There’s a lot of awful advice out there about self-publishing. Like, amazingly awful. Almost all of it is produced by someone who’s trying to sell you something, mostly advice on self-publishing. I admit I sometimes like to read these articles, I guess because I am a terrible person.
Thanks to this bad habit, however, I am able to bring to you Alis’ Non-Definitive List of Warning Signs For Awful Advice on Self Publishing.
Ready? Here goes:
- Any article about self-publishing that describes profits but not costs. This goes double if the article includes any throwaway pseudo-promises about rebranding, i.e. redoing the cover, causing a book to “take off”. Good covers are expensive. Even bad covers can be expensive.
- Triple the above if the article includes any offhand remarks about marketing services like BookBub. BookBub is not free. Not only that, but BookBub is also quite expensive and conversions, particularly for non-free books, can be… modest. If you’re looking at the chart on the linked page and you’re not sure how to work out exactly where in the range field you’d need to hit to make back the money you spent in the first place, and to know whether that’s a reasonable amount or not, then I’d suggest perhaps not relying on the service to answer all your marketing dreams.
- Any article that talks about agents not doing anything. Seriously, I don’t know who all these people are who had all these terrible agents, but my suggestion to them would be to, yanno. Go find a new agent. ‘Cause my agent? She well earns her commission.
- See also: any article that gives agents and/or editors and/or publishers a derisive nickname. Because, just protip here, this is a rhetorical trick (and logical fallacy) called an appeal to pathos. It’s trying to agitate your emotions and get them to override the part of brain that actually thinks critically. Worse, it’s seeking to foster an in-group/out-group dynamic, again with the intent of forcing you to not second-guess the information you’re being fed, lest you find yourself turned on as “one of Them”. For double points, articles that do this will also almost certainly rely on obviously terrible maths. Terrible maths the author is hoping you’ll skip over in your wit’-us-or-agin’-us fervor.
- Any article that sneers at bad publisher contract terms, while also doing #3. I’ve read a lot of these, and in every. Single. Instance they’re complaining about clauses every agent worth her commission will negotiate out (copyright length and reversion terms, particularly with regards to ebooks, being very popular). This is why you have agents, because they have lawyers, and they look over contracts. If they don’t, ref #3, above.
- Misinterpretation and scaremongering over so-called “do not compete” and first-right-of-refusal clauses. See also #5 and #3, above. There are some authors for whom this stuff can become a problem, such as those who write prolifically in the romance genre. Again, if this is you, get an agent who specialises in representing prolific romance authors, and she’ll work you through strategies of how to deal with it.
- Any article that chides publishers for not providing “support” to their authors, while simultaneously doing #1. Seriously. Just… seriously. Are we even trying any more?
- Most importantly, however, any article espousing self-publishing as the One True Path, written by anyone who was a career midlister, who reclaimed a massive backlist and self-published it at a time that coincided with the rise of the Kindle. This is a “right place right time” thing, and if you can replicate it in retrospect, I humbly ask if I, too, can borrow your time machine.
There are probably more. Probably enough to fill up a hilarious bingo card and/or drinking game, even. But these eight are a start. Feel free to add your own.