The Great Underground Myth: Why Self Publishing Doesn’t Work

My editor at 3:AM, Andrew Gallix, asked me to write a longer piece about self publishing based on this post. Here’s the result.

Update: The author Henry Baum has written a response.

4 Responses to “The Great Underground Myth: Why Self Publishing Doesn’t Work”

  1. Annie Clarkson Says:

    Very thorough article Max, with some interesting points.

    It’s difficult, because I have read some absolutely wonderful, innovative and very creative self-published books, that I would never have had the chance to read if their writers hadn’t decided to do it themselves.

    I agree, a lot of rubbish, unedited novels, cliched etc…

    But, short fiction and poetry, is so hard to find a publisher, pays little, so why not do it yourself, and have control over the design, the quality, etc yourself… so long as people seek others views/editorial advice etc, I think it can work.

  2. Michael N. Marcus Says:

    You complain that “Self publishing is routinely confused with vanity publishing” but you add to the confusion by stating that “The head of AuthorHouseUK, perhaps this country’s dominant self publishing company…”

    On the west side of the big pond, AuthorHouse is a vanity press, not a “self-publishing company,” and I assume it’s a vanity press in the UK.

    If a writer uses AuthorHouse, the book is NOT self-published and the writer is NOT a self-publisher. She or he is a customer of a vanity press.

    Just as no none can eat lunch for you, no company or person can self-publish for you. The words just don;t make sense.

    A real self-publisher establishes a business, hires editors and designers, purchases photograhy, owns ISBNS, obtains LCCNs (in the US) and copyrights, picks a printer, and promotes the books.

    Michael N. Marcus
    author of Become a Real Self-Publisher,

  3. Jane Smith Says:

    Good article, Max–the only quibble I have with it is your suggestion that it’s difficult to differentiate between vanity- and self-publishing. As Michael has already suggested, the difference is control: if you control the sales, production, stock etc and the ISBN is registered to you, then you’re self-published, otherwise–you get the score.

    I’ll link to this from my blog if only for your delicious “Cassandra” line. Thanks for that–I think!

  4. Jeremy Stangrroom Says:

    My partner’s father paid 14 thousand pounds to have his autobiography published. I tried to talk him out of it, but it was hopeless. He was flattered by all the praise that was coming his way from the vanity publisher.

    He asked me how many copies my best selling book had sold, and when I said about 50,000 copies, he snorted derisively. He said that he’d be hugely disappointed with less than a million!

    The whole situation was completely absurd. I tried to tell him that the book wouldn’t appear in bookshops, but he didn’t believe me; that he at least needed some kind of marketing plan, but he said the publisher would handle that; that people wouldn’t just buy an autobiography of someone they hadn’t heard of, but he said there was something in it for everybody…

    It was published, and of course sold about ten copies.

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