Self-publishing does make sense for certain segments of the population. If you are wondering whether you should self-publish, go here to read my post from August, 2008, which will walk you through the decision-making process.
There are lots of "entrepreneurs" out there, looking to capitalize on newbie writers' naiveté by giving a few facts and a half-truth or two and then leaving it to the reader to infer something that never happened.
Example: On the website titled "Self-Publishing Resources" here, it says:
Many famous authors and their books were rejected multiple times. Publishers turned down Richard Bach’s Johnathan (sic) Livingston Seagull no less than 140 times; Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind received 38 “no’s,” while Stephen King’s Carrie was turned down 30 times. J. K. Rowling’s original work was pooh poohed by 12 publishers...guess who’s kicking themselves now that they passed on Harry Potter? And E. E. (sic) Cummings first work — The Enormous Room, now considered a masterpiece — was ultimately self-published...and dedicated to the 15 publishers who rejected it.Yes, many famous authors were rejected multiple times. However, Bach and Mitchell were first published by Macmillan, King was first published by Doubleday, and Rowling was first published by Bloomsbury. And note the half-truth: e.e. cummings' first (and only) novel was The Enormous Room, but it was published by Boni and Liveright. It was his manuscript for No Thanks in 1935 that his mother financed. According to Emory University, "With characteristic sarcasm Cummings named the 14 publishers who had rejected the manuscript of No Thanks in the volume itself and said 'Thanks' to his mother, who had financed its publication."
On a website flacking his book about self-publishing here, John Kremer lists the following fifty famous authors who have self-pubbed:
Margaret Atwood, William Blake, Ken Blanchard, Robert Bly, Lord Byron, Willa Cather, Pat Conroy, Stephen Crane, e.e. cummings, W.E.B. DuBois, Alexander Dumas, T.S. Eliot, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Benjamin Franklin, Zane Grey, Thomas Hardy, E. Lynn Harris, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ernest Hemingway, Robinson Jeffers, Spencer Johnson, Stephen King, Rudyard Kipling, Louis L'Amour, D.H. Lawrence, Rod McKuen, Marlo Morgan, John Muir, Anais Nin, Thomas Paine, Tom Peters, Edgar Allen Poe, Alexander Pope, Beatrix Potter, Ezra Pound, Marcel Proust, Irma Rombauer, Carl Sandburg, Robert Service, George Bernard Shaw, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Upton Sinclair, Gertrude Stein, William Strunk, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Henry David Thoreau, Leo Tolstoi, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, and Virginia Woolf.The list above is sorted alphabetically, which is a bit misleading. Commercial publishing as we know it today did not really get its start until the middle of the 19th century. According to the Encyclopedia Brittanica, until 1750, Britain produced only 100 new titles a year. It wasn't until 1850 that mass production brought down the costs of books, and it was 1900 before that 100 titles a year became 6,000 titles a year.
A number of the famous commercial publishers we still recognize had their start during the 19th century: Harper & Brothers (HarperCollins) in 1833; Houghton Mifflin & Company in 1880; McGraw-Hill in 1888 and Macmillan in 1896. Prior to 1850, there was NO traditional publishing as we know it today. The business model was totally different with self-publishing being the norm. Therefore, it's comparing apples and oranges to list historical figures together with modern authors.
A quarter of the above authors were writing before the advent of modern commercial publishing and have no business being included on the list: William Blake; Alexander Dumas; Benjamin Franklin; Nathaniel Hawthorne; Alfred, Lord Tennyson; Lord Byron; Alexander Pope; Thomas Paine; Edgar Allen Poe; Percy Bysshe Shelley; and Henry David Thoreau.
And finally we have what I call "The Big Lie," the one everyone has heard: Stephen King owes his success to self-publishing.
In late October, 2005, I wrote about King's experiments in self-publishing. I called it bold, brave and inspired. Here's a portion of that post:
King first burst onto the public consciousness in 1974-75 with the release of his books, "Carrie" and "Salem's Lot." He tapped into readers' desire to be scared out of their wits . . . By 1995, he had become an icon, and e-publishingAgain, I think there are legitimate reasons to self-publish. However, if you are thinking about it, please take the time to educate yourself. Don't let your impatience justify forking over several thousand dollars. Having a physical copy of your book is the start, not the finish. Remember: Even with a website or a listing on Amazon, you still need to find a way to drive traffic to your book.
was still in its infancy.
In early 2000, King proposed selling his novella, "Riding the Bullet," online through his publisher, Simon & Schuster. No one was prepared for the onslaught of fans trying to download the new release. In no time at all, he'd sold 400,000 copies of the novella online. Even though e-publishing had been around for more than five years by then, one estimate claims King's sales figures were greater than all the e-books sold on line collectively to that point.
Emboldened by his success, King came back a few months later and tried a second experiment. This time he left Simon & Schuster out of the equation--and I'll bet they weren't happy about it. King decided to sell his novel, "The Plant," directly to readers via Amazon. In a quixotic gesture, he opted to sell the serialized novel on the honor system for $2.50 per installment. He was forced to pull the plug because readers were downloading the installments without paying.
Here's a quote that I have always liked:
Three hundred years ago a prisoner condemned to the Tower of London carved on the wall of his cell this sentiment to keep up his spirits during his long imprisonment: 'It is not adversity that kills, but the impatience with which we bear adversity.'