Way back in 2011, when self-publishing was new, I asked the same question in a number of blog posts (some of which on my old livejournal). Mostly, back then, the question “Should you self publish?” was fraught with angst over scuttling one’s literary career and about quality.
No one really cares about self-publishing damaging literary careers anymore (because it doesn’t), and the quality issue… yeah. Meh. Crap gets published. Get over it. Sometimes it even sells. And some of it sells a lot better than my books. So there. *shrugs*
I did make one comment, though, that still holds, even if it does so for reasons other than those I mentioned when I first made the comment.
If you arrived at this page by googling “Should you self publish”, then you probably shouldn’t. Or at least not yet.
Because when you google this or anything about writing or publishing, you are very likely to end up with lots of links to vanity presses. Read David Gaughran’s post on vanity presses and how they’re becoming intertwined with reputable publishing companies (I’m looking at you, Random Penguin). And if you know so little about the publishing industry that you need google to tell you whether you should self-publish, you’re probably at risk of being ripped off.
This is related to the feeling that self-published writers have expressed: that they’re sick of doing all the non-writing stuff that is required to sell books: the editing, the formatting, booking ads, blog posts, tweets, Facebook posts. They would like to be taken care of, and let someone else do this work.
Well, I got news: it’s not called SELF-publishing for nothing. It means that you do all the work. It means that you make the decisions. And you have to keep making decisions and doing stuff all the time. There are many things that you have to do that you didn’t even know existed before you self-published. It’s a lot of work, and it’s relentless. You should be well-informed. You should continue to learn, because the ground is constantly shifting under your feet.
On the other hand, there is no person in the world who is going to bat harder for your books than you. If you have an idea, you can do something about it. You don’t need to ask anyone. You just do it. But you have to actually, y’know, do it. If you feel that you don’t want to do the work, you should find a regular publisher.