I’m going to come out as a hardcore proponent of self-publishing, so steel yourself for possible bias. You can read my post on my decision to self-publish here.
I’m going to admit I have never sent out a single query letter or manuscript. I have subbed short stories, and most magazines I never heard back from. I expect that, but I vow that my literary magazine never does that, no matter how many submissions we receive.
In any case, why am I going the self-publishing route when I’ve never given traditional a chance? Because I don’t need the validation of an agent or publisher. I really don’t. I don’t care how much experience they have. The books I write aren’t for them. They are for the readers who are interested in the type of material I write. As I’ve mentioned before, readers are the best gatekeepers of them all. Even in the traditional world they determine whether or not a book is worth keeping around.
I used to be so enamored with the traditional route before, so in awe of those who were honorable enough to have literary agents and contracts. I wanted to be among them. I wanted the prestige that came with professional validation. But then something changed. I saw my friends being shot down left and right by agents who enjoyed their work but didn’t think it’d sale. I understand all businesses take a risk and what will sell is just guesswork, but to query for a few years, only to be shot down again and again when you know your book has what it takes, I decided I no longer wanted any part of that world. I didn’t even want to try. Life is short. I want to take control of making my own dream come true because, honestly, I need to. I felt dispassionate about writing for some time because I knew publication was a distant dream. I’m depressed, I suffer with suicidal ideation, there is no reason to stick around when publication could take years.
I knew I needed to change something in my life to make me hang on.
By my nature I am a control freak to a certain extent. I am more than happy to accept criticism on my writing, especially if it makes it better, but I don’t want to have to argue with an editor to keep certain parts of my book alive. I don’t want to have to edit my book to make it fit purely for marketing or try to fit it within a specific word count. I’ll get rid of needless words and needless things, but I refuse to mold my story so that it fits within a word count they think won’t scare teen readers off.
I also want control of my own book covers. I frankly am appalled by many YA book covers, which mostly feature people who look too sultry and sexy and are obviously in mid-adult.
Sure, I’ll have to spend money, but if I were given an advance, I’d probably have to spend it anyway on marketing, so what’s the difference? With self-publishing, I’ll make 70% for each book. Even if I don’t make more than what I spent, I can always write another book and another and another. The good thing about e-publishing is Amazon isn’t going to penalize me if my book doesn’t sell a certain amount in a certain time. Just because it won’t sell now doesn’t mean it won’t sell later.
I also like that I get to create my own brand, that I can be independent, that I can stand on my own two feet. It’s marvelous knowing I’m taking control of this dream instead of working my ass off and waiting for someone else to choose when and where it happens.
I once held disdain for self-publishing. Self-publishing was for the fearful, the ones who couldn’t make it. Once you told me you were self-published, you lost credibility as a writer in my eyes. No more. I primarily read self-published now because these books are satiating the tastes traditional is not satisfying. I am so impressed that writers are taking control of their own dreams and knowing they need to produce quality work to make it. This opens up self-publishing as a viable option to anyone who has ever dreamt of getting published. This adds more prestige to this option too.
Do I wonder why some people still want to be traditionally published? A little bit, but then some people really need that validation. Some people are intimidated by marketing and may need a little bit of help, if the publisher offers at least that much. Some want to see their books in bookstores and not just online. Some prefer physical books over e-books. And there is nothing wrong with any of these things.
But I’m a huge proponent of self-publishing now, so this blog will barely touch on traditional publication as a means to get one’s book out there.