Why I Decided to Self-Publish

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Dear Reader,

As I look through some of the posts that I have written on this website, I realize that, while I have discussed the different publishing routes (traditional and self) and while I have talked about the steps that I took to self-publish my work, I have never really written about why I decided to self-publish.

First of all, I am not here to try to sway your opinion either way on the subject. I definitely feel that traditional publishing and self-publishing should be available options due to the fact that not all humans are the same. What works for one person may not work for another. I cannot say with too much authority what it is like to traditionally publish. The only thing I have traditionally published (so far, anyway) was a short story. I published it in an online journal. The process of publishing was so quick and effortless that I could not reasonably compare it to being traditionally published. The hardest part (for publishing, that is) was finding a company that would take my story. What Bees May Come didn’t fit neatly into one category (not thought-provoking enough to be considered literary, not fantastical enough to be considered true fantasy, but not realistic enough to be considered a “normal”, straight one), and so I had the added challenge of trying to find guidelines loose enough to accept some genre-bending. Once I found such a company, and they liked what I had written, they posted What Bees May Come in their Spring publication issue. So, from writing the story to getting it published took about one full year.

I imagine that some writers go the self-publishing route because of the difficulties that traditional publishing offers. Though it took some work to track down publishers and wait for replies, in no way was my experience “traumatic” enough for me to switch to self-publishing. Of course, I knew that with self-publishing, I would not have to endure the process of trying to find a proper publishing company (like my story, my new novel is also hard to pin down into one genre).

However, that wasn’t the main reason I decided to go with self-publishing. In all honesty, at the time of publication, I really didn’t believe that any publishing company would take the manuscript seriously. Or, if they did like it enough to accept it for publication, I was worried that the book sales would be too small to generate a profit for the publishers. Additionally, and perhaps the biggest reason of all, I thought that I was going to die. Not from suicide, but from a larger event. For those who have not experienced depression, it is a strange place to be. The more I have researched this, the more I believe that I was not alone in this thought, that there are others—many others—who firmly believe that their life is soon going to come to an end. There usually is no factual evidence to support it, which makes the claim even stranger. Yet, when in that state of mind, facts aren’t needed. The belief becomes such a certainty that nothing can persuade you out of it except for the continuation of life. Eventually, that is what happened to me. I kept on living long enough to realize that I would not die anytime soon (even though a large part of me desperately wanted to). And so, after finding the best editor that I knew, I formatted and designed my book on Amazon’s CreateSpace and then hit the big “submit” button.

Would I do it again? Perhaps, perhaps not. Again, I believe that the route you take should be based on where you are in your life at that time and what option makes the most sense given your circumstances. While I have yet to really make much of a  profit on my book (due, in some part, to my horrible lack of marketing), the experience of self-publishing and going through all of the steps did help me feel self-sufficient. Despite all of my worries that the book wasn’t good enough, I caught some confidence as I realized that I didn’t need to rely on another company’s opinion in order to get my story out into the world. If I believed in the story enough—and I must have believed in it enough—I could publish it and let my voice be heard. And, for that, the experience was worth it.

Do you have experiences with either traditional or self-publishing? Let me know down below.

Sincerely,

Jumbled Writer

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18 Responses to Why I Decided to Self-Publish

  1. I believe, if a person truly believes they have something to say (everyone does) – then whatever venue chosen, go for it. Years ago, you could only “self publish” in a printed format, i.e., paperback or hardback. The trade route. Today, you can self publish at Barnes and Noble to Amazon via Kindle. Self publishing in a tangible book format – costs money. Kindle is free. I’ve done both. I personally like being able to hold a book, order for myself extras and then the pleasure signing them, wrapping them, and giving them as gifts. Eventually, I might run out of them. (it has been years and the box still sits). But kindle — I earn a couple of hundred here and there – without doing anything but talking about it as well as tweeting and facebook(ing) the link. I did, with the aid of Vistaprint, make little postcards with photos of all my kindle books and I do send those out to newspapers etc, in order to get reviews. EITHER way, for good or bad, for whatever purpose, my “literature”: is out there. My late friend for over 30 years, Miss Lillian Gish used to say, “Everyone has a book in them. And they go through their entire life talking about it. But they never write it.” Profoundly simple statement.

    • That’s a great quote. I do believe that technology has been changing to help accommodate writers get that story (or stories) out of their computers and into the world. It’s a great service.
      -Charlie

  2. Some of my favourite authors are “non-genre” writers, the late, great Ian Banks being a fine example.
    I don’t think pigeonholing an authors work is helpful for them or their potential readers, some of whom may miss discovering new material because of inappropriate “labelling”.
    If self publish is a way round that problem, it seems like the way to go.

    • Non-genre writing is great. There is nothing wrong with something that does fit into a neat package (and that is a quality that is certainly marketable), but when you allow a project to take the path it needs to take, specific genres can get left to the side.
      –Charlie

  3. I’m glad we have the opportunity to self publish for many reasons. Genre-bending books are often hard to shop around and self publishing gives those books a chance to find an audience.

  4. I have been self-published for a few years now. There are companies galore who will format/do you covers, etc. But in self-publishing I found that to definitely be the easy part. But I find marketing to be the most time-consuming task when self-publishing. And it’s not a natural asset I have. I convince and calm myself because I hear most traditional publishing companies don’t do much for new author’s marketing either. It’s definitely a choice and I agree Jumbled Writer – there is a way and differences for all authors because we’re different. What works for one may not work for the next. A very good article. 🙂

    • Yes. Especially considering the social media wave that has taken over, the days of having publishers tell the author, “We’ll hire someone to take care of all the marketing for you” are pretty obsolete. There’s a huge drive for authors to market themselves with Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and so on. For someone who isn’t inclined to that, it can be daunting.
      -Charlie

  5. Thanks for sharing!!! I always find it inspiring when someone can take a difficult life experience and turn it around. I’m part of the way through Glass People and am really enjoying your sense of humor on a tricky topic. I’m liking the self-publish option as well, for the reason that sometimes you simply want a shot at being heard . . . sans gatekeepers.

  6. Interesting post, thank you. My dream was always to be traditionally published, but my two novels have been self-published. I’m still not completely sure the extent to which that was a positive choice rather than giving up on the traditional route too easily. Certainly, trying to get an agent, then a publisher, seems to involve odds somewhere in the vicinity of being struck by lightning, and almost as painful. And even then, as far as I can see, you haven’t really hit the jackpot, as most published books by new authors do not set the world on fire – and you are still expected to do much of the marketing leg-work yourself. So although I agree that publicising / marketing your book is the major difficulty with self-publishing, the same can increasingly be said of the traditional option. And at least you have more creative freedom going it alone, even if you’re very unlikely to get rich from it.

    • The added freedom is definitely something that can’t be overlooked. There are many examples of authors who wrote outside the bounds of what publishers were looking for, but managed to be a success (Fifty Shades of Grey is the first thing that comes to mind). But even if your book isn’t an absolute bestseller, the fact that you were able to write it the way you wanted to can be very liberating. (That’s not to imply that publishers don’t have a place.)
      -Charlie

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