I’m Finally Taking A Stand and Saying What No One Else Will…

I do that a lot, don’t I? Take a stand, share what I believe. But I’m working with a new mentor now who is pushing me to greater levels of service and success than I ever imagined before.

And one of those things she talks about all the time is how you have to take a stand for your community. You have to take a stand for the people who follow you and for yourself.

You have to stand for what you believe and you have to share it—even if there are people out there who won’t like it. 

This is something I’ve always done anyhow. But there is one topic that I’ve avoided taking a stand on. It’s a topic that’s super close to my heart and something I always dreamed I’d do.

But, to be honest, I’ve been afraid to take a stand on it. To come out and say what I really, truly think and believe about it.

Because there’s a really big chance that you don’t or won’t agree with me… and that’s a scary thing to face. Disagreement. Conflict. People who discover they don’t fit in with my community anymore.

I’ve spoken about this topic before, danced around it for years, but I haven’t really shared my full all-out opinion on it.

But the time has come for me to rise up and take a stand. I deserve it and so do the people who are my ideal tribe members. After you read what I’m about to say, you’ll know once and for all whether or not you are…

I think traditionally publishing in the Digital Age is fucking stupid.

UNLESS you’ve got enough of a following (think Amanda Hocking and Andy Weir) where a traditional publisher comes knocking on YOUR door (when that happens, by all means, hop to it!) OR if you’ve always dreamed of being traditionally published and you’d truly feel like you failed in life if you didn’t make that happen.

But otherwise, I think it’s a bad decision for your writing life. Not because it won’t get you where you want to go, but because it takes away so much of your control and yet throws most of the work on your back. And it takes way too long.

They make the money, you do all the marketing. They give their opinions—and that’s all they are, opinions—and you spend another six months revising a story that’s already fine the way it is.

And did I mention that it takes SOOOO long and it’s built so much on the differing opinions of others—what someone else thinks will sell, what someone else sees as valuable.

I mean, let’s just look at this from a logical stand point. And I will say that I don’t care for logic. I do things how I want to do them, and the world will just have to bend.

But looking at this from a logical stand point… you spend a year writing a book. You’ve cleaned it up, revised it, it’s been to an editor and now it’s ready to go.

And then you’ve gotta look for an agent, because these days, unless you’re going small press, the only way into a big publishing house is through an agent. Could take six months, could take nine. Could even take a year.

When you finally land your agent—which is an awesome accomplishment, by the way, I’m not at all denying that—you now have to wait, again, while your agent tries to sell the book. Another six months goes by. Maybe more.

Or, maybe the agent comes back and says, “so-and-so at this publishing house suggests you make these edits, and so-and-so at that publishing house suggests you make those edits…” So you go back to the story and revise it, yet again. Another six months piled on.

Now let’s say your book actually gets sold to a publisher—and so many don’t—now you’ve got another 12-to-18 months before you’ll ever see that book in print.

Adding that up, it can take you an average of 2-3 years—or even longer, which is the case for most writers. Two to three YEARS! Before you’ll ever see your book in print.

Will it be worth it? Yeah, I’m sure it will be.

But it will be hard-won and you will be burned out… and then once the book finally comes out, you’ll still be responsible for doing all of the marketing. And at that point you won’t want to do it, because you’re so exhausted from how long it took just to get the damn book published in the first place.

Why fucking torture yourself? Why spend years writing pitches and tweaking pitches and making more and more revisions and edits based on so many other peoples’ opinions (ever heard the phrase, too many hands in the pot?)? Why focus so much time and energy on finding an agent and then waiting to find a publisher and then waiting for the publisher to decide it’s time to publish your book?

You could just professionally self-publish your book and get on to writing and self-publishing the next one. (I believe the best way to sell a book is to write and publish another one.)

That is the power of the Digital Age. And yes, you’ll still be doing the marketing for the books you self-publish, but since you won’t be wasting any time or energy on pitching agents and publishers, you’ll have plenty of time and energy to do the marketing.

And then you’ll be the one making the money when your books start to sell. (I mean, you’ll share a little with Amazon, but it’s totally worth it to have this kind of publishing power.)

The gatekeepers are totally gone now. The doors for you to step in and claim the writing success you dream of having are wide open. 

But you’ve gotta step up. You’ve gotta commit to it and you’ve gotta do what it takes.

And, most importantly, you need to professionally self-publish.

What that means is, you treat self-publishing your books like a traditional publisher would: you hire out help for whatever you need to produce a professional book. That can mean hiring an editor, or a story coach, or a cover designer, or a marketing expert. 

Whatever you need to do this self-publishing thing the right way.

I do not support self-publishing in a vacuum or self-publishing when the only person who’s read your book is your spouse or a close friend. That is the biggest mistake self-published authors make and one that causes them to fail and feel totally hopeless because they can’t sell any books.

Books need a vetting process. They need an outside perspective. You cannot publish in a vacuum. You have to get outside feedback.

