Self-publishing is a far better choice for first time authors.  The glut of manuscripts traditional publishing houses have in their ‘slush pile’ almost guarantees rejection for a first time author, as publishers seek a repeat performance from already successful writers.  On the other hand, self-publishing companies take anybody, or so we’re led to believe.

I’m assuming you want to use a self-publishing company and not start one of your own, as it’s incredibly expensive.  I use iUniverse, a ‘supported self-publishing’ company.  Some people say they’re expensive, but from the quality and service I’ve seen, I disagree.  The critics forget to mention the additional things iUniverse does, from cover art to sending the author templates of things like business cards, bookmarks, and sell sheets.  Titles are automatically uploaded to Internet book selling sites, and the author has the option of participating in the Google book search program.

It’s a double-edged sword, this concept that states: ‘self-publishers, they’ll print anything.’  If all self-publishers had no scruples, it would be reasonable for all self-published books to be automatically dismissed by the critics.  At the very least, self-publishing houses should refuse to print porn, hate literature, and anything inflammatory.  In an ideal world, they would all strive to print quality, not necessarily quantity.

However, an assumed lack of production and editorial quality is all too often ascribed to all self-published authors, including many who don’t deserve such poison.  Spend any time online reading about self-publishing or Print On Demand (POD) technology, and you’ll soon encounter such attitudes as: “I can tell when a book is POD, and they’re always low quality,” or “Self-published writers aren’t real authors because they self-published.”

As a published author myself, I have a definite bias towards my work.  If it wasn’t good enough to be in print, it wouldn’t be.  I didn’t have to self-publish because I was rejected by traditional publishers; I chose self-publishing as a far superior and more profitable option.  The more I learn about the industry, the more I’m convinced I made the right choice.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not against the traditional publishing industry–I just don’t appreciate negative stereotypical responses from them or the media because I self-published.  Besides, they have their own problems, what with the huge amount of returns they accept, and the costs of shipping, remaindering (which means more shipping,) and repulping.  I predict most of them will also turn to POD technology, not only to save money, but as an environmentally friendly move.  Will they then face the same discrimination as other POD printers?  I doubt it, although that would be kind of funny.

Here’s an interesting thought:  Most titles sell about a hundred copies.  Most traditional publishers give the author eight percent commission.  If the book sells for ten dollars, and a hundred copies are sold, the author gets $80 while the publisher gets $920.  That $920 is almost enough to buy a publishing package with iUniverse.  Which publisher do you want to give nine hundred dollars to?

Getting back on topic, here are a few things authors will face as ‘punishment’ for investing in their own work:

Author listings will generally refuse to add you, and that includes those funded by the Canadian and provincial governments.  Realize that since they only accept traditionally published authors, these are lists of people who probably sell less books than you will.  The less energetic self-published author tends to sell about two hundred copies.

You may have trouble getting reviews.  Newspapers want to see the manuscript about three months before the book is in print.  The original idea was to time the review to coincide with the book’s release date.  Many self-published authors don’t find this out until it’s too late.

You may have trouble getting media attention.  A local self-published author is news to the local media–step into another town and you might find yourself ignored.

Oddly enough, some libraries may refuse your book.  I suspect this may be a bigger problem in the States, since Canada is generally more accepting of ‘do it yourself’ projects in entertainment.  I wanted to talk to the CBC about my book, and the lady on the phone wanted me to make a movie.  (Possibly still an option…)

It’s not all bad news if you self-publish.  As mentioned above, you’ll probably sell more titles than most authors, simply due to your own self-interest.  Be warned, though–books you sell yourself don’t count as real sales, even though that’s how you can make the most commission.  Ironic, that anything that puts an author at an advantage is said to not count.  😉


You’ve probably retained more of your legal rights, especially copyright.  This allows you to decide how your work is used in the future.  If you accept a book contract from a traditional publisher, most self-publishers will release the files for a fee–which is reasonable, since they created them and you will now have the benefit of them.

Some notable authors got their start with self-publishing.  The Chicken Soup series is just one example.  Traditional publishers sometimes look at popular self-published authors to find their next best seller.  Ironically, a self-published book can act like the agent you couldn’t afford to hire.

Depending on the flexibility of your POD self-publisher, you may be able to make changes, even after your book has come out.  POD files can be altered from one printing to the next.

For me, one of the biggest advantages of self-publishing was the creative freedom.  Of necessity, Been Blued jumps around a lot.  It’s an adventure with several characters, and I did a lot of work to keep the most important people in the forefront of the reader’s attention.  The editorial team deserves credit for reminding me to keep Lyle in the background constantly, so people would remember him when he became vital to the ending.  Another suggestion would have gutted the story and required a complete rewrite.  They also would have preferred a single character point of view over my narrative style, but it just wasn’t possible for the story I wanted to tell.

I doubt a traditional publisher would have allowed me as much artistic freedom, and Been Blued wouldn’t be half as exciting as it is.  I’ve had several people come back and tell me it would be easy to turn the book into a movie or TV series, something else I wanted to achieve.

A high quality, interesting, self-published book is not going to receive automatic damnation from a reader.  If the book looks good, has a captivating storyline, and characters the reader can care about, the designation of self-published becomes as irrelevant as it always should have been.

Thanks for reading.  🙂

Phyllis K Twombly

About Scifialiens

Author of the Martian Symbiont series: three titles, so far; Been Blued, Martian Blues, Martian Divides. Currently writing screenplays. 'Mating With Humans' can be found on her account. Enjoyed writing from the start. Also a Star Trek and Doctor Who fan. Canadian so far. Paternal grandparents were American. Feels more at home in the States. Loves dogs and most other animals. Loves cats from afar--allergies. Plays flute and saxophone; 'messes with' keyboard and electric guitar. Single so far. Not really looking at the moment. Age: irrelevant. Not to be confused with the fictional comic book character, Phyllis Twombly, who lived for 600 years in the American Midwest.

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