The Argument Against Self-Publishing

I was working for an entertainment portal when I accidentally stumbled onto something I had written. I had always wanted to write a book and I realized that I could make a good book out of it.

That’s when the fight started. I tried to manage work and writing simultaneously and when I realized it was work that was winning most of the battles, I decided to quit work. I took a personal loan that would keep me backed up for a good six months and set sail to finish what I had started. People called it foolishness. I considered it a calculated risk, which I really hoped would not backfire. Like most writers, I believed that I would be able to make ends meet from the royalties the book would make.

There was so much to write and very little time. I huffed and puffed through the words of my manuscript, day and night for the next 90 days. I finalized my plot, lived with my characters and loved what I was writing. However, before I reached the last words of my book, my bank account reached its last rupee.

There you go! I was left with the first draft of a manuscript and absolutely no money to meet my monthly expenses. I had to get my book published as soon as possible. I was under pressure. I could not afford an editor, nor did I have the time to wait for publishers to accept my manuscript. And so, I decided to edit and publish the book on my own. Yes, self-editing and self-publishing. Well, the self-editing ate another 15 days of my time. I ran my tired eyes through 72,000 words over and over again until I thought I could find no more errors.

I thought wrong.

I had to squeeze out some more money to get the book published and when the book was finally out, I was bankrupt and in debt. So what? I have a book from which I am going to make money, I thought.

The book became available on top e-commerce websites like Amazon and Flipkart and was made available in many countries abroad too. However, an author only feels content when he sees his book in bookstores, isn’t it? For that, I had to convince my publisher that my book had potential. I had to sell 300 copies and get 30 positive reviews to convince them.

Although 300 might seem like an achievable target, it wasn’t easy. I had to spend more money to market the book on social media. Some reviewers approached me and offered to review my book. They asked me to send them copies but never bothered to respond after I did.

My monthly responsibilities increased and I slowly slipped into depression. I begged, threatened, tortured and forced people to buy the book. I was desperate.

Finally the reviews trickled in, the book began to gain popularity and I finally managed to get to my target. I applied for my publisher’s special program, according to which my publisher would invest some funds for the marketing, come up with a marketing strategy and make the book available in bookstores. Now, this is a big deal for a self-published author. My publisher promised they would get back to me in two weeks after devising a marketing strategy and I was thrilled that the book was finally going to hit the book stores. All my hard work will pay off now, I thought.

Well… I was wrong again. My publishers did not come back in two weeks. They said they would need a month’s time to get things planned. I waited, not for one month, but seven long months. Yes, it has been seven months now and I have absolutely no response from them. I can’t even get in touch with someone in the team. I have not been able to get past their customer support where all they say is that they have no idea when the program will kick off.

I would like to shout out to aspiring writers that self-publishing is a bad idea if you are seriously considering writing as your career. First, you will have to invest a lot of money. Second, if you do not get your book edited by a good editor, you are going to end up publishing your book with poor editing, because most self-publishing companies will not bother to give your manuscript a thorough check-up (my book was initially printed with an unacceptable typo!) Third, you will have to do all the marketing by yourself, which means you are going to end up spending more money.

On the contrary you get a bigger share as royalty and you get to decide how you want to position the book in the market. But these are miniature boons compared to the negatives.
A creative work, whether good or bad, will always be special for the creator. Please do not hand it over to people who do not respect your effort and aspiration.

If only I had had the patience to send my manuscript to traditional publishers and see what they had to say, the book might have had a different life altogether. Although I realize that the damage is done and I have to live with it, I don’t want to give up. I have decided to cancel my contract with the self-publishing company and seek an alternate option, for which the chances are (once you’ve self-published) extremely low.

However, this journey has taught me many things. It has introduced me to people, to what they are inside. I understand the mindset of a passionate aspirant. I understand the importance of supporting someone’s dream to the best of one’s abilities. I know I can’t take people for granted. I understand that becoming a successful writer comes after years of endurance. I realize that self-publishing is not a great option if you do not know how to market your book well.

I learnt that at the end of the day, your fight is yours alone and no one else’s.

– Abhilash

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