking out a half page ad in The Wall Street Journal on the busiest day of readership. What difference did it make in sales? Nada.

          Publishers do this kind of marketing largely to make authors feel better (and maybe they can capture lightning in a bottle), but these efforts have a terrible ROI for sales. The only thing that is going to drive sales is a good book and word of mouth…and the author can do that on her own. Also, traditional journals and outlets? Most publishers aren’t going to approach that for a first time or newer novelist. That is squarely the realm of established authors (I.e. James Patterson) or non-fiction (diet books).

          Again, most of what drives sales? Good cover, excellent content, great editing, a platform can be done by the author and often better. All writers are different and self-pub isn’t for everyone, but the notion that we have to have a legacy publisher for these things just isn’t true.

          1. You’re absolutely right. Thanks so much for having taken the time to respond with all this information. Some of it I’ve read in detail in your book “Rise of the Machines” – great work, I’m CRAZY about you.
            What I meant was simply this: Putting myself in the shoes of a reviewer that gets asked by an author to review and blog about their book – we all depend on them reviewers for visibility and marketing, right? But it’s very hard to get reviewers’ attention these days. The authors who write to me asking for a review will tell me their book is great. So will a zillion other authors, and I can’t even respond to them all. But if they say, “Oh, and I have a title published with Random House,” what then? You can be sure I’ll give that author a chance. Probably so would all of us, if we’re completely honest. So what I mean is that traditional publishing won’t drive sales – I know that – but it’s a good tool to successfully self-publish and self-promote. I think I get what you’re saying though – it’s not a must; if you do it right, you can do without involving traditional at all.
            I always read your posts with great interest and really love what you’re doing. You have my unbound admiration and support.

  23. This is a great post. I’ve been trying to figure out where to go, whether to self-pub or go the traditional route.
    Right now I have one ebook that I self-published by reader request. I wrote a special holiday tale on my blog and long story story, I received so many requests to put it out as an ebook that I put it out there for them. (A couple asked for paperback too so I did a POD print as well; it was a good review of formatting. It’s been awhile since I did print layout). It did sell (both print and digital), not a lot but I hadn’t expected it to since I went up on Amazon after the holiday season ended. All the promo I did for it was to let those who asked know it was out there. Next holiday season I will do a real marketing campaign and see what happens.

    (I’ve shown the book I published to my coworkers {I work in for a journal publisher} and they were astounded by how well it turned out–layout, design, etc. A friend who reads so much she spots errors in traditionally published books said the editing was sound. So yes I did this all myself but it wasn’t a hack job).

    But in the meantime I have another book, I’m trying to figure out what to do with. I publish pieces of it on my blog and I get asked when it will be out for purchase all the time. That question I can’t answer because i don’t know what to do. I sent a few pages to a freelance copyeditor and she was blown away by it. She said a traditional house might pick it up. I knew it was a good story but I was and still am shocked by her assessment.

    So i don’t know what to do. Self pub or traditional?

  24. Thank you so much for writing this. BTW – Myth #4 rebuttal? Spot on!
    BTW – I wanted soooo badly to write that woman and send her my indie vs traditional results blog post, but I refrained. She might’ve fainted from the shock.

  25. There are so many reasons to self- publish that have nothing to do with the quality of the work. The most important one for me is control. It’s finished when I say it’s finished, not when my deadline arrives. If something isn’t working I can change it. I can change the price for a promotion, change the cover, change the description, change anything, anytime. I can also check sales whenever I want to. Er, actually, that one might not be a good thing, ‘hits refresh button for the tenth time in an hour.’ Kidding. Really.
    Thanks again Kirsten for another great post!

    • mcm0704 on April 1, 2016 at 12:18 pm
    • Reply

    Loved this. Great way to bust the myths, I shared some of this on my blog today. Thought it was good information to share.

    • hollykerrauthor on April 1, 2016 at 12:34 pm
    • Reply

    Thank you. Thank you so, so much! xo

    • michelestegman on April 1, 2016 at 12:41 pm
    • Reply

    Frankly, I think there is “even” a place for vanity publishers. For someone with a family history book, for example, who never plans to publish anything else and just wants a few nice copies for family. Sure they could learn all the ropes and do it themselves, but why?

    1. Cost. Vanity press charges WAY too much for what that author could do on CreateSpace.

    2. Your choice is not vanity press or DIY. You can also go direct to CreateSpace and pay it to do what is necessary, or Ingram Spark, or you can contract with a legitimate small press or production vendor to do all the editorial and production work. Do the research to find legit full service vendors. Get estimates! Compare them! Such vendors have always existed and many more exist now with prices far lower than the vanity presses and with much better service. You also don’t want to contract to print the books; go with print on demand with either CreateSpace or Ingram. That way, you won’t end up with a garage full of hideously expensive excess copies.

  26. Kristen, Can you point me to so resources for guidance in writing a memoir?Susan Hudson 

    Sent from my T-Mobile 4G LTE Device

    1. Kristen, Brooke Warner from SheWrites press regularly does free webinars on Memoir writing. She also has a class and is available for consult. Check her out at

      1. thank you!

    • John Timm on April 1, 2016 at 12:58 pm
    • Reply

    I suspect that some who seek to publish through the traditional route are looking for validation. Given the examples cited (A Shore Thing, 50 Shades of Grey), that could be like looking for love in all the wrong places.

    1. LOL That thought hadn’t occurred to me, but now you mention it I wonder how long it will be before some kind of inverse snobbery sets in. “Oh, you were traditionally published.” *disdainful sniff* “You mean, like Snooki?”

  27. I generally think articles like that are just click bait (hers–not yours.) It’s too easy to pick apart her “arguments” and well, I read this a couple weeks ago, which means it’s still making the round. And YES! I clicked too! Because that’s what it is…click bait. That author is actually working the system a lot harder than she’d probably ever admit.

    Thanks for breaking it down though. It’s always good to have a cheerleader with solid thought on our side. FYI: I’m reading your Machines book right now and it’s great~angel

  28. I appreciate the insight. As a closet writer who has recently finished my first novel, it’s good to read a different perspective. This author is not the first I’ve heard say this, either. As another commenter noted, there are a lot of very bad self-published works out there. I understand how the perception has come to be, even if it’s an incorrect perception.

  29. The only thing funnier than Snooki’s book getting published is Kim Kardashian’s book of selfies getting published.
    Excellent points about good writing vs. good risk management at a traditional publishing house.

  30. Yes! #8. I’ve read, rather I’ve started, so many books from the big publishers that were subpar bexause of story padding. It made me so crazy that I did get out a marker to cross out unnecessary passages for one of the last books I read. Somehow, that made me feel better. With indie published books, I’ve never wanted to reach for the marker. (and the screen on my cell phone thanks me for that.

