Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Invitation To The Madhouse ~ Report On Self-Publishing

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{This post is almost a rant and purposefully written in a voice I rarely use…}

A madhouse is where insane persons are confined or a place exhibiting stereotypical characteristics of such a place.

This, to me, right now, is what self-publishing is.

Let me define my terms a bit more precisely:

“Sanity” has roots indicating “healthy condition” or “soundness of mind”. If I temporarily constrict my argument to the term “publishing”, most people who are trying to keep up with the frenetic pace of change in this arena of human experience would, I feel, tend to agree that publishing is not in a healthy condition or showing soundness of mind.

Many of those same people would go further and claim that self-publishing is the medicine needed for the sick field of publishing.


I’ve been involved in self-publishing for about six years now and the last year has seen me working overtime to come to terms with how to best take advantage of the opportunities that self-publishing seems to offer.

I don’t have space in this post to detail the ills of the traditional publishing route but anyone interested can easily find much to ponder.

So, try to accept one point on a conditional basis: self-publishing can bring a book to market faster and supply the author with higher royalties than traditional publishing, as long as the author is not already on the bestseller lists or in the stable of a publishing house being preened to take the book-world by storm when the right marketing moment arrives.

If the above statement is true, one would think that an author would find it easier to self-publish…

My experience has been that the word “easy” needs to be carefully defined with ample attention being paid to whether said author has what it takes to build their own following and work intensely at experimenting till they find the particular combination of tasks that can assure them a sufficient platform of eager individuals waiting to render them aid on publishing day.

If you are comfortable with building relationships, if you can be honestly altruistic in those relationships, if you can multiply the number of those relationships, if you have the time to attend to them with care and diligence, if you have the money to pay for or can trade for the expertise of editors, artists, and publicity specialists, then, maybe you would say self-publishing is easier than going the traditional route.

The reason I’ve been willing to persevere in the madhouse of self-publishing isn’t because I can easily fulfill all the ifs in the last paragraph.

I will continue to do all I can to successfully self-publish my work-in-progress because I lack the patience to search for an agent who would accept the unusual book I had to write and must publish, because I don’t have a few years to wait while such an agent finds a publisher who thinks my book can sell and negotiates a contract, because I refuse to be paid a royalty that can have itself disappear in paybacks to the publisher if the book doesn’t sell, and because finding an editor I don’t have to pay and supplying cover artwork are something I was able to personally handle.

So, from my perspective, the crumbling house of traditional publishing and the raucous adolescent scene of self-publishing are both “madhouses” but I’m a writer and I have a book I’ve written and I want people to read it and I had to make a choice…

I chose self-publishing.

I’ve written about this topic before in this blog and using the handy Top Tags Cloud in the side panel will lead you to those other musings…

What are your thoughts, theories, experiences, and rants or raves about traditional publishing and self-publishing?
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25 responses to “Invitation To The Madhouse ~ Report On Self-Publishing

  1. Simone Benedict February 24, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    You say you’ve been involved in self-publishing for over six years now. Prior to that time, did you choose the traditional route? Just curious.

    Personally, I don’t have the patience to try self-publishing. You’re right though. Both avenues have a certain madness to them.


  2. Catana February 24, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    I think the madness is easier to deal with if you take it one step at a time. I’m constantly learning about changes in self-publishing, storing up information so that I can make the best possible choices. But right now, I’m finishing up the last rewrite of my novel, and that’s all I’m really concerned with. Next step is the final editing (and yes, I’m doing it myself), and that’s what I’ll stay focused on until it’s done. Finally, preparation for publishing — formatting properly, doing whatever conversions are necessary. Along with all this, I’ve been building a platform, not a very splashy one, but I’m not a splashy person. Setting up a new blog just for my fiction, and building a website, are projects I work on a little at a time, when I can concentrate on them. Writing and publishing are pretty crazy-making on their own. We can make it worse or find ways to deal with it without making ourselves crazier.


    • Alexander M Zoltai February 24, 2011 at 4:36 pm


      I happen to have earned the right to have every hour of every day to use as I wish. Because I spent a year in Viet Nam and contracted Hepatitis C (since treated), I have a small military pension.

      I agree it must be one step at a time, even if some steps are taken backwards. Since I work at my pre-pub promotion 12 – 14 hours a day, I can take many steps. This may be where my madhouse feeling comes from…

      Still, with all the study and experimentation I’ve done, I have a wide perspective on the publishing arena and it is a bit Mad out there :-)

      Luckily, my first publishing distribution will be done by FastPencil and they do all the converting for print and ebook. I will select a few other venues once the first distribution happens and I will be learning to format ebooks for myself…

      Vive la folie !!!


  3. Karla Telega February 24, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    Even in the traditional publishing world, writers are expected to do more and more toward self promotion. I’m taking the steps necessary to build a platform, although I could be doing more if I gave myself the time. That’s the crux of the matter for me: time management. I’ve been pushing myself on the editing process to get my book done, so it has slowed me down considerably on social networking. I’m also hoping that this book can pave the way for publication of my first book by giving me an established audience.


    • Alexander M Zoltai February 25, 2011 at 2:18 am

      Ah, yes, time and prioritizing…

      On Monday, we’ll have an interview with a lady who has a workbook all about the Power of “No!”–essentially, a method to ward off low-priority demands :-)

      Sorry I was so late in responding. I was reading a chapter from my book in the virtual world, Second Life then helping host a new event there :-)


  4. cmmarcum February 24, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    I don’t have any secrets to tell you, or I would blab them all out. And I probably will never write a novel until I know the answers that you now seek. I suspect getting published is much like anything else–not what you know, but who you know.

    Did read an interesting article yesterday on publishing at under the Post: What publishers can do for you.

    Have you ever thought about asking your friends to publish a excerpt on their blogs to spark interest? That would extend your reach a bit. I’d be happy to do that for you.


    • Alexander M Zoltai February 25, 2011 at 2:31 am

      Sorry about getting to this response so tardily….

      “…not what you know, but who you know.” Yep–relationships………

      That article: “…they pick up a menu of books from a variety of categories currently deemed marketable, then spray those books at the market like sperm, praying that one or two will impregnate the blockbuster ovum.” What a Whoot :-)

      “I think that generally, the best books are being published.” Can’t totally agree with that…

      “…what publishers need to be able to do is to provide smart marketing to their authors.” And, self-publishers need to provide that for themselves…

      There are many other very good points in this article :-)

      That’s for suggesting it !!


  5. Gwen February 25, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    I find the whole thing daunty…. not sure what I will decide to do. I have time to ponder.


  6. Tominda Adkins April 19, 2011 at 3:00 am

    Alexander, I couldn’t have summed up my own reasons for self-publishing better than you have. From where I stood nine months ago (as an unknown, unpublished genre author), self-publishing and the traditional approach both looked like fairly equal heaps of hard work. I am so glad that I gave up on querying agents and went for broke on my book. It is hard work, but the hard work on self-publishing’s end is progressive. It goes somewhere. It doesn’t feel hopeless or vain. Really, it all comes down to this: I want readers, not a publisher. And with a good book, lots of research, and an internet connection, I can find readers on my own.


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