Self publishing could kill your career.

Or not.

“Watch what you tweet because beginners to the industry could get very confused.”

Okay, that’s not what the tweet said exactly but it was something like that. Lydia Sharp tweeted it. I’m pretty sure she was responding to different bloggers who end up contradicting each other.

How are newbies supposed to deal with that? Never mind the rest of us. Well, I’ve just learned to ignore the extreme statements and decide on who makes more sense.

For example, many, many in-the-know people toot the importance of developing your brand early on – before the book deal.

Other prominent people say there is no such thing as brand.

Let’s explore some other contradictions.

  • You should write fast…you shouldn’t write fast.
  • The publishing industry is crumbling…the industry isn’t going anywhere.
  • You need an agent… you don’t need an agent.
  • Self publishing could kill your career…self publishing is the new query.
  • Writers must have a blog ASAP…blogs aren’t important until after a book deal.
  • Follow your heart when writing…keep in mind the market when writing.
  • Agents can be publishers…agents shouldn’t be publishers.

If I was a new writer jumping on social media and saw all the conflicting opinions my head would spin. Seriously.

Thankfully, I usually know the angle different industry people are coming from. I mean, of course, agents and editors are going to say the big publishing companies are doing great and books are selling.

Of course, successful self-publishers are going to vehemently state that writers don’t need agents and the publishing industry will crumble.

Of course.

Of course.

Of course.

What I love is when I find a blogger who cuts straight to the heart of the issue. No anger. No slamming the opposite opinion. No saying he/she is right and no one else is. Someone who isn’t trying to justify his/her position.

Let’s take the blanket statement that self publishing could kill your career if your book flops. Fear strikes your heart and immediate plans to self publish fade. If you’ve done your research, you’ll realize that just about anything could kill your career. If you get a traditional book deal and you don’t sell through your advance –guess what?


I suggest reading all the articles. Both sides. Think about the perspective of the blogger, and decide on what makes sense to you. Maybe your opinion will change over time. But don’t let all the conflicting opinions paralyze you into doing nothing.

Have you found any other conflicting opinions?

And over at Jill’s I’m answering 5 easy questions. Come say hello!

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48 Responses to Self publishing could kill your career.

  1. Andrea September 7, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    You are so right, Laura! Sometimes all the different opinions can make my head spin! I think all you can do is read, absorb and then do what you think is right. There’s always going to be someone with an opposite take.

  2. anne gallagher September 7, 2011 at 10:19 am #

    My favorite was write for the market, but write the book you love bearing in mind the market. Just don’t forget the zombies.

    “They” say traditional publishing is hitting apocolyptic proportions and it will only be a matter of years before it’s gone for good.

    Traditional pubs have been around for quite a few years. They’re not going anywhere. As for Self-pubbing, just make sure you have the best durn book out there you can. If you don’t, the only one you can blame it on is you.

  3. Samantha Vérant September 7, 2011 at 10:31 am #

    Good journalists, for the most part, always present both sides to the story, keeping emotion and personal views out of the equation. With that said, I think self-pubbing does play an important role in the future of publishing, and it’s right for some people, but I’ve chosen to go the traditional route.

    • Laura September 7, 2011 at 11:09 am #

      Always someone with an opposite take – I guess that holds true for almost anything in life too.

  4. KarenG September 7, 2011 at 11:22 am #

    Great post! Getting online and researching the industry is important for writers, all while keeping a level head and making their own decisions about their careers. The big problem with all the confusion is when it paralyzes someone with fear so that they don’t write, or submit, or do anything for fear of doing the wrong thing.

  5. Heather Sunseri September 7, 2011 at 11:41 am #

    Write for your readers… write for yourself!!

  6. Donna K. Weaver September 7, 2011 at 12:22 pm #

    There’s a lot out there that could kill your career. Including a first book published traditionally that fails. What’s a writer to do? Keep writing.