  31. I love your blog just an fyi. And yes, this particular indie/self-pub author gets tired of this misconception. People try to talk about it as if there’s some actual list somewhere which states precisely, exactly, down to the letter what it takes to make an author or not make one. But sorry, if we’re going by “qualifications” in this context, there are just too many circumstances, grey areas, addenda, and personal preferences for such a clean cut list.
    In actuality, the matter is really simple. Am I an author? Yes, I am, and I was one long before I made the decision to either self-publish or trad-publish my work. So publishing my work has nothing to do with how “true” of an author I am. I’ve loved to write since I was nine years old, and I will be the first to stand up and say that uh, no, not everything I’ve written has been sheer gold on parchment. I’d go closer to crayon marks on toilet paper with some of it.
    Yet there’s this preconceived notion coloring everyone’s perception that being successful means earning the big bucks and garnering fame. Me? I was told just today by someone who’d just started reading one of my books that it was very hard to put it down, and the satisfaction I felt knowing I’d entertained someone so thoroughly is what I consider success.

  32. Reblogged this on Eric Lahti and commented:
    Self publishing is a choice, folks, and there are some very good reasons for doing it.

  33. Love this post! There are so many reasons people might decide to go the self-published route and this author was deluded about most of them.

  34. I am an aspirational author at this point but also a connoisseur of quality, quirky fiction be it in literary or audiovisual form. I note that good writing – while for me not only necessary but absolutely essential to all successful content – is sadly not sufficient to guarantee commercial success. A recent example: the brilliant dark comedy TV show HAPPYish (currently premiering in Europe on Sky) which is so f***g brilliant that I could cry – yet did not get the audiences needed to be continued on Showtime. You reference ‘A Confederacy of Dunces’, one of my all-time favorite novels; the tragedy of John Kennedy Toole is a cautionary tale for all writers – and readers – of quality fiction. Your post puts all of this in perspective while providing practical advice for writers on getting published. Thank you for that. It’s important. It matters. MERCI!

  35. Reblogged this on Jo-Ann Carson and commented:
    An awesome read.

  36. Reblogged. It’s a shame the Guardian printed such an ill-informed, subjective piece in the first place, but this will help to set the record straight

  37. Thank you SO MUCH for this post! When I read the original article, I thought to myself, “this poor writer is so deluded.” And I’m guessing she isn’t part of a large writer community such as WANA because then she’d know that there are as many paths to successful publishing as there are stars in the sky. Thank you my darling for all the good you do for us.

  38. Ay, Kristen, publishers exist like hyenas – to eat. They don’t care what they eat. They don’t empathize with the baby lambs they eat. So yours is the next greatest novel since Gone With The Wind? Tough. If it ain’t edible, darlin, eat my shorts. Strange to say publishing, like business, has always been that way. H. Rider Haggard said it 127 years ago in ‘Mr Meeson’s Will’ (1888), a scathing lampoon of publishers’ greed. Yet his publisher published it. Why? Haggard was a household name, everything he wrote sold well, and publishers like to eat. Plus ça change…

  39. Hi Kristen, I’m self published and rather proud of the fact. I took the route for a combination of three reasons. First being that I was too impatient to wait for months and months to hear back from editor submissions. The second, was that I wanted to learn what went into publishing a book, from the ground up. And thirdly I decided I liked the thought of 70% profit.
    While the exercise has taught me a lot about the publishing industry and I have a far bigger appreciation for what the publishing houses must have to go through to get a book out there, it has meant a huge chunk of my time has been spent doing things other than writing. I will try to get an editor on board for the next book, and while I’m being patient, I will start writing my next one!

  40. Kristen, this is an awesome post, thank you!
    Unless the reader is buying books from an actual bookstore, there’s often no way that he or she will know what was self published or traditionally published. I suspect that often the “lost” books — those that receive no reviews, accolades or attention — are those that aren’t marketed well or enough. Today, that is no longer something that the traditional publishers do, so the author is left to do it regardless of which route they choose.

  41. Great post, thank you – very helpful for a first timer like myself 🙂

  42. Hi Kristen,

    I have been reading some of your blogs, past and present, and they are something to cherish. This one too (but my personal favourite is the 13 ways Writers are mistaken for Serial Killers).

    Regarding this entry: I will have to self-publish. I am afraid, dark fantasy with a civil war – especially when well researched! – is not popular with trad houses. And I wouldn’t wish it anyway, this is something that will sell itself. Or not, as it happens to be.

    Anyway, thank you for your good advice and I will take what fits, I will post a comment on my blog maybe Sunday. Sorry about that, I blogged today twice before I stumbled over your nice incentive – and I don’t want to spoil readers. See ya around!

  43. I totally agree.
    You could easily argue that publishing is similar in this regard to the music industry. If one type of music sells, record labels might look to find, say, another ‘One Direction’. If one genre is popular, publishers search out that genre and ignore anything else.
    It’s unfair that in music, when someone bucks the trend and is independent like Ed Sheeran, or Daniel Beddingfield, or countless others, they are held in even higher esteem while it often isn’t so for independent authors.
    Yes, some of the worst writing I have ever read has come from self-published authors, like some of the worst music might come from the guy down the pub karaoke reckoning he’s a great singer; it doesn’t reflect on the industry.
    Likewise, some of the best, and definitely most of the truly original work I have read recently has come from independent authors.
    Great post.

  44. Reblogged this on Mystery and Romance and commented:
    When self-publishing gets bashed…

  45. This made my day! I read the post you referred to and I was hoping to see your answer. I have one traditionally published nonfiction book. Successful? Not yet. But that’s on the table.

    I have a novel that is currently with an editor and I am excited to get her feedback. Its pop fiction not literary but I truly haven’t decided what route I’ll go. I may explore all of them.

    Your class on branding and blogging, Kristen was my first timid toe dip into the big writing world. It’s been at times frustrating and others exhilarating. I haven’t been the most diligent writer. I’ve taken long breaks and had life events. But I’ve never given up. Writing isn’t my fast track to riches but rather my long term life path.

  46. Nicely said as always! I love having control over my books.
    When an agent asked if I’d be willing to drop the paranormal elements out of my romantic suspense so it would be easier to shelve, I understood their dilemma, and politely said no.
    Yes there’s more work to publish these books myself, but the series is now 6 books strong and I’ve finally quit questioning my sanity!

  47. I don’t mind doing all the extra work for formatting and cover art and such, and I’m a control freak when it comes to my writing, so self publishing is a good fit for me. There are a couple of indie publishers I’d be willing to work with in the right circumstances. NY? I’ve learned never to say never, so I’ll just say I find it extremely unlikely I’d ever be interested in going the legacy route.

    BTW, awesome clickbate 😉

    1. LOL. Actually I didn’t mean it to be. I hurt my knee recently and all my brain power went into the post so the title was an accident. But being April Fool’s I suppose it worked great 😀

  48. I just want to say THANKS. You backed the points I made with my critique partner who thinks I’m taking the EASY way out by self-publishing later this year. She said we who self publish have flooded the market making it harder for her and other traditional authors to make a living.