Now don’t confuse getting outside feedback with listening to the opinions of too many people in the publishing industry. You always need an outside opinion from a professional who knows what they’re talking about, but you don’t have to be inundated by it.

I speak from absolute and total experience on this one. I wrote and published my first eBook—Butt-In-Chair—in 2010. And I didn’t even put that eBook—or the one I wrote next—on Amazon until the end of 2012. Before then I was selling my eBooks exclusively through my website.

And I still made upwards of $4,000 in sales.

Since I’ve been on Amazon, I’ve published five more books—one of which was a multi-category best seller and still resides in the top 5 of its category. And as I’ve done this, I’ve grown my following and am now selling more than 1,000+ books a month.

Six years. It took me six years to get to this point…and I wasn’t even trying that hard until the last few months!!

In the traditional publishing world, it could take you six years just to find an agent or a publisher.

I have a good friend who was committed to traditionally publishing. It took her 11 years to see her book in print. And after all that time and energy and waiting… the book just sits there, collecting dust, because she’s not actively marketing it and neither is her publisher.

Is that REALLY the writing dream you want for yourself? 

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are always exceptions. An author who finds an agent and a publisher quickly and when her book debuts it hits #1 on the NY Times Bestseller List and then gets turned into a movie and she becomes an overnight success story.

But that is an exception—and a rare one. That is NOT THE NORM.

When you professionally self-publish and build a following, you can get an agent and publisher to come to you. Seriously. Just look at Amanda Hocking.

Amanda Hocking spent 9 years writing books and getting rejected by publishers. Until one day in 2010 when all that changed. She needed the money to pay for a personal expense, so she put one of her books up on Amazon.

It started selling. Upwards of 9 copies a day. So she put another one up. And it started selling too. And then another and another.

She created millions of dollars from her self-published books AND THEN a traditional publisher came to her with a 2+ million dollar deal.

THAT is the true power of self-publishing and building a following. ‘Cause, remember, you’re gonna be doing all the marketing and work to build a following anyhow, so you may as well be the one to benefit from it.

Traditional publishing just can’t keep up with the power professional self-publishing holds. It’s a whole new ball game and it’s rigged in your favor.

But you’ve gotta do the work. You’ve gotta keep doing the work. You can’t write and self-publish and then sit on your ass. You’ve gotta step up.

Self-publishing is the ultimate way to take control of your writing destiny. But you’ve gotta take it seriously and treat it like a traditional publisher would. That’s the thing that makes the difference between a book that sells and a book that sits.

I’m insanely proud to be a successful self-published author and I will continue to stand and speak for the power of professionally self-publishing and for creating the writing life you dream of having.

I’ve taken my stand… how about you?

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How do you feel about self-publishing? Would you ever give it a try? 

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16 replies
  1. Kym Kettler-Paddock
    Kym Kettler-Paddock says:

    Hi Jennifer-

    I think self-publishing is a wonderful thing, but it is currently just not done in the children’s market. There are some exceptions, but these involve print runs of your own books, as most children’s books are still read in paper. While this may change over time, the traditional route is still the norm in kidlit. So although my immediate WIP will probably go the traditional route (assuming I get a chance to go that!), I’m still interested in learning about self-publishing because I have ideas for non-kid lit novels as well. This is a new skill set that all authors should learn.

    Reply
    • Jennifer Blanchard
      Jennifer Blanchard says:

      @Kym Why not lead the future of the children’s market by trying something new?? But yeah, I get what you’re saying. And I’m glad you’re thinking about self-publishing some nonfiction stuff. Nonfiction is the quicker way to make money from your writing.

      Reply
  2. Gabrielle Baer
    Gabrielle Baer says:

    I absolutely agree with you. Especially because at 64 I’m not feeling being the latest ‘Granma Moses’ in publishing… 30+ years from now! Thanks for standing up and saying this. Its really encouraging to me and I’m sure to many, many other writers.

    Reply
  3. John
    John says:

    Well said. Totally agree. The recent online Self-Publishing Success Summit run by Chandler Bolt had many speakers who expressed this viewpoint quite effectively too. It’s a tidal wave….

    Reply
  4. Paul Reali
    Paul Reali says:

    The self-published novel that earns more than a few dollars is the rare, rare exception. You might argue that this is because so many people throw their crappy books up on Amazon without doing all the work you recommend, and that if one does all that work, sales are more likely. It might even be true. But Amanda Hocking — dragged out as the exemplar every time this topic comes up — is so atypical as to be useless as a guide.

    Another option, which I would not consider to be “fucking stupid,” would be to write that second and third book while trying to sell the first to a traditional publisher. Then, if that first book never sells, the writer will be ready with multiple titles to self-publish, able to take advantage of all the marketing benefits that offers (first one is free, easy to buy the next one right after finishing, etc.).

    The most important point in all this is to write a good book. Finished is not the same as good. Finished is not the same as ready. Too many self-publishers are polluting the pool because they are unwilling to put in the work you do rightly recommend.

