I am, as you know, a published (more than 90 books) author who has also ventured into self-publishing, and who is enjoying it. I dare even say succeeding, though John Locke need not watch his back. But my steps into self-publishing do not mean turning up my nose at traditional (hate that word but... ) publishing: yes, I still want to be published by publishers. Pretty please. And, especially, to have my books in proper bookshops.
And I believe all writers should self-publish.
I'll rephrase that: I believe that all writers should self-publish something. (Unless they have worked in a publishing company themselves.)
Why? Because I think that self-publishing teaches us a great deal, if we choose to listen, and I believe it teaches us a great deal about how difficult publishing is.
Actually, no: publishing is easy. Anyone can publish a book and publishing ebooks is child's play. (Literally; I heard of a teacher whose primary pupils publish their own work to Kindle, actually doing the publishing bit themselves.)
That's why I think we'd all benefit (and our future publishers would benefit) if we tried to publish something ourselves. Our increased understanding would both make us able to contribute better to the marketing process with our future publisher and more appreciative of why disappointments do happen. Also, we'd be more realistic and professional-sounding in our pitches. No longer would we believe that our lovely book was certain to sell tens of thousands if it really wasn't. Our ideas, our pitches, our writing, our consideration of our readers - all these would, I venture, be tighter, more professional, more likely to be realised.
I'm quite prepared to admit that what I've learnt through publishing Tweet Right, Mondays are Red and Write a Great Synopsis leads me to be a little less harsh on publishers who have made mistakes, either in their decisions to publish (or not publish) or in their failure to sell as many copies of an author's books as they should.
It's harder than we think to reach those readers. Only when we've tried to sell something in a market where there are hundreds of thousands of competitors can we truly know how hard it is. We become, I think, more connected to the reader who buys our book, buys it from us, not from some middleman.
So, yes, self-publish in order to learn what it's like on the other side.
But does this mean I'm letting publishers off the hook? Oh, no! I'd also like every publisher to try to write a book. I'd like them to know what it feels like to put our precious oeuvre, perhaps the work of two years or more, into someone else's hands and watch it sink and vanish, as most do. I'd like them to deal with negative reviews and poor sales, when we only have that one book to earn our crust with that year. Don't get me wrong: I love what I do and I choose to do it, and the same can be said for almost all of us. I do NOT want you to get the violins out. Nevertheless, it's harder than most publishers think. It's more emotional, more raw, more distracting, more damn gutwrenching
And both writers and publishers should understand a little more of the challenges of the other.