    I don’t consider the research I’ve done and the money I’ve put towards book covers and professional editors the EASY way out.

    As always I appreciate your word of wisdom. Great blog! THANKS!

    1. No, poor business decisions on the part of traditional publishers and major book retailers have made it harder for trads to make a living 😉 .

  49. Excellent, love it, will tweet!

    Self-pubbers are also becoming more prominent when it comes to film adaptations (my own little niche). Andy Weir’s THE MARTIAN was self-pubbed (and initially free), then went on to make over over $630M and garner 7 Oscar nominations. The same director (Ridley Scott) has optioned Hugh Howey’s self-published WOOL. Howey’s self-pubbed BEACON 23 just sold to producer Brian Unkless and Studio 8 head Jeff Robinov. Others include 50 SHADES OF GRAY, STILL ALICE, LEGALLY BLONDE, ERAGON and THE SHACK (forthcoming), which sold more than 10 million copies.

    Self pubbing is here to stay. Adapt or die.

  50. “Also, remember sometimes we need to try things on. If they don’t fit? Um…change.”

    I self-published my first book and since I decided to try traditional with the second, I’ve gotten some of flack from some self-pub promoters.

    Worse, I have gotten what I feel is bad advice from from a former literary agent (who now is an author coach) about how to proceed. He insists I must “hide” my self-published work, although it was not poorly received, he says the “insider climate” is oppositional to the self-publishing world right now and advises me to query with a pen name and disassociate myself from the self-published work. I’m resenting that.

    It’s uncertain, at this point, whether I’ll self-pub again or traditionally publish, but it seems to me that both sides are a bit territorial.

  51. Let’s not forget that Andy Weir’s “The Martian” started out as chapters he posted on his blog, and he eventually worked those up into his novel. I think he showed if you’re writing something people want to read, they’ll read it no matter where it shows up.

    1. I am reading that right now and I LOVE IT! Non-traditional really brings out creativity.

      1. I loved the movie, and without having read the book I knew most of what was happening.

        It was also stated that Andy wrote some fan fiction for the “Ready Player One” universe, and Ernest Cline liked it so much it was added to the newest edition of the RPO book, and is considered canonical .

        1. Seriously, READ THE BOOK. You don’t know what was happening. But then again I love chemistry and it let me get my geek on. I loved the movie and had the book and was all, “Meh, I saw the movie.” Today I needed a book and I am HOOKED!

          1. When they were showing maps of where he was going on Mars–like when he took his first trip to get his, um, radio–I knew instantly where he was headed. Though I know there are a few differences between the book and the movie, so I will pick it up one day.

    • Stuart Land on April 1, 2016 at 6:20 pm
    • Reply

    Great article, as always, Kristen! I think you must have the secret of time phasing, because surely you fit more than 24 hour into every day. You’re a master ninja at time management, and can control several universes at the same time. I’m pretty sure Flashdance was about you (replace dancing and welding with everything else you do). And Rambo, you being a crack shot. I want you with me on Zombie Apocalypse Day so you can read me witticisms while defending hearth and home. Then we’ll self-publish to all the troops in the trenches. Gotta go… rummaging through pawn shops for a Viking helmet.

  52. This is a great post. Thank you!

    An indie author 🙂

  53. A very good article. yes both types of publishing have their pros and cons. I self-publish and now have a business helping other Indie Authors to get their books out to the public. I’d also like to point out that Traditional Publishing has only been around for approx 120 years. So that leave us with centuries of self publishing or printing, which ever way you will look at it.

    I still get the…You’re not a real author, so I will continue on my way, learn, help and keep blogging. Reblogged your article.

  54. Reblogged this on Plaisted Publishing House .

  55. Love this article Kristen! I am a self published author with one book published on Amazon and another due out later this month. I love that control I get from self publishing. I have had a publishing contract sent to me which stipulates that I have to go with them for any future work which I’m not comfortable with. I have not made heaps of money yet, but I believe in my work and will continue to self publish as long as I’m happy with it 🙂

  56. Reblogged this on White's Wyrd World and commented:
    Have I mentioned how much I adore her Kristen Lamb’s blog? This post is SO true, and is a great read for both writers and non-writers who are curious alike. There are so many wonderful books I have read that came from indie or small press authors that most likely wouldn’t have seen the light of day without this new publishing model.

  57. Reblogged this on The BiaLog and commented:
    Some awesome points. At the end of the day, we’re all in this together whether we Self-Publish or go the Traditional route.

  58. Today, I’ve already posted two links (for submissions), but a link to this piece is going up too featuring this tease: “All across the arts from painting to music to writing, the greatest legends were very often overlooked by the establishment. From Picasso to Plath, genius is often not something that fits neatly into a P&L statement.” Isn’t it grand that writers have so many options?

  59. Reblogged this on my blog:

    LOVE IT! As early as 2004 I independently published my first novel because it was a cross-genre historical novel and was nearly spat upon by local “traditional” authors. never mind my novel ended up in the National Library of Wales because of my research and use of the Welsh language. Never mind that I sold copies across three continents all on my own. I have three books in that series, published my research as a nonfiction collection of biographies, and have also published and co-authored a children’s story book.
    I’ve been published by other presses and the lack of control over my covers was infuriating–as well as the total lack of promotion/ marketing. While yes, I would love to be the next JK Rowling, I’ll keep going indy for most of my stories.

  60. I’m just about to drop book number two two weeks from now via Smashwords, and I’ll be honest: I’m having a hella fun time doing it. I love the whole process, so I’m incredibly tempted to remain a self-published author from here on in.

    I released my first self-pubbed book back in September utilizing the Indiana Jones Method (“I dunno, I’m just making it up as I go…”) and learned how to work all the moving parts as I went. There’s actually quite a lot of excellent reference material out there to show you how to do most of it. Sure, there are also a lot of sites and books that say ‘DON’T DO IT YOURSELF!’ but one has to realize, that’s more of a caveat: don’t do it if you’re not prepared/able/willing.

    That’s the thing, though. I absolutely *love* the fact that it’s nearly all DIY. It’s just like the webcomics that are out there, funded mostly out of pocket and maybe help from Patreon, or the bands that release their own music via Bandcamp. I’m writing the stories I want to tell, and I’m completely in charge of how I get them out there. And I’m willing to learn how to do it.

    Does that make me a faux-writer? Does that make me less of a pro? Hardly. In fact, I’d say it makes me the opposite: I’m not just learning the writing trade, I’m learning the whole damn industry. 🙂

  61. Reblogged this on Maegan Provan, Author and commented:
    Yes to all of this. A perfect response to those that think self publishing isn’t viable.

  62. I decided to self-publish after an editor at Doubleday told me my manuscript had the editorial department in stitches, but that marketing would never risk investing on a book that “off the wall.” This after spending hundreds of dollars on conferences with editors and agents telling authors (and me in person) that they exected us to build our own marketing platform and to show them we could market our book before they would consider looking at the manuscript.

