To Be Read

Self Publishing

The debate between self-publishing and traditional publishing has experienced a huge resurgence lately, pitting friend against friend, colleague against colleague, and reader against reader. It’s madness out there right now and while it’s easy to get caught up in who’s right and who’s wrong the real issue that should be being debated right now isn’t a technical one or even a theological one but a personal one.

There are pros and cons for both self-publishing and going the traditional route and by now we all know exactly what they are. They’ve been discussed to death in forums and on blogs, even on this one, and at this point there is enough information out there for anyone considering publishing to make a thoughtful and educated decision. And yet we still judge each other for the choices we make or don’t make and we still feel the need to compile even more facts and stats in an effort to prove each other wrong. We still don’t treat each other as equals.

But like I said, the real issue here isn’t whether or not to choose self-publishing or traditional publishing. No, the question we should all be asking ourselves as writers and as artists is what’s more important to us: To be published or to be read?

More and more traditionally published authors are choosing to self-publish their next projects. One such author is Natalie Whipple who even went as far as to write an open apology to indie authors for the assumptions she made about who they are and what they really do after experiencing the hard work it takes to self-publish first-hand. And why? Why is someone who’s had great success being traditionally published looking to go indie? Because she’s writing something unique, something different, and because despite the fact that it might not have appealed to her traditional publisher she still believes that this story should be read.

That’s her main objective, the objective we should all have when it comes to writing. We don’t write to take up memory on our laptop or to take up drawer space in our dresser. We write to be read and it’s the same objective of someone like indie author Colleen Hoover, who’s another hybrid author, but one who saw more potential in going with a traditional publisher after reaching her initial success than continuing it alone. And why would she trade some of that independence for the partnership of traditional publishing? Because with her book in print and sitting on the shelves of book stores all around the world she opens herself up to a whole new audience. She can be read by people who may never have discovered her otherwise.

And that’s the point. Not money or fame or being able to list your agent on your Twitter account or having a huge publishing house stamped on the copyright page of your book or even being able to say that you’re totally self-made. The point of all of this, the point of telling stories at all is readers and reaching as many of them as humanly possible. So that’s what we should be thinking about when we’re trying to choose the path that’s right for us. Not how superior it is from the path that someone else has chosen but how well it fulfills this one artistic obligation to share our thoughts and our words and our art with the world. Because as long as the path you’ve chosen can ultimately fulfill that obligation then you can be certain that you’ve made the right choice.


7 thoughts on “To Be Read

  1. Nicely said. I’m almost as sick of the Self-Pub vs. Traditional debate as I am of the mommy wars. There is no one right way. If there was, it would have been a lot easier. Write the book, submit the book, rake in the dough. Nope, doesn’t quite work that way.

    And honestly, before I began seriously pursuing my writing career, I didn’t even notice who published a book, not unless I was citing it in a term paper and had to do footnotes.

    1. I am too, especially since people only seem to use it as an excuse these days to cut each other down. And you’re right, the debate at this point isn’t doing anything to serve readers because, news flash, most of them don’t really care how a book is published. We should be focusing all of this attention on a cause worth advocating for like, oh I don’t know, literacy or maybe even education. We need to stop looking at self-published writers, traditionally published writers, and pre-published writers as totally different species and start focusing on the mission we all share.

  2. It seems like self-publishing used to be something a lot of people did hoping it would get them attention from traditional publishers and land them a book deal. It’s so interesting that now it’s going the other way, with traditionally published authors choosing to go indie. I’m curious to see what things will look like in 5 or 10 years. Maybe hybrid authors will be the norm.

    1. I definitely think hybrid authors are going to become the standard eventually. There’s just so much responsibility that writers shoulder on their own whether they’re traditionally published or not so the transition to going indie for certain projects will probably come really naturally to a lot of them. Maybe then we will finally stop trying to separate writers into indie or traditionally published and just look at each other as equals and as peers instead of enemies.

  3. Amen! For me, the thoughts of someone actually choosing to read what I write, to have them explore and experience the worlds that spring from my imagination, are worth more than bags full of money and fame. And the thoughts of waiting on strangers who have an eye on the financial bottom line being the ones with the power to grant or deny my stories reaching readers, could be like the proverbial millstone round my manuscripts. So thank goodness for indie flinging open doors to new and unexplored lands!

    1. Absolutely! You’re so right and the points you’ve made here are definitely things I took into consideration when I was trying to decide whether or not to go indie. I know that a lot of people just consider it a constant uphill battle out of obscurity, which sounds totally counter-productive to the objective of being read. But if you can break out, the opportunity to be read and to be read widely is absolutely there.

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