It's a fair enough question, since I am, at the heart of it, a supporter of self publication. In long term prospects, I would like to be in control of everything that I publish--from design, to editing, to distribution, and so forth. It's a lot of work, but if I was in the position where I could get my work into distribution chains and the like, then yeah, I would own it from top to bottom. I don't really give it much thought beyond that, since the day for that is a long time away, and indeed, may never happen. But I'm the kind of guy who likes to have a lot of ideas twisting around, directions to move in, and ideas. They may never happen, but they keep me warm at night.
So, with that said, why not self publish right now?
Well, mostly, it's the cost. The pitfall of self publication is that it's often done poorly. No money is laid out for a professional editor, either in term of content, or line editing, and it shows. I am the last person in the world who will tell you that my manuscripts are the most clean, error free pieces you have ever seen. No matter how much time I spend going over it, there's always things that slip through--in part it's because there are more important things I'm looking for, and in part it's because I spend so much time staring at it that I just go blind to the errors. The idea of putting a book straight out there based off my final draft would be, frankly, a horrible move. Someone would have to be hired, paid, thanked. Likewise, I would want to hire an editor to go through it as a book, to give their opinions, to hear ways in which the flaws can be made better. It's important to be done, a step in taking a book to publication, and you don't want to cheap out and just find someone on the web who is an 'editor'--you'd want to find someone who is actually part of the industry, and employ them in a freelance editor on the basis of a company.
Secondly, there's the cost involved in producing the book. It's true that you could cut corners by using a publisher such as Lulu, but unless the books from there have changed since I last purchase one a few years back, the printing and binding isn't something that I would want to associate my business with. In addition to that, there's the issue of being tied to another platform, which funds another company's pockets, and may or may not limit the places that you can get your book. Lulu isn't bad, don't get me wrong, but if you're going to approach the DIY mentality, you have to work to a standard that you set, and if I was flush with cash to begin such a prospect, Lulu, or any other print on demand service out there would have to be producing very different looking books for me to do it. One of the things that is often over looked by people who self publish--though not all, I admit, just that ragged edge--is that people buy books not just to read, but as objects. They're displayed, shown to people, talismans to be worn, to represent a part of you that is quite often without a visual representation. This is, of course, why so many people cringe at the sight of being seen with a sf book. You want to sell books, you got to respect that.
Of course, that would also mean paying an artist to come up with a cover. More costs. More and more as you go into it and think about it. Did I mention that I'm broke and the last time I went out for a night that cost me more than twenty bucks is so long ago I can only hope it isn't a dream I once had?
The other part of it is, at least to my mind, that I don't think I have the reputation to do it. There are success stories of self publishing by nobodies out there (Nicholas' Evans The Horse Whisperer, if I remember right, was first self published), but by and large, if you want to have your book read, you need to have a profile that is more than the crazies and the loons out there who self publish their books and offer prizes for reading it. Being a writer offers you nothing in the way of exposure that being a musician does, to use an example, and it seems to me that if you wanted to be in control of your work from top to bottom, then you would at least need to establish yourself before, possibly through publication with established presses. There would be other ways, of course, but still--you need that audience before.
At any rate, I'm sure a lot of people would disagree with me over this, but they're the reasons why I don't do it. Added to that, and lest yesterday's post didn't make it clear, there's still a lot of avenues to go down to publish a book. Sometimes, it just takes a while.