    For all their talk about gatekeeping and quality, if publishers refuse to invest in books beyond printing and shipping (unless they think they have a mega-seller), then they shouldn’t expect writers to toe the party line. My own sales as an indie writer are poor, but I do all the work editors and agents told me I would do for publishers.

    1. I had the same experience with my first book. Almost got a deal; the editorial.department loved it, but the marketing department said it would be too hard to sell. They were right, but at least I get all of what I do sell.

  63. It’s really too bad The Grauniad is still in business. They produce all kinds of tripe that is usually almost entirely devoid of facts. But they have a wide circulation (at least on the internet) and a lot of people see their stuff. It’s sad. It’s gotten so bad that it’s become one of the sites I dismiss as soon as I see the url.

  64. Reblogged this on newauthoronline.

  65. Reblogged this on Thoughts, Musings, and Storytelling and commented:
    Agree with this completely. Well written and completely sensical. 🙂

  66. With each new book I briefly consider that perhaps I might try the trad route again, but I soon decide against it. Why? First, I know my magical realism is probably too far out of the box for mainstream publishers, so I’d most likely be wasting my time. Second, I like having control – publishing through my own company I get to do it the way I envisage it, all the way. Third, my books will be available long after I’m dead – I have a long time to get my money back on the editing and covers. Fourth, I don’t want to wait 2 yrs for someone else to get round to doing the publishing for me, and I can’t be bothered jumping through the hoops required anyway.
    As for quality. I have reviews from some very highly qualified reviewers that indicate that my work is exceptional. I don’t need them to be employed by a mainstream publishing house to give me the confidence that my work is as good as if not better than anything put out in the mainstream press. And it’s a lot more interesting than a lot of it!
    Whoever wrote that article needs to discover Awesome Indies Books. Awesome Indies approval is the indie equivalent of the stamp of approval one gets from a mainstream deal.

  67. Very interesting post. I think most people, including me, would like the opportunity to be traditionally published, but if that doesn’t happen, self-publishing, handled properly, is something to be proud of.
    It does make me wonder though, how some books do make it to TP and others don’t. I read a lot of books represented by the agencies I was approaching and some of them were terrible (in my opinion).
    One weakness of SP, again my opinion, is that some authors think it’s a matter of just loading up their book and not realising the importance of having a proof reader and editor and not laying the ground work for promoting their book.

  68. Reblogged this on Frank Parker's author site and commented:
    A really useful contribution to the ‘indie vs trad’ debate.

    • Mary Patrick on April 2, 2016 at 6:37 am
    • Reply

    Thanks for dispelling the myths about self publishing. I am about to seriously look into getting my first book published, one way or the other. This was a very informative article.

  69. Reblogged this on Stacey Wilk and commented:
    I often get asked, “Who’s your publisher?” And sometimes I answer, “Why does it matter?” This article offers some insight into the traditional vs. self-published world. Enjoy!

  70. I’m indie and proud! Yes, I’d consider a trad contract if I was offered one (I had an agent way way back), but it’d have to be a special deal to tempt me away from this path. What can a trad pub offer that I can’t do myself? Shelf space in a book shop? Yeah, right – one copy for a couple of months, spine out on an obscure shelf at the back. No, thanks.

    But I am noticing now on social media that readers just don’t care who published a book. Mostly readers who read ebooks, true, but the tide is turning. One day it really won’t matter.

  71. Hello, Texas Viking 🙂 and congratulations on the blog, thank you.

  72. Reblogged this on Don Massenzio's Blog and commented:
    Here is a fantastic post that refutes the traditionally held opinions of self-publishing.

  73. Snookie and Best Selling Author said it all. All I can say is someone earned that ghostwriting paycheck, snicker.

  74. I agree with you. Traditional Publishing is a business, and for it to survive it needs to find what sells. It’s unpleasant as a storyteller. In my mind, artistic endeavor and helping others find some sort of benefit from the story are the greatest ends I can achieve.But–this isn’t the case for a business, unless of course such things guarantee its continued existence.
    I’m conflicted. I understand intellectually the mentality of Traditional Publishing, but I am invested in the field of thinking that the artistic side is of more significance. It’s a tiring thing.

  75. Love this list. #4 makes me laugh and is what I always refer to when people talk about gatekeepers. But the biggest thing to remember is, as you say, publishing is a business. Publishers are in to to make money, and if they can do that publishing crap, they will do so. Nothing inherently wrong with that, it’s a business, just don’t expect it to be motivated by anything related to literary ideals.

  76. Reblogged this on Brandon Rucker Dot Com.

  77. Myth #4 is quite the zinger. Great post, Kristen.

  78. Reblogged this on L. Anne Carrington.

    • barryknister on April 2, 2016 at 12:40 pm
    • Reply

    I’m sure I’m one of many who’ve published commercially, but since has had to self-publish after NY agents (two) took me on, but failed to get me deals. I know all the good reasons for self-publishing, but they don’t apply to me, and here’s why: I’m old. I don’t live with young people who could help me through the minefield known as social media marketing.
    As I see it, the success stories in self-publishing are almost exclusively related to young people. Not because they’re the best writers, but because they’ve grown up with social media, and know how to use it for self-promotion. And I do mean promotion of the self, as distinct from promotion of the work. The new model is not based on writing good books. The new model is based on using social media to create Internet relationships with readers who come to feel a bond or sense of loyalty with the writer. This is made most evident by media gurus who advise writers to start developing such contacts before they publish anything.
    I acknowledge this condition as a fact of life. But as an old guy who has devoted himself to the craft of writing, I resent it.

    1. You might be surprised, Barry. I LOVE RWA even though I am not a romance author. Many of those writers are over 60 and they are some of the most tech-savvy and innovative folks I have been blessed to know. Much of what I do and have incorporated into my books on social media has come from learning from those older and wiser than I am. And actually the authentic successes have come from writers who are prolific and who tell good stories. Yes, we need a platform and brand but that actually is not much related to the mass marketing crap you see blitzed over the web. That has a TERRIBLE ROI even though, yes, there are plenty of gurus who preach it.

      If you can simply relax and view social media as a way to just get to know people and let them know you, it’s easier. I never promote my book. I have a good time, enjoy people and they respond. Social media really shouldn’t be different from socializing in person. If we went to a lunch gathering or a cocktail party we wouldn’t harass people to buy stuff or set up a credit card machine. We’d talk, find common ground and mention we had a book and as the relationship progresses people gravitate to who they know and like. The money generator then becomes in having multiple titles so that when they discover they LIKE your stories, they buy all of them and spread the word.

      But yes, ignore the mass marketing garbage. I resent it too 😉

      1. Love your comments here on social media – a way to just get to know people and let them know you. That’s what I’m trying to do.

