Should Native Authors Self-Publish or Work With A Publisher?

As I’ve been writing more creative works and working towards finishing a novel, I’ve been caught between the allure of traditional publishing versus the seeming practicality of self-publishing.

For me, there are romantic notions when I think about publishing traditionally. There’s a feeling of success or an “I made it” attitude that comes with signing with a publisher. Yet, what else do author’s gain from traditional publishing that they couldn’t currently with the ease and widespread appeal of self-publishing?

I’ve also questioned what good it does for me to spend so much time on a creative work only to have the majority of the profits siphoned off by a publisher?

There are costs for editing and design and marketing, all of which the author ends up paying for, and more, over the course of the book’s life. Add to this the fact that most publishers won’t market a book for the author unless that book seems to be a best-seller, and there’s no real gain for most authors outside of a select few who’s editors believe they have a masterpiece. 

Over the long run, it appears that self-publishing is the better approach. However, there is still a stigma about self-publishing, though smaller than previously expressed, as a second-rate work. 

I ran across an opinion piece in Forbes today by Nick Morgan, a communication theorist and coach who has had books published traditionally, who states that fiction writers are better off self-publishing while non-fiction writers who wish to use the book for speaking engagements or other career enhancements should seek traditional publishing, basically because of that superior allure that traditional publishing brings. 

It’s an interesting notion that sounds plausible. 

I don’t have a quick answer for whether or not we should self-publish or publish traditionally. I’m still torn between the two. 

Native authors often struggle to gain representation in the first place. So self-publishing might be the best route, but then the author is on the hook for editing and all the other necessary costs that goes into publishing. This is a hardship that is near-impossible for many Native authors, and going without things like editing leads to publishing sub-par work. It’s also harder to get your book in physical stores if you are self-published. Yet the self-published author still gains most of the profits.

There are good groups and collectives, like Blue Hand Books, which join together to share services and expertise to help Native authors publish their own books under a publishing name [Disclaimer: I managed Blue Hand Books for a year]. That may be the best option for the future of Native authors and publishing, but I don’t know. The allure of traditional publishing, though illusory, is still tempting. 

What do you think? Should we publish ourselves or let others do the work outside of authorship which in turn leads them to take the majority of the profits? What are the pros and cons of each?