I know, I know, self-publishing e-books is all the rage. Who wouldn't like a bigger cut of their profits? Who wouldn't like to see their book "out there" as quickly as possible? Who wouldn't like to be the next success story? Here are the reasons why I would recommend that you think twice about self-publishing your first novel as an e-book.
(1) Amazon.com is NOT looking out for your art.
Of course, a traditional publisher also has profit on the mind. But they also have a reputation to protect, an investment in quality. Amazon? Not exactly known for customer service. Amazon has nothing riding on you, your book, or its success. They are more than happy to let you put your stuff out there, whatever the quality; they expect consumers to separate the wheat from the chaff. I'm amazed with Carolrhoda Lab, my publisher. I couldn't ask for a more amazing editor than Andrew Karre--or for better company for my books. Check out the reviews (look at those stars and awards!) for Carolhoda Lab titles, and then try to tell me that quality isn't the top concern.
(2) It's too easy.
Amazon.com promises that "publishing takes less than five minutes and your book usually appears on the Kindle store within a day." You might think that sounds great, but are you really ready to publish?
One of the biggest frustrations for beginning writers is discovering the many gatekeepers in the publishing industry. Literary agents, editors, publishers, publicists... how do you find your way? You need a perfect query letter and synopsis... and an iron-clad ego to handle the rejection letters. But all these steps also provide the aspiring author with many reasons to reconsider her work, to crack the manuscript open again and find the new opportunities for improvement. And that's before an editor goes to work on the manuscript. Take out those gatekeepers, take out the reflection that they force on the writer, and suddenly it becomes easy to publish material that's not ready for the world.
(3) You can't take it back.
Let's say that you do self-publish. You might find great success, but you might also find that you've dropped your baby into an impersonal, indifferent virtual world. Further, barring tremendous success of your book (and y'all, those mega-sales are rare!), you've just ensured that that novel will never come out with a traditional publisher.
(4) It's too soon to know how things will shake down with e-publishing.
Sure, self-publishing might turn out to be the greatest way to reach readers, but do really know how the process is going to shake down? What looks like a great deal might turn out to be a big bust. So unless you have a crystal ball...
(5) Some markets are hard to crack with e-books or print-on-demand books.
Let's think about children's and YA publishing (my world!). Librarians are key figures in this world, and self-published titles (print or electronic) are unlikely to reach them. More and more people have the means to consume e-books, but are your ideal readers in that group? Some of the readers who matter most to me--kids on the fringe, teens without fat wallets, newcomers to the US--don't have wide access to e-readers.
So... I'm not saying NOT to self-publish. I'm saying think twice--no, five times--before you do.