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?

11 thoughts on “The Dangers of Self Publishing

    • Hi Mary Ann,

      Self publishing is pretty great–if you take the time to do it properly. I totally understand where you’re coming from though–both sides need to be examined.

      Thanks for stopping by,

  • I agree that self-publishing can be an inexpensive means of getting one’s book published. However there is a middle way between using an established publisher and self-publishing – to use the services of a self-publishing company. I employed such an organisation when I published my collection of short stories, The First Time. The company formatted my manuscript, arranged for it’s distribution to online publishers (it is only available as an ebook) and produced a cover. The price for the work set me back by approximately £400. I’d loved to have done the work myself, however I lack the necessary expertise. In retrospect I regret not having used the services of an editor.

    • Hi Drew,

      Most self-publishing companies do offer such packages, but I’ve never had an in depth conversation about these packages with someone who’s actually used them. Were you satisfied with your results?

      Thanks for stopping by,

  • Brianna Soloski

    I read lots of self-pubbed books and have self-pubbed myself. No book is ever going to be perfect, no matter how many times or who edits it, but I can definitely agree some are worse than others. I recently read a book that was published by a small press, who you would assume has at least one in-house editor, but the book hadn’t been edited at all. It was as if the author had written it and turned it in before even giving it a cursory round of edits. People like that give people who treat self-publishing as a serious endeavor a bad name.

    • Hi Brianna,

      Of course no book will ever be perfect–but it’s important to give our books the best chance possible. I agree that people who release unedited or poorly edited work reflect badly on serious self-published authors–and I’ve also read a couple small press books that were barely readable. It makes me furious to see a book like that coming from a publisher, because it likely means that the author’s been duped and they’ve signed away their precious work to someone who won’t take it seriously. The best publishers love the books almost as much as the authors do–and you can tell by the way they’re formatted and edited.

      Thanks for stopping by,

      • Brianna Soloski

        Exactly. That’s a huge reason I’ve taken steps to terminate my current publishing contract. I will seek a publisher that is more established and is better equipped to provide me the support I need.

        • Brianna,

          Good for you! I’m glad you have the courage and determination to keep looking until you find the best possible home for your work–but I should add that just because a publisher is new doesn’t mean they’re ill equipped to handle your book. I’ve been with Musa Publishing from the beginning, and it’s always been an exceptional press ready and willing to help its authors create and sell the best books possible. So don’t shy away from small presses.

          I think perhaps the best way to find out how qualified a particular publisher is would be to find out what their authors have to say about them–whether this be reading comments on an author or publisher blog or by emailing the author themselves. They’ll know better than anyone else how well equipped the publisher is to sell your book.


          • Brianna Soloski

            I agree. This particular small press was ill-equipped from day one. My book released in October. They should have had other books ready to go soon after. Instead, the next book will release near the end of next month. If I were starting a new press, I’d be working 24/7 to please my authors. I don’t fault them for being new. I fault for behaving unprofessionally and treating it like a game.

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