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.