To Be Self-Published or Not to Be

… self-published, that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles

And by opposing end them. 

So said Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, with some help from Yours Truly, because a writer’s soul is up for grabs every time he puts his stuff out there. Yes, sometimes it’s a real drama, especially when your toes are actually hanging over the precipice of a big decision. That’s where I am at now. Shall I become an independent author, flinging myself into self-publication – a chasm where many a writer disappears forever – or shall I knock on the door of a publishing house, to be wined and dined by sophisticated executives with a good eye for talent? It seems like an easy choice, but it’s not. Maybe you don’t have any talent, or maybe you do but they don’t care for your histrionics, your existential struggle to write something significant, the publishing house a prison where authors languish for years, churning books out like number plates. Maybe, just maybe, like Milton’s Satan in Paradise Lost, the self-published author can fling himself into the chasm of individualism and rise on some sort of fortuitous updraught, coming to earth somewhere with a gentle pounce, ready for heroic success.

So I contacted a swank outfit that offers help for authors in search of agents and publishers, and I bared my soul for the chief gal (Randy Peyser, and I told her (more or less) how weary I was of promoting myself on social media: I have a great book, dammit, and I wanna write other books, not spend eternity nosing the inglorious halls of Twitterdom et al.. Emails are confidential, otherwise this would be very hush-hush, but luckily I have her blessings to publish her reply. So here it is, minus the bits that aren’t relevant.

Hi Allan Hands,
Your website looks very professional. And now, it’s education time:

If you want a traditional publisher absolutely do not self-publish your book. You will be shooting yourself in the foot if you do. Publishers and agents looks for people who actively market themselves and who are already doing it. This is how you tip the sale in your favor. Agents and publishers will ask for your social media numbers. They will look you up online and see how active you already are.

Getting a book deal takes concerted effort. If the author is not in the U.S., these are the questions every agent or publisher will ask me: How often does the author come to the U.S and where is he speaking? What is the size of each audience? What is the size of his social media in the U.S.? Your numbers have to be strong to get a book deal in the U.S.


I’m not in the U.S., but getting there is not a great problem for me (unless global warming is for real, when I could take months to arrive by sail or balloon). The problem for me is this: what’s the difference! If I have to promote myself for a publishing house, how is that any different to promoting myself as an independent author? It’s still time not spent writing.

Anyway, I haven’t made up my mind yet. Maybe I’m being a tad melodramatic. I’ve still got some months before decision time comes knocking. Till then: To be or not to be

Allan Hands, interrogating himself in a not so private moment.

Published by Allan Hands

Allan Hands is a pseudonym for the author of 'Mirrored Sword', his first venture into fiction. The name was cut and pasted from the names of his grandfathers to make an easy handle on his books.

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