Friday, February 5, 2010

Publishing versus Self-Publishing: Be Honest

This week I attended what was titled an "Author's Workshop." To be as clear as possible without identifying specific people/ places, this was not through a writer's conference or event, it was one event among many during a 2-day arts/ humanities festival at a high school. The events were attended by students and I was there as a supervisor. At this particular event the author discussed many things about his background that were of interest to students and writing was just one of them.

Being someone who is interested in both self-publishing and publishing, I was interested in what I might learn. Early in the portion of the talk that had to do with writing, a red flag went off in my mind when I heard the author talk about being in talks with Barnes and Noble over getting the book stocked. The author had made no mention of the book being self-published, but I've never heard of traditional publishers having to convince B&N or other major chains to stock their books. I immediately looked the book up online and saw that it had been published over a year ago through a major self-publishing company.

As the talk continued, the writer made general references to the input one gets on the book cover, the editing process, etc., all with NO mention of the book being self-published. When self-publishing was finally referenced in the final 2 minutes of the talk, the writer intimated that having a self-published copy of the book was something one could send to publishing houses to give them an idea of what the book would look like (technically true, though this tidbit neglects the fact that in 99% of the cases, self-publishing and THEN trying to traditionally publish the same book is actually a strike against it in terms of an agent or publishing house taking it on).

There are prolific writings online regarding the pros and cons of self-publishing versus traditional publishing. Either choice can be a good one depending on what your personal goals for your writing are. However, whichever route you choose, you should be transparent about it, especially when speaking to young people or prospective writers about your choice. Do you need to announce that you're self-published versus traditionally published to everyone you speak to? Not necessarily. But if you're in a position to educate people about the publishing process, then transparency is a necessity. To not be transparent in such a case does a disservice to those seeking information on both the traditional and self-publishing processes.