  79. Hi Kristen,
    I am so glad I found your blog. You make a lot of sense. I am a hybrid writer with one book I have self-published (although it didn’t start out that way), one with a strong US Indie publisher, and another with a Swiss indie publisher. I’m struggling with what to do with a recent novel–rookie detective in a Southern city discovers she is a witch. Would love to have your eye on the first 20 pages! Pick me! Pick me! 🙂

  80. I’m in the “too lengthy to be considered” category with my novel. I’ve thought about splitting it but the current climax of the book has an impact I can’t quite manage in the middle, so… self publishing will be for me.
    Interesting article! Thanks for this. 🙂

  81. Self publishing is the only route for me because I don’t have an agent, nor am I sure how to get one. My only hope is that my writing is good and interesting enough to attract readers. I have had some positive comments on my work here on WordPress, which is a whole lot better than the rejections I received for years. Just have to keep moving forward until that big break comes along.

  82. Thank you. This is a great read and a useful topic for me. Reblogged and commented at

  83. Reblogged this on My Blog.

    • Laura Routh on April 2, 2016 at 11:51 pm
    • Reply

    Reblogged this on and commented:
    Something I considered fairly soon after starting my bog was eventually self- publishing my children’s stories and selling them on my site. I have a family member who’s an artist for the illustrations. Some of you might have considered self-publishing, also, or perhaps you might be interested in what respected writers in the field have to say on the matter. I loved this post, but I had already decided that I would go the self-publish route, anyway. This article confirmed my instincts, and I’m sharing with all of you, my friends and followers, in case you’ve had the same thoughts. Write on!

    • Laura Routh on April 2, 2016 at 11:58 pm
    • Reply

    Thank you for this post, Years ago, an editor was interested in one of my children’s stories, but she wanted me to make changes. I just couldn’t, at the time, come up with a new ending, which is what she was requesting. Since then, I’ve wondered about self-publishing, and had a sense that this was the direction for me if I ever took up writing again. I have no plans for a novel; my creativity is all going into my blog, but one day I would like to write those children’s stories and perhaps publish some of my blog posts as short essays. I’m so glad that M.C. Frye, whom I follow, posted this so that I could learn about your blog. I’ll definitely be following you now. I posted this on my blog, also.

      • Laura Routh on April 3, 2016 at 12:50 am
      • Reply

      Sorry for posting comment twice. I had some difficulty posting this on my blog. This was a first for me in terms of sharing a post on my blog. Please remove this and one of the comments above.

  84. I too read the article in The Guardian. Here’s the perspective I can’t get away from. We, as indie authors, are actually quickly becoming the tail that wags the proverbial dog. Her “Mother May I” view of New York makes me sick. You said it best when you pointed out that we are really on the front of the wave crest who poke at those annoying social issues.

    I am really starting out. I have my first book under my belt and the second getting ready to be launched. I would be a complete idiot if I turned own 10K and a contract from New York, but realistically, that isn’t likely to happen any time soon. Does that mean I just give up and put my manuscript into the fire? Heck no, as a matter of fact, I’d rather try to build a name for myself with what I have and maybe, someday, I can reach out for that 10K contract. But it’s preposterous to think of dancing to the beat of New York’s drum so I can hope to become famous … perhaps after I’m dead.

    I’ve taken a look at what New York has published recently and I have to tell you, I really am not entirely sure they know best. Or even really know anything at all. Maybe, someday soon, they are going to wake up and realize that what the indie writer world needs from them is a way to take those truly good Indie publishers and get their names out there. I mean really … Snooky?

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, what we really need is access to good marketing help that isn’t going to involve thousands of dollars. I know how to find good editors. I know how to find good book cover designers. I outsource that because trying to edit your own book is like trying to do your own appendectomy. Just not a good idea.

    But I learned these things by networking and talking to other indie Authors, a few who actually make a living doing this.

    -Your Humble Servant, Bryan the Writer

    • mitziflyte on April 3, 2016 at 6:55 am
    • Reply

    Reblogged this on Mitzi Flyte and commented:
    Once again Kristen tells it like it is and educates us on the world of publishing…all at the same time.

  85. I always find your posts informative and uplifting. Thank you for being a bright light in the endless sea of darkness that is the publishing world!

  86. Many thanks for this post. I know of an author who is always going on about “legitimate” authors as opposed to self-published. Makes me want to scream. I’m sharing your post.

  87. Great article! This is the kind of article that encourages new self-publishers that aren’t sure if they made the right choice about self-publishing; like myself. Posted article on writing group – fiction writers.

  88. This was a much needed blog. I appreciate your argument and examples. Being a new self-published author of two books under the genre of Muslim Fiction, I know it would have been difficult to find traditional publishers who would think there really is an audience for this genre. Great job. I’m reblogging and sharing this.

  89. Another, seldom mentioned, reason to self-publish is the author’s age. I’m now seventy and do not have the time to seek out an agent, and then a press, and then wait another year to see my work in print. As an indie I can print and be on to my next novel quickly.

  90. Impressive article. Impressive give away. Going to go search your books. Very clever.

  91. I am a hybrid author, and to be quite frank, my vanity is why I sold my soul to a trade publishing company … and I absolutely HATED every moment of it. Even after it went through ‘legit’ editors and ‘real’ cover artists, I still found mistakes in the manuscript after it went to press, and I’ve had readers tell me of all the covers of all my books, they hated the one through the trade publisher the most.

    My only concern with being an indie author is the blatant lack of quality in so many indie works – which has nothing to do with the writing and everything to do with people not hiring editors and formatters. I refuse to go back to trade publishers because it’s not for me, but I won’t try to steer someone away from it if that’s what they have their heart set on. I don’t think the WAY something is published is the deciding factor on whether or not you can be considered a ‘real’ writer or not, but has everything to do with how ‘professional’ you present yourself and your work. Maybe we should stop talking about writers in terms of being ‘real’ and more in terms of ‘professionalism.’

  92. Love, love, love, love, love you!
    Was just getting ready to have a major rant about that article on my writing podcast, but I wasn’t sure how to articulate my thoughts without frothing at the mouth and sounding quite deranged.
    Reading your post has helped me put those thoughts into perspective (and into proper sentences – I R Riterrrrrr!) which means I can now record the podcast with my partner and not feel like a total tit.

    So yeah, thanks again, as ever, for your excellent words. ^_^

  93. Nice to read a good, balanced review of publishers. Thanks, Kristen.

  94. You’ve said pretty much everything I thought when I first read the article. Another thing that bothers me is the number of people who will read that and be put off of self publishing. How many great books could be left languishing on a hard drive, never to be read, because their authors listened to people like Ms Barber? She places far too much emphasis on awards and critical acclaim for my liking. I don’t understand how those things (nice as I’m sure they are!) can take precedence over a readership.

    • Lotte on April 3, 2016 at 3:10 pm
    • Reply

    Very interesting article, thank you!