    Reply
    • Jennifer Blanchard
      Jennifer Blanchard says:

      @Paul I totally get what you’re saying. And I agree that most self-published books suck and are done half-assed. I have no respect for self-published authors who refuse to or won’t invest in themselves and in their books–financially and otherwise–to put out a good product. But in my mind, it’s still a waste of time and energy to be writing and self-publishing along with also trying to pitch and find an agent and publisher. I’d rather put my focus and energy into doing the marketing and reaping the benefits of my hard work.

      Reply
  5. Ken Hughes
    Ken Hughes says:

    Completely agree. Especially with the limited qualifiers you added; being successful enough to traditionally publish on your own terms (which indie publishing might *get* you to) or just wanting the traditional cred in itself are the only good reasons to take the trad route. A third might be if you hate marketing so much you’d rather spend every writing minute just writing and querying– and there are so many ways to manage the entrepreneur side easily it almost always covers the huge gain in benefits.

    At best, the choice between traditional and self-published might be between fame and fortune. A trad writer might be better known, or at least has more obvious bragging rights. But a self-published writer is *much* more likely to write full-time. (Besides fewer dollars per sale, a traditional book has a literal shelf life; once your publisher wants to give that shelf space to their next writer, most of your book’s trad-published benefits are *dead* unless you get famous enough to re-impress them, and/or you understand how to get your rights back. It’s the indie authors that just keep building their book list, their reputation, and their cumulative sales.)

    Reply
    • Jennifer Blanchard
      Jennifer Blanchard says:

      @Ken YUP! I know so many pro self-published authors now who have made six-figures+ from their books that I know traditional publishing is NOT the path for me (at least not ’til they make it worth my wild 😉 )

      Reply
  6. Darlene C. Hancock
    Darlene C. Hancock says:

    I totally agree, Jennifer. I feel that if I am going to have to do most of the work, then I might as well have the control. I like being able to create my own cover or have the choice of a cover. I don’t like having to wait years to have my books published.

    What we self-publishing gurus need is more information on HOW to market, get readers, and followers. Now, come on and let us know what to do!

    Great article! I’m with you, gal!

    Reply
  7. Larry Brooks
    Larry Brooks says:

    This is Brilliant. With a capital B. I have lived this, through nine traditionally published books (six novels, three writing books). With the tenth (another writing book) in the pipeline. After that you might think I’m an advocate for traditional publishing, but here’s what trumps that: I’m a case study in everything Jen writes about here. Her timelines are spot-on. The only difference that is substantive is that you can score an advance (I have cashed nine advance checks, four of them pretty decent), but the writer needs to weigh the proposition on both sides.

    I’m on the cusp of released a new non-fiction book as a self-published author. I’ve known Jen for years now, we’ve worked together, done workshops together, and I’ve gained a massive amount of respect for her talent, passion, work ethic and her knowledge of the real world. She inspires me, on this issue and beyond. I’m listening, I’m learning from her, as we all can.

    Traditional publishing has changed so drastically, and the writing dream needs to change with it. Until recently, it remained the major leagues of writing, while self-publishing was relegated to a minor league status. That is still true to some extent, though like in baseball, there are minor league players who can clean the clock of some major leaguers, and they get their spotlight from that position. So as they say in the lottery world, adjust your dreams accordingly. The good thing is, if you hit enough home runs as a self-published author, or if one of your books explodes, traditional publishing is still there, they’ll back up a truck full of money to your door.

    So the dream lives on. It’s just different. And in the meantime, the upside of the journey to get there is suddenly in the sunlight, instead of in a dark and depressing room where nobody knows your name.

    Reply
  8. Linda Sammaritan
    Linda Sammaritan says:

    For now, I’m pursuing traditional publishing for two reasons. 1. I am so technologically challenged, it would take me at least as long as the traditional publisher to get my books the way I want them! 2. And related to that, my author platform is not sufficiently large enough to garner much attention. I’m also finding small presses are much more open to communicate with new authors. As I continue on this steep learning curve, so steep I could use ropes and pitons for scaling cliffs, I hope to gain enough skill to reevaluate.

    Reply
    • Jennifer Blanchard
      Jennifer Blanchard says:

      @Linda 1) You can hire someone to do the tech stuff for you. 2) When you have a book that’s worth reading, your platform will grow from that. No one has a big following in the beginning. You have to do the work to build it.

      Reply
  9. Nissa Annakindt
    Nissa Annakindt says:

    I am a published poet and have self-published two collections of my poems, one which is only in print form and one which is only in ebook form. Neither sells well because I am still learning how to market books. Poetry is such a niche genre, and a large part of the poetry community is based in/around liberal universities and isn’t very inclusive to the likes of ME. It’s hard to connect to readers that will appreciate my work.

    Reply
    • Jennifer Blanchard
      Jennifer Blanchard says:

      @Nissa Have you heard of Bestseller Ranking Pro? It’s a great software to help you find the best categories to put your book in on Amazon so it has a better chance of being found by your target readership.

      Reply

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