  7. Stina Lindenblatt September 7, 2011 at 12:28 pm #

    Anne’s first paragraph cracked me up.

    I got dizzy reading all those opposites. No wonder I just sit in my room and write without trying to think beyond that. (Or at least I try to).

  8. Creepy Query Girl September 7, 2011 at 12:28 pm #

    I think self publishing wouldn’t really kill your career. If you only have one book then yes, if you self publish and it doesn’t do well than you aren’t going to be able to take that book to agents or publishers. But nothing is stopping you from writing and querying a new book later on down the road, kwim?

    • Laura September 7, 2011 at 12:36 pm #

      Thanks everyone. I don’t think self publishing can kill your career. But when querying agents later you should mention if you’ve self published a novel – and if it didn’t do well….
      But, with everything there is risk! I think to self publish smart after writing for several years and hiring an editor and book cover designer is advised. Even though, you’ll never know what’s going to go viral. But that’s the point. There are so many things that can hurt your writing career, but not taking risks can sometimes hurt it worse.

  9. Ava Jae September 7, 2011 at 12:57 pm #

    The most amount of conflicting advice I’ve seen (no big surprise here) is on self-publishing. It seems every day I read a new article that directly contradicts what I read the day before.

    I absolutely agree that you need to read both sides. After all, before you make any sort of informed decision, you have to be fully informed.

  10. Matthew MacNish September 7, 2011 at 1:17 pm #

    I try to ignore all the hyperbole. I just focus on writing a great book, and then hope everything else will fall into place. Or at least that’s what I’m doing for now, because my book isn’t even done.

  11. christine danek September 7, 2011 at 1:17 pm #

    You are so right. This killed me last year when I started with all the contradictions. It still drives me batty sometimes, but I try and look at both sides and make my own decision.

  12. Susan Sipal September 7, 2011 at 1:18 pm #

    Laura, it’s about as bad as the health food industry. What one touts as the right way to eat, another says will kill you. With food, I’ve learned to listen to my body and my own common sense. With publishing, I think it’s just as individualistic. You have to educate yourself and listen to the rational sources you mention, but in the end, there is no one right way for anyone. There is only what works for you.

  13. Wendy September 7, 2011 at 1:20 pm #

    Yep, this is what I do…read it all and then I do my own thang.

    Heading over to Jill’s. Excited to read more about you!
    ~ Wendy

  14. Anita Miller September 7, 2011 at 1:27 pm #

    Of course, I asked agents, “Hey, if I self-publish my middle grades now and later I want to query agents about a YA, will I be shunned?”

    In a nutshell, the answer was that agents don’t care, as long as the YA is awesome. One guy said if the agents I query are such *blanks* that they shun me, then I shouldn’t want them as agents.

  15. Jessica September 7, 2011 at 1:41 pm #

    Hahaaaa, well, I think you’ve pretty much nailed it. 🙂

  16. Marcia September 7, 2011 at 1:50 pm #

    I suppose this is another one:

    Self-promo is life-and-death important/Self-promo really has no effect on sales.

  17. Susan Kaye Quinn September 7, 2011 at 2:06 pm #

    I love Anita’s answer!

    All the conflicting answers come from everyone trying to figure out the magic code that leads to success. This is because it’s so DARN IMPOSSIBLE to do, so we’re reduced to parsing the tea leaves like Professor Trelawney – and you know, she was right every once in a while too! 🙂

    The main thing is this: the only thing anyone (agents, editors, readers) care about is a book that people want to read. You could have written 50 books that were absolute stinkers, but if you write a genius one, guess what? Someone’s going to fall in love with it and buy it (whether it’s an editor, an agent or just lots of readers). That’s an exaggeration, surely, and not incredibly helpful, except for this: write, write a lot, write some more. That’s what will ultimately bring you success.

  18. Elle Strauss September 7, 2011 at 2:45 pm #

    Things certainly are not as black and white in publishing as they once (seemingly) were, that’s for sure!

