Is Self-Publishing the “Easy Way Out”?

If you spend any time in bookish spaces on TikTok, Instagram, or Threads, you’ve probably heard the controversy around a certain traditionally published (and highly successful, I might add) author who got herself into a bit of hot water.

In what as meant to be a “helpful advice” video, this author explained to her audience that self-publishing is the easy way out when it comes to publishing. The video is now deleted, but there are many stitches and commentary videos on TikTok that give context to the story.

The video was met with immediate backlash from self-published and traditionally published authors alike. In a loud outcry, authors came together to collectively huddle around the bookish community and the dignity of the authors within it. And, in my opinion, rightly so.

I am a new author. I have a literary agent and a book deal with a traditional publisher. My book is slated to be released in Fall 2024. I am very proud of all the hard work I did to land an agent, and then to sign a book deal. But make no mistake, I do not see my path as the “harder” path when compared to self-publishing.

I chose to go the traditional route because it utilized my strengths. I am a non-fiction author who has a PhD and prior publications in scholarly journals, which I knew would appeal to publishers. I also have several large social media platforms that I was able to build, by the way, because of my unique strengths. This was also something I knew would appeal to publishers.

By contrast, I have numerous shortcomings when it comes to the publishing world. I struggle with attention to detail. I am not highly organized. I get easily overwhelmed and paralyzed with indecision when I don’t know what to do. Unfortunately for me, these are all skills that would be necessary if I were to self-publish my book.

Self-publishing requires being able to do the entire editorial process on your own, or else find and pay someone else to do it. It requires finding and delegating jobs like cover design, typesetting, and synopsis development to people with those skill sets, and then overseeing those jobs. It means getting your own ISBN and organizing all the paperwork that goes into publication.

And as a person who really struggles with those types of tasks, self-publishing is just not the route to success for me. I believe in myself enough to know that I could do it if I had to, but it would come with a lot of unnecessary heartache and frustration. For me, self-publishing would absolutely be the hard route. So, I chose the traditional route because it seemed like the easiest path for someone like me.

Authors may choose to self-publish for many reasons, but I can assure you that none of those reasons have anything to do with it being easy. One might say they are choosing the path that is easiest for them because they have the strengths and skills needed for success in the self-publishing world. But something being the easier of two paths for an individual person doesn’t mean that their experience on that path will be easy or that there is something inherently easier about that path.

I would be thoroughly offended if someone suggested that my path to traditional publishing was the easy way out. That path was paved in tears, frustrations, rejections, re-writes, and let-downs. It was hard. Let’s not belittle the difficult and often frustrating route that self-published authors take. It’s not a good look for us as a community, and it’s just an indecent thing to do.

We all wrote a book. We all will have to do most of the heavy lifting to take it to market and make it a success. What we do in the middle doesn’t matter.

Amber Wardell is a doctor of psychology and author who speaks on women’s issues related to marriage, motherhood, and mental health. Subscribe to the free newsletter to get exclusive content delivered to your inbox and to never miss an upload.


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