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The Dangers of Self Publishing

Self publishing is a growing phenomena with the rise of ebooks. Thanks to numerous self published authors whose books have made it big and already published authors successfully self publishing their back lists and new projects, self publishing has gained a new level of respect in the industry and the world at large. And there are numerous benefits to self publishing–you get total control over your project, you get to keep all the profits, and you don’t have to wait for gatekeepers to respond to you.

However, there are also several dangers inherent in self publishing. The gatekeepers of traditional publishing certainly aren’t perfect, but often if they reject your manuscript it means you need to do more work on the book. It doesn’t mean your book will never be publishable–but often rejection is a good sign that your book isn’t ready for publication yet.

With self publishing, the temptation is to do it all yourself. But everybody needs an editor, especially on a book length project. It’s easy to overlook small flaws in your own work, and every piece needs a second pair of eyes to examine it–sometimes several pairs of eyes. Many people self publish because they’re afraid of rejection, and this same fear leads them to choose to do all the editing themselves. This is a mistake. A badly edited book is worse for your reputation than no book at all, so if you’re going to self publish, make sure to get an editor. Good editors cost a lot of money, but it’s worth it–and you can always find somebody new to the field who’s happy to volunteer because they need more professional credits.

Not only that, but the desire to save money and get the book out sooner often leads to authors creating their own cover art and formatting the books themselves. This is fine if you’re already pretty good at these things–but bad formatting or a cover that falls flat will be deadly to your book, so if you’re not already a confident graphic designer or programmer, you might want to hire a professional.

Note that self publishing is not inherently bad. It’s the desire to rush a book out to market which is bad. Spending extra time or money on editing, formatting or cover art will not hurt your novel. Rushing it out before it’s ready will. You’ll get unpleasant reviews which stings both your ego and your sales, and once that first novel has fallen flat on its face the second won’t even be considered by most readers and reviewers. It will take a long time–possibly even a pseudonym–for people to forget about your poorly edited/formatted book. Flat cover art will mean that most people never even pick up your book.

So if you’re considering self publishing, heed my warning. As a reviewer, I’ve read self published books, and I’ve enjoyed most of them–but I’ve also noticed a higher percentage of basic errors in self published novels than in the traditionally published novels I’ve read. I love stories and I’m pretty forgiving of misspelled words and incorrect grammar if I’m given a wonderful story–but most people aren’t. Releasing your book while it’s still riddled with these basic errors–which all books have at some point–means you’re not giving it the best chance to thrive in today’s market. And you want your book to have the best chance of success that you can give it, right?

Also, if you’re an author who’s considering self publishing and who doesn’t have the money for a high end professional editor, look for those who are just beginning their career in editing. For example, I’m trying to break into the editing business as well as the writing business–and I’d be happy to offer a discount to a struggling author, maybe even free editing if I like the project enough. There are plenty of others in my position, so take a good look around the web and see what you can find. And if you’re interested in working out a deal with me personally, shoot me an email at

Have you read any self published books? How well do you think they were edited?