  19. Patti September 7, 2011 at 3:16 pm #

    I think what Matthew said is dead on. Worry about writing a book first then figure out how to sell it.

    Sometimes we can get bogged down in advice and eventually you just need to figure out what is the best approach for you.

  20. Lisa Green September 7, 2011 at 3:54 pm #

    Do what’s right for you, whatever that means. I used to think self-publishing was taboo, then everything exploded. Kaboom baby! Who knows? If it helps you feel better about writing, if it gives you a needed outlet?

  21. becca puglisi September 7, 2011 at 5:30 pm #

    Love the advice about knowing the source. So many people spouting advice are coming from a specific angle or platform. It’s finding the ones that are truly open-minded and seeking the truth that’s important. And nearly impossible, lol.

    Becca @ The Bookshelf Muse

  22. Loree Huebner September 7, 2011 at 5:33 pm #

    There is so much advice out there, it makes my head spin.

    I write for the readers..

    • Laura September 7, 2011 at 5:43 pm #

      I agree. Definitely write the book first. But sometimes we do need to plan ahead. (Okay, I’m a planner.) I try and figure things out before I get there, before I need answers. For what comes later can affect the journey. Am I the only one like that?

  23. Lydia K September 7, 2011 at 5:53 pm #

    Great post. I think there are so many things to consider, and without thoughtfully looking at the other side of all of these arguments, they’re just people shouting in the dark.

    I’m a bit like you. I’m not a newbie, and I’m taking it all in making my own judgments as I go along.

  24. Anita Miller September 7, 2011 at 6:17 pm #

    LAURA: I’m a planner, too. 🙂

  25. Ansha Kotyk September 7, 2011 at 7:06 pm #

    Planner. Planning. And following my gut, with a lot of research to back it up. 😉
    Great post Laura, because it’s so true. There will always be opposing camps. We just have to follow our own good, common sense.

  26. Amber September 7, 2011 at 7:51 pm #

    I love this. I don’t think there is anything wrong with differing opinions when it comes to writing. The trouble is, there are a lot of people out there offering their opinion in a way that it sounds more like gospel than a suggestion or personal experience. It inspired my posts on “The White Tower” and Experts. (

    Every one has an opinion, and they are entitled to it…I think some people just need to learn how to share their experiences in a more helpful way, rather than scaring those who aren’t doing things the way they recommend.

    Excellent post.

  27. Bluestocking September 7, 2011 at 8:56 pm #

    I love these sane posts of yours about all the new publishing options and “advice” that gets thrown about! I get nervous like anyone else when I hear conflicting information, but there are more than one way of doing things, and people must take a deep breath and truly assess where they are at and what they want to achieve and choose accordingly. It’s the people who run headlong into things without doing the research that I worry about the most.

  28. Sherrie Petersen September 7, 2011 at 9:29 pm #

    I’m not a newbie and my head *still* spins. I think with all of it, you need to know your strengths and what works for you because the publishing experience is different for everybody.

  29. Elana Johnson September 7, 2011 at 9:50 pm #

    I’m so with you. It gets exhausting to let your fear take over your writing. I try really hard not to do that, no matter what the issue is.

  30. Melissa Pearl September 7, 2011 at 11:06 pm #

    Thanks for that.
    I am currently researching options for my writing career. Self-publishing is definitely on the table for me, but for every positive piece I read, there’s a negative that follows.
    To self-publish or not to self-publish, that is the question.
    I guess at the end of the day I just have to go with my gut.

    • Laura September 7, 2011 at 11:51 pm #

      Thanks everyone! I’m glad I’m not the only one!

  31. Jennifer Hoffine September 8, 2011 at 12:58 am #

    Great post! You’re right about everyone having their own angle when spouting opinions, but I also think a lot of the contradictions are out there because the rules are changing and seemingly contradictory things can both be true.

