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Pros & Cons of Self-Publishing

Today, I'm taking an honest look at some of the reasons people choose to self-publish. 

Warning: The gloves are coming off. This is not IWSG. Writers need to encourage each other, but we also need to hold each other to a reasonable standard. If you're feeling insecure about your writing, you might want to bookmark this post and come back later.

For the record, I support self-publishing—might even do it myself—but with that choice comes responsibility. 

Still with me?
Here we go...

Pro: Self-publishing allows you to publish a book that doesn't fit squarely into one category or genre.

Con: Self-publishing allows you to publish a book that doesn't fit squarely into one category or genre...which means the market for your book will be even smaller.

One thing authors give up when they self-publish is the marketing help they would get if they went with a publishing companyespecially a large, established one. If their book crosses or avoids categories or genres and thus has a smaller than average audience, they give up even more of the market if they choose to go it alone rather than revise and resubmit.

The deciding factor: 
What's more important to you? 
Conforming to industry standards and maximizing sales? 
Or telling your original story? 

Pro: You'll have total control & complete creative freedom.

Con: You'll have total control & complete creative freedom
                                                     make a fool of yourself.

Control is a funny thing. It feels good, empowering, until the reality of what's resting on our shoulders finally dawns. Or until we make a huge mistake we can't unmake. 

We shun criticism. It makes us feel bad. But once our work is out there for review, it's open season. 

Hmph. You think your crit partners are mean...

There is a multitude of different tastes out there, and we can't please everyone. That's true. But that doesn't give us license to chuck common sense and professionalism. Whether we like it or not, people DO judge a book by its cover. And its writing. We need to turn out a quality product if we want to be taken seriously.

The deciding factor: 
What's more important to you? 
Having total creative freedom and putting your work out there regardless of popular opinion? 
Or putting something out there your target audience will like?

Pro: Nobody can stop you from publishing your book.

Con: Nobody can stop you from publishing your book...even if it’s bad.

Although it has improved over the years, self-publishing's reputation is less than ideal. And so it should be. 


You heard me. 
There's way too much rubbish being published, dragging the rest of it down.

What can we do about it?

Stop publishing rubbish.

If you're not going to conform to all the industry standards, at least conform to the basics. 
  • Study the craft. 
  • Write a good story. 
  • Listen to constructive criticism and revise. 
  • Get your MS edited—both for content and for grammar.
  • Choose a professional-looking cover.
  • Market well, but don't spam.

If self-publishing authors will do these things, the bad rep will take care of itself. 


  1. Wonderful post and I think you highlighted some great points. With freedom comes responsibility. And if we want to be successful we do need to take responsibility and make our work the best it can be.

  2. This is a truly fabulous post! And it's all true. I think that for the self-pubbed authors who put out amazing books, their reputations are inadvertently damaged by all the people who put out books that have not been edited in any way. I would definitely self-publish in the future if I wrote something publishers wouldn't pick up but that I felt very strongly about but I would definitely put out the time, effort and even money to make sure it was a quality product. It is, after all, our names that are on these books! And awww, I see my little old book over there on the TBR list. THANK YOU SO MUCH!

  3. This is an objective talk and I agree with you. If I ever make up my mind about publishing my book, and if I ever choose self-publishing, I am going to make sure it is criticized, edited, revised, polished and that I am 100% sure it has high quality.

  4. Absolutely great advice. Thanks for sharing Melissa.

  5. Self-publishing can also be a lot of fun. But you're right, it's not for everyone.

  6. I've got a lot of author friends who've self-pubbed and are doing amazingly well. Others not so much. It could be any number of things but marketing is huge. If you can keep writing AND market your existing book(s), go you. My publisher said that the best thing I could do to help market my first book was to write my second one.

  7. Replies
    1. I laughed for a full two minutes after reading your comment. :P

  8. Some of those are both funny and true! And the reason I haven't done it.

  9. BRILLIANT post, Melissa. I totally love the way you set this up in such a clever way. I'm not drawn to self-pubbing, but I respect those who do! Looks like a lot of work!

    1. It is lots of work, but so is endless querying when publishers are turning down even good manuscripts. I admire people who can stick *that* out. ;)

  10. I liked your picture of pros and cons. And all the advice are spot on!

    Thanks for a greta informative post!


  11. What a wonderful post! Very honest.

  12. Very fair look at this, M. I don't think that all, or probably even a majority of, self-published books are ones that wouldn't fit into the traditional landscape per say. Although, I think that's certainly a consideration. I also think there's a quality issue in traditional publishing that has driven readers AND authors to self-publishing, just as, as you've pointed out, the opposite happens.

    The bottom line is that self-publishing responsibly is a lot of work, and takes a lot of self-control.

