Yesterday I took a deep breath and withdrew my novel from the consideration of various agents I’d queried, then sent off my entire manuscript to an editor in New York to begin the process of self-publishing.
I thought my dream was to write a book and have it published by Random House, distributed to shelves across America. I just took it for granted because it was how I always pictured it.
But then I wrote a book and paid closer attention to my dream. I realized my dream, of course, is for readers to enjoy reading my book. No doubt, the more the better. But now the choice of how to publish it is not the dream itself, it’s just a way to get there.
Used to be, in order to get published new authors had few choices, the two main ones being:
1. The “traditional” route: Send query letter after query letter, hoping to find an agent willing to believe in your work; that agent then had to find a house willing to publish it; that house then spent the better part of a year or more editing and producing your work, over which you had varying degrees of input. Maybe three years after you began, you’d have a printed book—and reap little of the profit.
Or, after receiving the usual dozens and dozens of rejections from agents and/or publishing houses (which offered little actual feedback), you could put your manuscript in a drawer, having been convinced that it wasn’t worth showing to the public.
2. Self-publish with a small, independent press and order a set number of copies that you were in charge of selling, most of which ended up in your basement. You also had to endure the prevailing belief that because you self-published, you weren’t a good writer.
The old paradigm has changed. Writers can self-publish—and sell—e-books online within minutes, and many have. (Many, many, MANY have. Writers are putting stuff out there without professional editing. But part of me says, so what? It’s just growing pains—readers will continue to decide what they want to read and once the newness of e-publishing wears off, more will recognize the need for better editing and design. I also think the market is just waiting for a company to come in and organize professional reviews, as opposed to reader reviews, which can be fake or biased…I’m getting off on a tangent here.)
Many people still prefer Choice #1 for various reasons, one being publishing houses can get your book into more places, another being that agents and publishing houses serve as gatekeepers, that they are professionals who can separate the wheat from the chaff. That is all true.
But so is this: The reading public can also separate the wheat from the chaff. The market will adjust.
Some very successful authors and agents have gotten huffy about self-publishing, claiming that publishing a book is an arduous and grueling process for a reason (quality) and that it can’t be short cut. Frankly, this argument sounds like sour grapes, as though everyone has to climb the same long ladder.
There’s a shorter ladder now. That doesn’t mean self-publishers are lazy, or too impatient, or terrible writers. It just means the ladder is shorter. We have another avenue for producing our work and putting it in front of readers, the people who really matter and the ones who don’t give a whit how a book came to them as long as it’s entertaining and affordable.
I tried the traditional route, albeit for a short time, and it just never felt right.
With that, I’ll give you my reasons, after much research and thought, for deciding to self-publish:
- Philosophy. If I write a book, why do I need someone else’s permission to show it to the public? And why do readers need someone to keep the gate for them? Can’t they decide what they want to read?
- Impatience. But I’m not impatient because I think my book is perfect and ready now. I’m not impatient because I decided a mere six months ago to write a book and I want instant gratification. I’m not impatient because I believe I’ll hit pay dirt as soon as I publish. I’m impatient because I’m a grown woman who has been writing seriously in one way or another for twenty years. I finished my first novel and now I’m ready for the hard work of partnering with a professional editor, designer, publisher, and marketer. Because I want to advocate and MOVE with my book, not email queries and wait, wait, wait. And despite the good intentions and professionalism of agents, I find the traditional process demeaning.
- Logic. I might wait, wait, wait if I thought it was worth it. But I don’t. While the odds would be better in traditional publishing were I to find an agent and publisher, in an industry in which hundreds of thousands of books are published each year, the odds are against me either way. Publishing houses rarely take on new authors anymore. If they do, they largely expect you to sell your own book. If I’m going to have to market myself, I’d rather take most of the royalties.
- Control. I want a partnership, but I also want final say over what is essentially my product.
- I want to be part of what I believe is the future of publishing. For someone who refused to believe that Facebook or Twitter would catch on, that’s saying something.
For all of us writers, what we do with our books is a very personal decision and there are many right answers. This is mine.
It’s an exciting time in publishing.
- Guest Post: 7 Myths of Self-Publishing (writesandbites.com)