Skip to main content

Is It Time to Quit Self-Publishing?

Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing advocate and author of nonfiction books, eBooks, and audiobooks. She is a former trade newspaper editor.

Should you quit self-publishing?

Should you quit self-publishing?

An author friend posted a vlog questioning whether it was time to quit his pursuit of getting his middle grades fiction book traditionally published. The social climate was becoming more unfriendly to his worldview and beliefs. Book bans and restrictions could make his book a non-starter. Mergers in the larger publishing sphere would make marketing his book even more challenging. Should he resort to self-publishing? Or should he just quit this adventure? And when do you know it’s time to quit and move on?

I think all of us authors, whether traditionally or self-published, suffer from this “shall I stay or shall I go” moment at some point. Probably more now as book and content markets become more competitive.

Here are some things to consider as you consider continuing your self-publishing career.

Loving the Process or the Outcome

I commented on my author friend's video about the difference between loving the writing or the outcome. Neither one is right or wrong.

One of the highest motivating factors for self-published authors in past surveys was the love of writing. Yet, the biggest challenges had to do with selling and marketing books.

There’s an ever-present tension between feeling satisfaction from writing and financial satisfaction from selling that writing. Authors want both, obviously. But given today’s competitive markets, the financial satisfaction is less likely to be achieved.

I would caution authors not to become discouraged and then hate writing because it doesn’t bring financial rewards. If you are bummed because you are not receiving the book sales you want, do some soul-searching about your motivations. It may not be because you love writing. You love what you hope writing will do for your bank account.

There is nothing wrong with wanting your book to be a moneymaker. Just be honest with yourself. If you say you love writing, love it because you love the process of writing, not just the rewards.

Never Work a Day in Your Life Fallacy

“If you love your work, you’ll never work a day in your life,” has been attributed as being said by many great thinkers of the past. And I’m here to say that’s bunk.

The day you turn something you love doing into a profit center, it becomes a job, and you could end up hating it. It’s now a chore, fraught with a slew of new, difficult, and unpleasant activities, like accounting and sales, that you’ll now mentally attach to your favorite pastime.

This is another reason why I think authors become disillusioned when they turn their passion for writing into business. They think the pleasure of doing their favorite activity should be equally rewarded in dollars.

The You Can Do It Too Fallacy

When author gurus toot their own horn on YouTube or social media about their wild, and usually non-duplicatable, success, it can put other authors into a deep funk. They get trapped in the “you can do it too” fallacy.

Those who brag about their successes make the process of earning outrageous fortunes through writing seem easy. But something’s missing, like the special factors that made their success possible. Or the fortune they had to spend to make the fortune they brag about.

Before sinking into despair when your achievements don’t measure up to others, read the gurus’ bios or do some digging to see what advantages they may have had, or huge investment they may have made. I’ve done this and can quickly debunk almost any of these claims.

The If Fallacy

Wayne Dyer is one of my favorite authors in the personal and spiritual development genre. In one of his audio books or programs I listened to many years ago, this point has stuck with me even to this day. He said something to the effect that your happiness shouldn’t be contingent on if something happens. “I will be happy if…” or “I will be happy when . . . ” If such and such doesn’t occur, will you be unhappy or even miserable?

For the purposes of our discussion, would you say: “I will be happy if I get a book contract for my book.” Or, “I will be happy when I sell 1,000 of my self-published books.” You are setting yourself up for suffering and disappointment should these outcomes not occur.

Being Realistic

For my author friend, the macro issues of big publisher mergers and restrictions on new author book visibility in bookstores were causing concerns.

Additionally, reaching his desired target market of middle-grade readers could be impacted by book banning and censorship efforts. Would agents even consider him for representation now? He was hopeful that indie bookstores committed to serving their communities might carry his book.

While I agreed that the potential for indie retail sales was one I had seen work for similar authors, indies are facing enormous marketing challenges themselves, and their ability to support might be limited. There’s also the factor that middle-grade readers themselves have very little buying power but high potential for parental veto power over what they read. So it’s always been a tough sell.

He also mused about possibly switching to adult markets that might be more interested in his topics and books.

I was encouraged to hear that he even considered these issues. Today, authors need to be savvy marketers and promoters, being very aware of trends for the audiences they serve.

While the ideal time to do the research on your book’s target market is before you write it, I think many authors don’t. If you don’t do the research in advance and your book is already published, do it as soon as you can so you can redirect your marketing if needed.

Break or Quit?

I was glad to learn that my friend was heading to an in-person writers’ retreat. He seemed excited to go and talk with some of his local author pals. I commented that he should table his stick-or-quit considerations until he got back.

Sometimes a break from your current surroundings or routine is just what you need to gain some perspective on your writing and publishing situation. Or you might want to have a chat with a mentor or coach who can ask the right questions to help you decide on whether to continue with your writing or publishing pursuits.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2022 Heidi Thorne