Self-publishing: Kiss of Death, or Wave of the Future?

I’m nursing a half-baked idea, about e-publishing, something I’ve always looked down on (and when I say e-pub, I mean specifically self-publishing online for money, I’m not talking about selling to online magazines or posting free snippets of work on a blog). But I think I’ve been prejudiced, and I think that it might be time to abandon my snobbery.

Why have I always looked down on e-publishing? Well, I was taught, by professional writers and editors alike, that self-publishing is for people who, to be blunt, suck too much to make it in the big leagues. If I valued my work, I would sell it. If I couldn’t sell it, that’s because it wasn’t good enough to sell, and I wouldn’t want anyone seeing it anyway. Now, I know that was true 10 years ago, and it’s still at least partially true today. But times are changing in the publishing industry, and just because I might not like the change, doesn’t mean that the change is going to stop happening. Time only moves forward. I mean, there are lots of people out there who strongly believe life was better in the 1950s, but the good old days of the 1950s are not ever coming back, and they know that, and it makes most of them a little bitter.

When I was a boy we didn't have your top-laps and your i-whatsits. Why, we wrote on rotten barrels with tobacco juice for ink, and we liked it!

And for us writers, there really is no such thing as the good old days, because there’s never been any money in writing. So should I be bitter about losing something I never had?

So, why is it us-vs-them? Why is it paper-vs-epub? Why can’t I do both? Why do I have to choose? Who is telling me not to self-publish? Professional writers and editors, that’s who. The people I would be competing with for readership. That’s who tells me not to self-publish. Hmm.

Say I did decide to self-publish a story on Amazon or Smashwords or whatever? What is the worst thing that could happen? I not sell any copies? I try to sell my novel later and the Agent says, “Well, I’d love to take you on, but I see you e-published a novella on Amazon last year, and that is just too unprofessional for us here at Big League Ltd. Sorry kid, I just can’t take you seriously. You dun goofed.”


But that’s the boogie man, isn’t it? That’s the threat. You self pub, and no one in the publishing industry will touch any of your other projects with a 20-foot pole.

But in a world where tweeting pictures of your breakfast is the done thing, self exposure is bad?


I mean it’s not like I feel dumb for putting up free flash fiction on my website. I’m proud of every one of those stories. I don’t think they are worth any less than the stories I’ve sold professionally. If I did think they were lesser, I would never have put them up on my blog in the first place. In fact, my only regret is that I don’t have more.

These are revolutionary thoughts for me, things to be chewed over for a while before pursuing. I don’t even know how or where I’d sell my stories, as I’ve been too busy being a snob to be in the know. So I have some legwork to do, before I get all up in the e-bizness. But, I really want to know, why can’t I do both? And why shouldn’t you?