    My opinion is that every author needs to look closely at the story in their hands, where they are in their professional development, and what is going to give them the best shot at sharing that work with the greatest number of interested readers.

    Meaning: I'm really advocating for people to look at it on a work-by-work basis, not an author-by-author basis.

    Too many writers say one or the other 'just isn't for them', and frankly I think that's a very limited perspective of their potential. Plus, it's not a very informed decision based on the current state of publishing.

    Do what's best for the story/idea, and what's best for you financially at the time. When you've got something else ready, do the same thing. That may lead you to both traditional AND self-publishing. :)

    1. I agree that it's a very individual decision. I also agree that different options may be the best thing for different works, even those from the same author. I'm not promoting either side over the other. All I'm saying is that the basic guidelines are there for a reason and authors should heed those.

      Fwiw, this post is not aimed at anyone I know personally. I'm writing this from the perspective of also being a reader who ventures, often, into small-pub and self-published books. I'm telling you, I've see things that would make a relative newbie cringe. I can't count how many books I've bought that were rife with grammatical errors to the point I couldn't finish them. That is inexcusable, even in a self-published work.

  13. Great article Melissa, very well said.

  14. Totally good points. I think it's much better to be realistic than be a cheerleader all the time. Face facts, then throw your support in. :)

  15. I've read a lot of excellent self pubbed books, but unfortunately there are a lot of people pubbing who really shouldn't be!

  16. self pubbing a book is a lot like the first round of american idol,
    some say, what do those agents know, i'm good!

    and give self pub a bad name...making it harder for the truly good to rise above the stigma

    great article!

  17. I think you have made some valid points. I'm still on the fence of which route to take but if I do self-pub, I definitely don't want to put out garbage. Believe me, I've read enough of it to know I don't want to be one of those authors.

    People rush to publication because they think it's easy and it's a fast road to fame and fortune. I'm not sure where they get those misconceptions because most people in the industry will tell you that it's a lot of work and fame and fortune are far from a guarantee.

  18. Excellent break down of the pros and cons, Melissa. Writers need to know what is expected from both sides of the publishing coin. (-:

  19. Super great points, Melissa! There's a class on April 6 in College Station about self-pubbing. The whys, whens, and hows. Should be interesting. Btw, thank you so much for purchasing a copy of Little Acorn!! I hope some day soon we can get together for coffee so I can sign it. :)

  20. Hey Melissa, where have you been hiding? You've written the post I would have loved to write, but there are a lot of sensitive people out there.
    I read a lot of self-pubbed books by bloggers and I can't help reading with my editor's cap on. In one recent example the author spelt 'redhead' three different ways in one page - 'red-head' and 'red head'. Maybe I'm narky but I am when it comes to grammar and punctuation which are badly taught these days.
    Lovely to meet you. I am on my phone so can't follow you. I hope I find you again. I too write romance.


  21. Amen. I agree. Self-publishing is not a shortcut! It takes an amazing amount of effort and a good chunk of money to do it right!

  22. May I add an item to your list? Writers thinking about self-publishing need to take the time to research editors and cover designers. Not all are created the same. You need someone who gets your work. Who understands the genre and likes it.

    For a copyeditor or proofreader, this becomes less important. But for a good line edit or especially a developmental edit, this should be at the top of your list. It becomes even more important if you blend genres.

    It's also important for a cover designer as well. Even I could make a cover, push come to shove. It would be a bad cover, but it would be a cover with all the necessary information and an appropriate image. But it would still be a bad cover. Good covers aren't easy. The designer you want is one whose covers speak to you.

  23. Thank you for having the guts to say what has been on my mind for quite some time now. I've shied away from considering the self-pub option for the very reasons you give, and that's a shame because I would love to have the opportunity to offer some professionally edited, beautifully formatted words out there for the world to see.
    'Stop publishing rubbish.'
    Thank you.

  24. Well said! Publishing is like drinking, one needs to do it responsibly. Editors, formatters, and cover designers are a must!

  25. I'm a rebel at heart, so it's hard to say this... I totally agree with the others. Excellent post. I'm sending it to all my network sites. Thanks for saying what needs to be said, Melissa!

  26. A great post. And all good advice. Having your ms professionally edited for grammer, punctuation, structure, continiuty is a must.

    Thanks for highlighting these points!

  27. Hi Melissa,

    I agree with a lot of what you said here, even though I self-published :-)

    I did find a good cover designer and a decent editor, so I haven't really further stigmatized self-published authors. But you've made good points here that any aspiring author should consider.

    When people ask me if they should go traditional or self-publishing, I tell them to do what works for them. Do they want control or to make lots of money and get through the gatekeepers? Whatever will feel fulfilling for them, they should do. After that, do the work right to make their goals happen. That is my advice :-)


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