  95. The view expressed in the Guardian article seems antiquated given that there are a lot of writers out there who wear multiple hats, that in fact, enriched their writing…I know this is true for me and I don’t think of myself as a pseudo-writer because I self-publish. I’m going to reblog this, thanks for the thoughtful post!

    • Maria Garcia-Hidalgo on April 3, 2016 at 7:30 pm
    • Reply

    Thank you for this wondefull insight! I needed to see this.

  96. Reblogged this on Alison Todd-Mann and commented:
    I agree with a lot of what is said here, however I will state that A) a good small publisher will publish for merit (as long as it fits within the guidelines of their business, obviously a horror publisher won’t publish a sci-fi romance unless it is also a horror). And B) I don’t agree with the comments about Amazon. Considering their biased algorithms, Kindle Unlimiteds strange policies, and their unevenly applied rules, I don’t beleive they are good for publishing despite the fact they do make it easy to reach a large number of people. There are plenty of other good distributors out there (eg, ARe, Kobo, Smashwords, just to name a few) who do not have the same skewed rules for small and self publishers. Lastly, C), if you self publish, please make sure your story goes through a rigorous editing system that may include beta readers; body editing (for plot, character, and consistency), line editing (grammar, punctuation, and word choice), and proof reading. Many great authors already do this, and although it can be pricey it is worth it.

  97. Reblogged this on Official DJ Morand Author Site and Blog and commented:
    This is worth the read. Self-Publishing is completely viable. Well said.

  98. reblogged on Love what you had to say. This is really great.

  99. Ditto, ditto, ditto! THANK YOU!

  100. Reblogged this on deepalmerwriter and commented:
    I love this ladies blog…

  101. I’ve already faced a little of this in my shirt few weeks with Unbound. In my writing group, I’ve definitely come across a certain amount of reluctance to celebrate my success in placing my book with them because they’re not a “real” publisher.

    I think they assume I got bored with rejection and went the easy route. The truth is I tried them first because I liked their publishing model.

    • LeAnne on April 4, 2016 at 7:58 am
    • Reply

    I think this was well said

  102. LOVED this article! So true!

  103. Thanks for this. I’m one of those old folks totally bewildered by social media and building an author platform. Just grabbed a copy of Rise of the Machines, hopefully it will help this grey haired old man figure things out. By the way I’m re-blogging this Wednesday.

  104. Myth 4… OMG Thank you, I needed that laugh.
    We, as a civilization, die a little when we let Hollywood hand out book deals to anyone who might gain a profit instead of enhancing our culture. I suppose her book might have been a “gateway drug” to getting some people to read other books as well… let me believe that, I need to have some faith in humanity. Ha ha.

    Excellent insights.

  105. Such an excellent post! I admit I still know very little about the publishing world but I want to learn more! And “rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic in private isn’t necessarily a better, nobler path either” – what a great line.

  106. Another outstanding post. I love it when you get ranty.

  107. Very interesting! I’m glad I went through this one!

  108. Reblogged this on BERYL and commented:
    An interesting post on publishing

  109. Reblogged this on theowlladyblog.

  110. Wow! I’ve just come from watching a few amazon KDP success videos, it’s all very tempting and inspiring. Having read your article, I am so much more clued up on the debate. True, I have a long batch of research to do if I do decide to self publish. But in reading this, I am more convinced on the pros of it all, especially on how to talk about the hard to publish topics that agents shy away from. I love your advice and the historical references you make are brilliant. It helps me learn more about literary history without reading through dozens of wikipedia entries. Thank you for the links and advice, it has been supremely insightful. I’m sharing you everywhere and I’m defintely going to read like everything you’ve blogged. haha
    Vaya con Dios

  111. Reblogged this on Umbre in Amurg.

  112. Very interesting article, thank you 🙂

    My agent is currently shopping my first novel and it is exactly as you say–the rejections from editors thus far have almost all been “market” related with praise for the writing: “This is great, but we already have x titles that are similar in theme”; “we think this market is saturated for us right now.” Of course, she may still find a buyer but if not I am seriously considering self-publishing route next fall. Your site and materials are a great resource!

  113. Reblogged this on Two Drops of Ink: A Literary Blog.

  114. Thanks! I needed this today.

  115. This was fantastic! Thank-you! I needed this.

  116. Great post! Have you seen Ros Barber’s own blog post where she clarifies her reasons for her post, and also points out how The Guardian edited her article to make it more incendiary?

  117. Reblogged this on Pearls Before Swine and commented:
    Check out this excellent post by Kristen as a response to the “For me, traditional publishing means poverty. But self-publish? No way” article as posted to The Guardian.

    Personally, I admire aspects of both Traditional and Self-Pub and I couldn’t have said it better. I really liked Myth #2: “Self-Publish and ALL Time Will Be Spent Marketing Not Writing”. This is actually not true and proves a lot of people judge books by their covers (pun intended). Sure, Indie’s promote a lot and this is what is seen in public, but those Indie’s who do more promo and marketing than they do writing their next book is…umm, doing it wrong and are not staples for the entire Indie Author Community.

    • carolvannatta on April 7, 2016 at 11:03 am
    • Reply

    I nearly snorted my Earl Grey when I read the bit that says “professional covers and editing are free for the trad pubbed author.” Really?!? What does she think her trad publisher is doing with the money they’re keeping when they only pay her 12% royalties once or twice a year, vs. the 70% she’d get every month (or at least quarterly) if she self-published?

    I’m an indie author, with 4 books out (and soon, 5). When I got the idea for the big damn story arc of my space opera series, I briefly considered going the trad route, but when a writers’ conference panel of literary agents and publisher editors sneered at the whole genre, I happily went the indie route—my risks, my rewards. Am I making a living yet? No, but I bet I will a lot faster, because I can publish my books as fast as I can write them instead of waiting for the publisher’s calendar to clear up. And no way do I spend 90% of my time marketing, because let’s face it, writing is way more fun.

    I gather from Romy Sommer’s helpful post (#151) that Ros Barber thinks commenters mostly objected to her use of pronouns, and authors are all a tender-ego lot. Some are, and she probably got some posts bathed in acid, for which she has my sympathies. However, I don’t take issue with the tone, I take issue with her underlying premises.

    1. I read her post too and having been SERIOUSLY misquoted myself? I feel for her and at the end of the day, everyone will have a different experience and opinion and that’s okay. I simply wrote these pieces because our society has a tough time separating opinion from GOSPEL and I wanted to take an OPINION piece and simply expound with facts. Because when y’all are making business decisions, that’s what is going to be the most helpful.

      I also gathered they substituted some words that made it far more inflammatory (I.e. “poverty”).

