In my last blog post, I explored some of the ways in which publishers tend to be unfair to writers. After publishing that article, I started seeing comments from people posing the question as to why the writers can’t publish themselves then, if the publishers are so bad. To paraphrase that question, if the publishers are so unfair, why then can’t the writers publish their own works (given the fact that one always has the option of publishing himself or herself)? So in today’s blog post, I will attempt to answer that question. And I will mainly answer that question by pointing out that publishing your own work has its own pitfalls. This is to say that when writers opt to stick with the publishers, in spite of the publishers being exploitative, it is because self-publication has its own pitfalls. Let’s look at some of the said pitfalls.
Firstly, it is worth noting that when one opts for self-publication, they miss out on the quality-control mechanisms that are available through the established publishing houses. This is a key pitfall, because on account of it, one easily ends up with substandard works that then fail to gain traction in the literary market, leading to huge losses.
Secondly, we have to appreciate that when opts for self-publication, they miss out on the opportunity to use the marketing networks that the publishers possess. This is a huge pitfall, because the way the industry works (just as most other industries) is such that it is essentially controlled by cartels. These cartels determine which works gain which portions of the market. A publisher helps you get your foot into these waters, and further helps you navigate these murky waters. When you see works of certain writers being well distributed in all bookshops you visit, it is thanks to these networks. When you see certain writers being interviewed on all TV stations about their latest works, it is on account of these networks. When you see certain writers having their works (positively) critiqued on all major newspapers, it is on account of these networks. By opting for self-publication, you miss out on the power of the networks in question.
On account of those facts, writers opt to stick with publishers, notwithstanding the exploitative nature of the publishers.