Are You Running Away from Traditional Publishing? Or Running Toward Self-Publishing?

A great mentor once told me that you serve yourself better by running toward opportunities, not running away from challenges.

The distinction is slight, though it makes all the difference. One looks forward while the other looks back. One is constructive while the other is cynical. One forges a character of resolve while the other promotes a character of laziness.

For all the nuance being talked about within the swirling publishing industry, the clear (though demanding) choice between these two attitudes underpins everything. Are you running away from traditional publishing because it’s too daunting? Or are you leaning into self-publishing because it empowers you with more freedoms and responsibilities?

I sense that many authors are fleeing from the gates of traditional publishing houses less because of the house’s antiquated ways and more because the authors lack the self-discipline to grind through the process of producing an accomplished book. To these aspiring authors, finishing a book is the endgame for which any means is justifiable, even those oozing with amateurish habits and shortcut techniques.

In his popular article A Modest Proposal for Publishers and Authors, Jonathan Fields wrote that “Most authors haven’t done and don’t want to do what’s necessary to leverage this new dawn.” He was speaking of the discipline and effort required to capitalize on the opportunities rising from the publishing revolution. In an upcoming interview with Jonathan, I asked him whether he thought this attitude and work ethic was improving in the year and a half since his article debuted. His answer: “Sadly, I don’t.”

What’s happening here is not insignificant in force or outbreak. The culture of writing and, most acutely, publishing is mutating in the petri dish of instant publishability. The immediate result: an avalanche of perfectly adequate and, as Seth Godin recently said, “junk” books. The net effect: eroding public trust in the high standards of published works.

Self-publishing should be embraced, but not as an excuse to cut corners, disrespect quality and stop doing hard work. To be taken seriously, and to develop seriously good books, self-publishing indie authors must charge forward because the opportunities excite and challenge them to produce their best work.

The dichotomous realities and outcomes aren’t hard to fathom. . .

Imagine two authors of similar talents both pursuing self-publishing. The first sees self-publishing as a “quick-win” path to “published author” status devoid of rigorous work or the involvement of others. The second recognizes self-publishing as an opportunity-rich environment where she can assemble a creative team of her own liking that’s customized to her style and needs.

The first author rushes to the publish button. The second deliberately approaches it, challenged at every step by the team she’s built to help her grow into her best. Both end up at the same destination – a self-published book. Their journeys, however, were fundamentally different – the first was running away, the second was running toward.

Care to bet on the winner? And in whose footsteps are you following?