  118. When I started writing, I was doing it for fun. Then I wrote a story I thought others would enjoy and started looking into publishing. I weighed the pros and cons of self versus trad and ended up self publishing because the story was a vampire story and they were on the way out. Now, I’m not even some moderate selling author, but I think I made the right choice and people have found the book enjoyable. In my opinion, a serious writer weighs all their options and takes the path they feel is best. That can be traditional or self published.

    • Melanie Page on April 8, 2016 at 12:54 am
    • Reply

    I self published my (so far) only novel because I was so nervous and so doubted my own abilities that a single rejection letter would have seen me hammering the delete key.
    Happily, feedback has been pretty positive and I am working to improve my writing. Sure, I couldn’t keep myself in coffee on what I’ve earned so far, but I don’t care. A project of which I’m justifiably proud has seen the light of day, I’m learning and improving every time I sit at the computer and other people like my story. That made me very happy.

    • Euphrasia on April 8, 2016 at 5:37 am
    • Reply

    I’ve had one book, a historical romance, traditionally published. I then wrote a contemporary romance featuring an Asian couple which I’m still trying to find an agent for in the States (I’m Australian). Now I’m writing an ice hockey series and I wonder whether I’ll have any patience to go down the agent or publisher query route. Being able to control the cover and discount days etc. is very tempting. But I’m also wondering if I want to outlay so much on professional editing. It’s a tough decision. Thanks for this article!!

  119. This is a really good overview of the questions raised about self-pub v. traditional. When I finally was able to return to daily, serious fiction-writing (after a life-stuff hiatus of about 15-20 years), the entire publishing industry had turned upside down from what I’d known in the ’80s and ’90s. You have been helping me learn the business end of things all over again, for the contemporary landscape–and this post is a great example. You’ve also helped de-mystify the whole “What is a writer’s platform and how do I get one?” question, as well (through your blog and your book “Rise of the Machines”). Many thanks!

  120. Nice article! I read the original article and it just seemed like the writer had no idea of the diversity of writers that are indie published. She was just making a ton of assumptions that the stereotypical sel-published writer (if there even is such a thing) was every self-published writer. I belong to several groups with self-published writers (both new, like me, and successful) and I have yet to meet an indie author who is not a “serious” writer and who does not put in the hard work and dedication it takes to self-publish. Also, there care many traditionally published writers that join these groups and they put in just as much hard work (in marketing and promotion especially) as indie authors do (one myth shot down).


  121. I don’t know. I started self publishing on 19 January 2016. Since then I sold more than 200 books. Much less than my goal of 10 books a day, but still, its 200 more than what I sold before I started self publishing. Only another writer will know how smug I feel now. So, I’m for self publishing all the way. Although I think that one uses what works best for you. You can go to school with your bicycle, your car, the train, the bus – whatever works for you. I think it should be the same for writers, to choose the type of publishing which is best for them. But to say that real writers don’t self publish is a bit of an insult. I believe that a writer don’t even have to publish his work. If you write, you are a writer. To be a famous author is something else, I agree, but you don’t have to be famous to be a writer…I will probably never be famous (please don’t quote me on that) but as long as I can get these words out of my system every day, I feel good…

  122. Thank you for writing this post, I had similar feelings when I read that article, it’s great that you’ve addressed this directly.

  123. Most excellent article.

  124. I really enjoyed this post. When I began writing it was taboo to even TALK about self publishing. But things change and now I know many authors who have self published and are actually earning a living, modest as it may be, from their novels. I really think it’s about taking the path that’s best suited for the writer. There are valued points for both paths. Thanks!

  125. Fantastic article. No matter that the contest has long expired. This is worth sharing. Reblogged at

  126. “The good news about self publishing is you get to do everything yourself. The bad news about self publishing is you get to do everything yourself.” ? Lori Lesko

  127. I enjoyed reading your article. Thanks for sharing!

  128. Great post, Kristen. I particularly liked the brain bleach part. There are a lot of myths centered around self-publishing. It’s good to keep in mind that there are exceptions to every rule.

    I posted an article recently that goes into whether or not to self-publish in more detail that others might find helpful:

  129. I couldn’t have enjoyed this post anymore if I tried. I often feel like people turn their noses up at self published authors, and while plenty fail on a lack of quality that isn’t why. I think it, and I hate this word, is a form of elitism. Literary types love to guard the keys to castle on what is considered a good story worth telling from a person worth hearing about. Across every spectrum people love to play gate keeper to what they believe should be “valued” and unfortunately an equality of access usually equals a lack of value. On one hand access means people can fill the pool with all sorts of nonsense beans, but that is usually just an excuse to focus on pre-existing biases in the literature world, from classes to book clubs. There’s a reason a lot of authors of color, lgbtq+, and others are getting together to make their own presses or self publish.

    Ebooks and self publishing have broken down walls in the industry and some people in reactionary ways want to put them back up because they believe those walls equaled quality. But that is only because they could ignore all the quality that was being tossed out the window. Thank you so much for writing this!

    • aafrascati on November 7, 2016 at 3:33 pm
    • Reply

    You are preaching to the choir, sister! Don’t you find that in some of these Traditional vs. Self-published articles the authors sound like they are defending the quality of their work, or what they read with their arguments?
    Let me just say that I have read so much traditionally published junk over the years that I have had to wonder whether the industry is trying to increase the quantity without keeping the quality just to keep up with reader demand and the self-published book market.

  130. This awesome! As a writer who is planning on self-publishing, I find it rather discouraging the way some writers react, like, ‘ok, if you want, but don’t expect anything great to happen’. Well perhaps, just perhaps, if I work my ass off, something great will happen. All I know is that traditional publishing is like sticking myself in a box, a very, very tiny box. You have follow all of their rules to the T and compete for their attention, and chances are it will be a waste of your time, unless you’re lucky. As a self-publisher all I have to worry about is me and the reader. Am I happy with my story? Do my readers enjoy my story? Then let’s do this!!!


  131. oops got too excited and forgot my ‘is’, ahem, this is wonderful…


    • Kevin on November 30, 2016 at 6:13 pm
    • Reply

    Traditional publishers are going to go the way of the dinosaurs. With POD technology, anyone can publish a book. That doesn’t mean the book is going to sell; it just means that you are not the mercy of the old guard system of publishing. What do these traditional publishers even have to offer now? Perhaps you get an advance and they take care of all the editing, formatting, design, and distribution, so you can focus on writing? But what publisher is going to take the chance on an unknown author? None. That’s who. So now, with sites such as Create Space, you can publish your own book and have it on Amazon within a couple of days with a royalty cut you select. What publisher can match that? None. And if you get lucky and your book finds a market, then you are set. The Internet has leveled the playing field. This is a great time for writers. Just make sure you are writing quality content, and beyond that, screw the traditional publishers. The irony is once you sell 20,000 books and have made it on your own, then a traditional publisher might take notice of you, but what’s the point? You’ve already made it.

