You’re in a hurry
If you can’t wait for agents or editors to get back to you, you’re not committed to writing a good book. (I promise I know how agonizing the wait can be.) Speed might be an argument for certain time-sensitive non-fiction, but not a novel. Have you ever noticed that after an author has a runaway best seller, their next book stinks? Everyone’s making so much money they push the writer into rushing the next book, which inevitably lands in bookstores half baked. No matter how you publish, take the time to do it well.
You think it's a shortcut to a book deal
I’m thrilled when I meet a happy self-pubbed author who had solid reasons for going DIY! But I feel like crying every time I hear a writer say they shelled out a ton of money to publish their book hoping it was the route to a book deal. It’s possible to go over the fence, around the back, up to the roof, and down the chimney, but it’s easier to try the front door. Check out the number of debut books listed on Publisher’s Marketplace every single day. Then consider the handful of self-published books that have gone on to get book deals. The odds aren’t good.
You don’t want to share an advance with an agent
That’s just silly. With a savvy professional behind you, you’ll make more than enough extra dough to cover their cut. Think real estate. You could go For Sale by Owner, but a good realtor will sell your home more quickly and for more money. Not to mention the time and stress you’ll save. A good literary agent is going to work his or her ass off for you, hold you up when you’re losing faith, fight your battles while you stay out of the fray, and flat out make you a better writer. I don’t know exactly how much my agent has made from my work, but I guarantee it’s not enough.
You’re afraid of rejection
I've got news for you, McFly. You can’t protect yourself by avoiding publishers. Assuming your book is going to be read, you will be rejected by a healthy portion of readers. Take a look at Goodreads sometime. One of my reviewers said my book was so depressing it made her want to kill herself. Another said it was light chick lit. You cannot, will not, no way, no how, please everyone.
You think you know better than your critics
If critique partners, instructors, readers, agents, and whoever else are telling you the book needs work, it needs work. Don’t tell yourself they wouldn’t know a good book if it hit them in the face. Readers will be much more judgmental, especially on the internet. Instead, go write a good book.
You don’t think you’re famous enough to traditionally publish
I agree that it’s annoying when a celebrity spends three hours writing a novel and gets it published. The good news is that the money brought in by their fame helps publishers spend money on riskier propositions like no-name authors with good, quiet books. If you don’t think new writers with no connections get book deals, start reading Publisher’s Marketplace. It happens all the time.
You don’t want to share your profits with a publisher
I almost didn’t include this one because there is some validity to the argument that royalties, especially on e-books, are too low with a traditional publisher. (And if you're writing romance, this may be an excellent reason to self publish.) However, do not forget how much money they’re fronting you. If you self publish properly, you will be spending money on editing, proofreading, cover design, production, publicity, marketing, distribution, and printing, all of which will absolutely run into the thousands of dollars and can easily reach $20,000. A traditional publisher will pay for all of that and give you an advance. If you don’t plan on printing paper books, know that e-books only account for about 12% to 30% of sales, depending on genre. In my case, about 75% of sales were hardcover.
You hate everything about NY publishing
When you’re not getting where you want to as an author, it’s easier to say you don’t care, that publishers are idiots who publish crappy books (because you read one bad book), that paper books are dead, and so on and so forth. I’ll admit that the publishing environment is especially challenging right now, but basing your decisions on negative emotion is dangerous. Bitterness won’t help you sell books, and it sure as hell won’t help you write good books. That takes passion and vulnerability. More importantly, life sucks when you feel that way.
You think you’ll get rich quick
No matter how you publish, that’s not likely. If quick money is what you honestly want, be realistic and go into the cocaine or Oxycodone business. When it comes to art (and most things in life), endeavors undertaken for money almost never have the heart it takes to succeed. Focus on writing the best book you can. Then make it better. That’s your only hope.
Does this mean I'm against self publishing?
Hell, no! I think it’s an exciting and valuable option...as long as it’s done for the right reasons. Here’s why I think you should consider DIY.