Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Boxing Match of the Century
Is Speedy, Self-publishing Upstart a Threat to Slower But Powerful Champ?
By Dot Ryan
Author of Corrigans’ Pool

If you are a writer or published author, you have likely read dozens pro and con blogs and articles about the publishing world. Self-publishing versus traditional publishing has apparently become a high-stakes boxing match in recent years, with sour grapes being hurled from both corners. Both publishing entities have come out fighting, and their below the belt punches have turned the match into a free-for-all. The self-publish/publish-on-demand challenger appears to be seeking recognition as a viable contender … while the long-reigning champ, traditional publishing, is hell-bent on maintaining his crown.

For the horde of unpublished spectators, the gory match has created a roller coaster of emotions, the worse of which is the confusing message of “damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”

The message coming from the self-publish/POD industry is enticing. They urge writers to be their own publishers and let the reading public decide whether their work is worthy—not some agent or traditional publisher who seldom reads past your query letter. The self-publish/POD people go on to say, and truthfully so, that as your own publisher you can choose how your book is marketed, and you can market it for as long as you want. Whereas, if a traditional publisher miraculously accepts your manuscript, he will give your book one quick run and if it doesn’t sell right out the gate, it’s all over for you and your masterpiece.

The point is that you will get out of self-publishing what you physically, emotionally, mentally, and financially put into it; the success of your book is up to you. If you aren’t business minded and didn’t take time to learn the ropes of marketing before you published, then you better have enough money to invest in professionals to do the work for you. Even then, there is a caveat worth heeding: Have you edited, rewritten, and then edited and rewritten again, to the point of insanity … after which, you initiated the most necessary step of all by having the finished product evaluated and edited by professionals with years of experience in the business? If not, your book is riddled with unsightly things that will jump off the page like fleas off a wet hound, irritating anyone who reads it; especially so, if their hard earned dollars were spent. Error ridden and poorly written books are the stuff that compels the traditional publishing world to legitimately berate self-publishers and their authors.

Granted, this “throw the baby out with the bath water” attitude is tremendously unfair to authors who have written creditable, error-free books and, for one reason or another, have chosen to self-publish. They don’t deserve to be yoked with the unedited, unevaluated, and clueless self-published majority. Nor should they be deemed irrelevant because they deigned to take a different fork in the road and are doing the hard work themselves in attempting to reach as many readers as they can.

Among most self-published authors, the reality that they must battle the stigma against them is ever in mind. That is why the sensible ones edit, edit, edit, and then present their work to experienced eyes and minds for that all-telling evaluation. If your manuscript is found promising but otherwise needs work, it is no crime to go one step further and get the advice of a skilled Developmental Editor. They will point out areas to be improved while leaving you to make the changes. If you are a capable writer, you will complete the polishing without any problem. This was the case with my historical novel, Corrigans’ Pool. The original manuscript was a huge tome of twelve hundred pages—three times as long as a first novel should be. I took months to pare it down to nine hundred pages then wisely submitted the still weighty version to a developmental editor. Every suggestion she offered made me a better writer. What I learned from her was eagerly applied to Corrigans’ Pool and remains the guide for novels I am currently writing.

I am being redundant, but this cannot be said too many times—if you want to be taken seriously by book buyers and hopefully by the traditional publishing industry, your book better be well-written, interesting, entertaining, and correct in every detail; therefore, worthy of being in print. Do this, and someday, with a bit of luck, you will help to make nil the traditional publishing worlds’ complaint that the self-published writer is a vain wannabe who wastes good money to see an "error-riddled piece of un-publishable junk take the shape of a book." Their reasons for insisting that all self-published writers are “vain, non talented wannabes,” will not be psychoanalyzed by me. However, since when is it a crime to be a wannabe who happens to be a bit vain?

It is true most self-publishing/POD businesses glean their highest profits from services rendered rather that book sales. Unfortunately, there will continue to be clueless writers lining up to self-publish sub-standard books. Having said that, self-publishing is still the only option left many writers when they have a first-class book but can’t get their foot in a traditional publisher’s door. And yes, there are highly intelligent self-published writers who can realistically and accurately judge their own work—this group would also “battle a killer combination of Bubonic Plague and Swine Flu” before they’d give the go-ahead on a book that had not been thoroughly edited and evaluated by professionals.

To answer the question asked in the sub-title: It is my humble opinion that neither contender is a threat to the other. Each has its place and purpose. There will be no knockout, not even a T.K.O, in the boxing match between the two—nor will either one ever throw in the towel. They will continue to dance around the ring, jabbing and clenching, but when the bell rings, the champ will still be the champ and we all know who that is.

No one can dispute the traditional publisher’s clout. He is the one that ninety-nine percent of us writers are after. When he smiles down on our offering, the clouds disappear, oceans calm, heavenly beams shower us from above and, if the book is truly exceptional, it is praised to the four corners of the globe.

Maybe far too many error-filled books are published by self-publishing authors these days, but to tell any writer—good, bad or mediocre—that he should keep butting his head against the brick wall indefinitely, is no longer resonating. The present slow economy has landed a solid blow to the champ’s midsection resulting in cutbacks and layoffs. Consequently, fewer and fewer new writers are getting the chance to prove their worth.

Aside from the thousands of unpublished writers attempting to get their foot in the door, there are those who, after being smiled upon once, twice, or more, are now struggling at the brick wall again. Have they suddenly turned into bad writers? Not unless they’ve suffered brain damage from banging their heads on that impenetrable wall. If many of these writers are now choosing to take their manuscripts to the champ’s challenger, who is so wise as to say they shouldn’t?

The argument "if you are deserving of being smiled upon, it will happen eventually" is no longer valid in today’s market. Consequently, if there is a way for writers to get their masterpieces out there—and they are willing to work hard and spend money in the process—then why not?

Oh, no! I believe that last question may have rung the bell for round two!

Dot Ryan, born and raised in Bee County in South Texas, makes her home in “the sparkling city by the sea,” Corpus Christi, Texas, with husband, Sam. Corrigans’ Pool is Dot’s first novel. She is busy writing her second and third works of fiction. You can visit her website at


  1. LOL what an interesting way to put it! You make some very good points. I think the tendancy for people is to not take self published authors seriously, which is sad.

  2. This is a great article. Very interesting and thought provoking.


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