  132. It actually makes me feel better to be reminded that publishing is a business. Rejections hurt less that way. I haven’t started submitting to publishers yet, but I hope to eventually! 🙂

  133. Very good post with lots of sensible food for thought for us newbies – thanks!

    • LastRedoubt on January 2, 2017 at 3:39 pm
    • Reply

    For a humorous take on the whole “real author’s publish trad” – take a look at SF author Larry Correia’s take at MHN:

    He note’s, among other things, that Weir self-published a little title called The Martian. It seems to have done OK. Also mentions his first book was self published. He’s on his third major series now, with at least nine books out?

    It’s worth noting that the article was brought to his attention by a nearly exclusively self-published author, Christopher G Nuttall.

    1. I will look at it. That’s the same example I used 😉 . A lot of folks like to bash self-publishing but it ignores 1) a vast history of publishing 2) the business model of legacy.

        • LastRedoubt on January 2, 2017 at 9:58 pm
        • Reply

        Thanks – he’s an excellent writer. Even if his self-described specialty is pulp action in a SF/fantasy setting, there are depths to his writing that merit pondering, and his latest epic fantasy work delves a lot into class structures and free will while setting up a very unique protagonist.

        His first, Monster Hunters International, was originally self-published and a bit rough, though fun. I personally prefer the two third-person works in the series – Alpha and nemesis – but they’re all fun. His take on a George RR Martin style “wild cards” alternate history with heroes, powers, and dieselpunk dirigibles is well worth while, and I already mentioned Son of the Black Sword.

        1. I’m a hyrid author with a book out with LittleBrown, one with Kindle Press, and another that I’ve self-published. I’m much happier with covers I had made, have found the editing process of networking with other writers affordable and comparable. I spend more time writing than on promo and I don’t yet make a living at it- but I think that’s because it’s hard to make a living writing, regardless of your publishing route.

    • Sigh on February 19, 2018 at 7:21 pm
    • Reply

    Please, please – all the young writer out there reading this – DO NOT self-publish. This woman is full of self-delusion. Hold out as long as you can. Keep writing, keep improving, and keep submitting to agents.

    You can choose to believe more or not, but I am friends with a NYT Best-Selling YA author and you probably know her name, but I won’t say it; she is adamant against self-publishing, and many of her peers, like Veronica Roth, share the same opinion strongly.

    Don’t buy this nonsense. Please.

    1. You can have your opinion, but I don’t like my opinion referred to as ‘nonsense’ and referring to me as ‘full of self-delusion.’ It is rude, which is likely why you hide behind a moniker so you don’t have to own such poor and unprofessional behavior. I gave respect, an opinion backed up by history and actual evidence, and it is courteous to return the same respect even if you disagree. And NYTBSAs have a lot of opinions, doesn’t mean they work for everyone.

    • Kell Brigan on September 10, 2018 at 6:52 pm
    • Reply

    Thanks for proving self publishing is sleazy. You used a sleazy, clickbait LIE for a title just to get people here. And, your message has nothing to do with the title, but who cares, because it’s just “marketing,” right?

    I’ve yet to meet a self “publisher” who isn’t a sleazy liar. Not one.

    1. …sure. Run with that. Best of luck.

  1. […] Source: Real Writers Don’t Self-Publish […]

  2. […] Real Writers Don’t Self-Publish | Kristen Lamb’s Blog Awesome post debunking myths about self-publishing — including the one in the post’s title. […]

  3. […] Source: Real Writers Don’t Self-Publish […]

  4. […] Source: Real Writers Don’t Self-Publish […]

  5. […] View original post  – 2294 more words […]

  6. […] via Real Writers Don’t Self-Publish — Kristen Lamb’s Blog […]

  7. […] Source: Real Writers Don’t Self-Publish […]

  8. […] Real Writers Don’t Self-Publish by Kristen Lamb. Great post looking at all the pros and cons and trying to shed information on the whole topic. Self-publishing isn’t for me, but that doesn’t mean it is not for others. The more choices we have, the better! […]

  9. […] « Real Writers Don’t Self-Publish […]

  10. […] Here, for balance, is Kristen’s response: real writers don’t self-publish. […]

  11. […] Continued on Kristen Lamb’s blog… […]

  12. […] Real Writers Don’t Self-Publish, from Kristen Lamb’s Blog: Has someone ever told you that? Well, don’t listen to them. Instead, tell them everything Kristen Lamb tells you in this post. Excerpt: “We don’t self-publish because all our friends are doing it and we think we can make a million dollars fast cash. But, at the same time, we shouldn’t hold out for traditional out of some misguided idea that self-publishing/indie isn’t for “real” authors and that traditional publishers are somehow going to handhold us.” […]

  13. […] worth reading this article which is part two following on from – The publishing industry is evolving rapidly compared to many industries. It is only really […]

  14. […] In spite of the success of many self-published authors, some people still believe that “real” authors don’t self-publish. Kristen Lamb explains why self-publishing is real. […]

  15. […] We also drew on a great rebuttal from Kristen Lamb here. […]

  16. […] 2-part post: Real Writers Don’t Self Publish  &  Real Writers Don’t Self Publish Part […]

  17. […] Here’s a piece in the Guardian that exposes the perils of self-publishing and here is a blog post that takes it on. […]

  18. […] Real Writers Don’t Self-Publish and Real Writers Don’t Self-Publish—Part 2 – Kristen Lamb picking up on last month’s mini brou-ha-ha sparked by a provocative Guardian article decrying indie publishing (For me, traditional publishing means poverty. But self-publish? No way with a spirited discussion at The Passive Voice). Kristen is unimpressed. […]

  19. […] I read a great article called “Real Writers Don’t Self Publish” which was a response to a piece in The Guardian about that very topic. While there are some […]

  20. […] via Real Writers Don’t Self-Publish — Kristen Lamb’s Blog […]

  21. […] Kristen Lamb – Real Writers Don’t Self-Publish […]

  22. […] All publishing paths hold advantages and disadvantages, yet nothing can beguile us like the Simon & Schuster sparkle, hypnotize us as much as the Macmillan mystique. […]

  23. […] end, traditional publishers were hardly a panacea. For brevity’s sake, I recommend my posts Real Writers Don’t Self Publish Part One and Part […]

  24. […] some eye-opening history of our industry, I recommend my posts ‘Real’ Writers Don’t Self-Publish and ‘Real’ Writers Don’t Self-Publish Part […]

  25. […] Pulp fiction got its start with the much-esteemed Charles Dickens and this form of storytelling really picked up traction in the early part of the 20th century. […]

  26. […] works of literature were actually written VERY quickly (as I pointed out in my tongue-in-cheek post ‘Real Writers Don’t Self-Publish). Not all writers have the same pace. Not all stories require the same operational […]

  27. […] works of literature were actually written VERY quickly (as I pointed out in my tongue-in-cheek post ‘Real Writers Don’t Self-Publish). Not all writers have the same pace. Not all stories require the same operational […]

I LOVE hearing your thoughts!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.