    The trick is figuring out which potential path to publishing is right for you.

  32. Botanist September 8, 2011 at 2:18 am #

    Great advice. I bet there’ll be someone out there to contradict it 🙂

    Of course, conflicting advice is an age-old problem and not restricted to publishing. For every sage proverb out there, you can find it’s (equally sage) opposite:
    * Look before you leap V. he who hesitates is lost.
    * Penny wise, pound foolish V. look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves.
    The list is endless. The moral? Yep. Think about all sides and make your own informed choice.

  33. Traci Kenworth September 8, 2011 at 9:42 am #

    I do think there’s a lot of fear going around right now on which move is the RIGHT one to make. I try and minimize all of it by concentrating on my book/s and making them the best they can be. After all, when everything is said and done, self-publishing or traditional, it’s the book that stands out, and THAT is the best word of mouth ever. Great blog, Laura!!

  34. Talli Roland September 8, 2011 at 10:14 am #

    Fantastic post! You’re right, there is so much conflicting advice out there; it can be very confusing and hard to know which way to turn.

  35. Angela Felsted September 8, 2011 at 12:45 pm #

    Yeah. I would venture to say that Twitter is probably not the most reliable source to go to if a newbie writer wants accurate information.

    It’s kind of like going to the editorial page of a newspaper to learn about politics. Sure there will be some persuasive arguments there, but most everything you read will be biased.

  36. Jill Kemerer September 8, 2011 at 3:09 pm #

    Boy, I feel your pain! So much conflicting information on blogs and across the social media sites.

    As with everything publishing, I’m a firm believer in presenting an extremely polished book whatever publishing route we take. Many writers don’t take into account the various markets for e-pubs and self-pubs (although this is changing quickly with the explosion of the e-readers). Some genres do better than others in e-books.

    I love that writers finally have the option to take control of their careers, but I think many are rushing in without enough knowledge of the publishing industry. Also, they need to be prepared to run their own business.

    If they’re business savvy, understand how to market themselves and their books, and have gotten past the typical writing mistakes most newer authors make, then I say go for it!

  37. Ghenet Myrthil September 8, 2011 at 3:36 pm #

    I agree that every writer needs to do their own research before freaking about new headlines they see on blogs, etc. It is confusing when you hear opposing opinions, which is why every one needs to look into both sides and come up with their own conclusions.

  38. Karen Strong September 8, 2011 at 4:09 pm #

    Ugh, there are just so many contradictions out there.

    I think personally, just do you. Write what you want and publish how you want.

    I would hate writers to do something just because they think they’re “supposed” to do it. It won’t be authentic and even worse, you’re not being you.

  39. Scott Nicholson September 8, 2011 at 4:24 pm #

    The truth is that most of us don’t have careers, so why worry about what might kill it?

  40. Kris Asselin September 8, 2011 at 4:38 pm #

    I just wait for Laura to tell me which blogs to read. 🙂


    Sort of.

  41. Katie Ganshert September 9, 2011 at 12:34 am #

    Laura – this is super wise advice. Being informed and making decisions based on that information is one of the smartest things we can do – not just as writers, but in life, ya know?

  42. Miranda Hardy September 9, 2011 at 9:41 am #

    When I started blogging, I absorbed so much information, my head probably did spin. Reading and learning is so important in this industry.

  43. Suzanne September 11, 2011 at 9:54 am #

    My personal favourite contradiction:

    Write for yourself vs write for your readers

    I’m hoping that what I write for myself will also appeal to readers.

    Also, the ‘write what you know’ camp vs the’ write what interests you’ group. You’re lucky if what you know interests you, I guess

  44. Lauren F. Boyd September 12, 2011 at 11:43 pm #

    Hey, Laura! It’s great to meet you! I came here from Jody Hedlund’s blog.

    I really enjoyed this post. I have bookmarked your site and look forward to visiting again soon!


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