Here’s the Thing Part Deux: On Self-Publishing and Why It Often Crosses My Mind

So considering my soapbox post on Monday and my Twitter rant on Wednesday, now seems as good a time as any to straight-up lay out what my thought processes have been regarding my own authorial career.

Fact #1: I am working on book project with Brenda that will be subbed out and go through the traditional publishing process once it’s ready.

Fact #2: Despite this and despite all the wonderful people in the industry, when it comes to my own works, I am pretty much planning on going the indie/self-publishing route.

I hate to say “will” or “definitely” because I have a lot of work to do yet and life likes to throw curve balls when we least expect them, but honestly, this has been under serious consideration for awhile. Pretty much since I first got back into writing by taking up PECULIAR DARK again over a year ago. I’ve gone back and forth, struggled with it, discussed it extensively with The Man and with other writers, read every article and perspective on the matter I could possibly get my hands on, had a thousand different pro/con sessions with my CPs and other writers.

I keep coming back to self-publishing.

And it’s not because I hate traditional publishing and legacy house. I’m still a big fan and excited to help other writers pursue that path if that’s their dream. It’s not because I’m “giving up” or just don’t want to receive anymore rejections from agents/editors. Anyone who thinks getting an agent and/or editor is the end to getting negative feedback on your book is crazypants.

It breaks down like this: Self-publishing is scary – you’re putting your work out there for everyone to see and you’ve got to know how to market yourself and your books in order to succeed.

On the other hand, traditional publishing is scary – you’re putting your work out there for everyone to see and you’ve got to know how to market yourself and your books in order to succeed.

Did you catch that?

Exactly.

Either way, it’s terrifying, and unless you make it big-time, you’re going to have to do some hard-ass work to promote your books, promote yourself, and make sales happen. The days of hermit authors in turtlenecks hiding up in cabins, banging away at a typewriter, mailing off the pages to their editor and that’s it are totally fucking finito. They have been for a long while. Sorry.

So the question becomes whether you want the agent-editor-house backing or not. As someone smarter than me put it: do you want the canoe or the kayak?

I can totally understand why people love the traditional route, want the traditional route, and there’s a part of me that still craves it just a little. The validation of it, the glamour, the idea of hardbacks in Barnes & Noble stores and being able to say, “My book is being published by [insert uber-famous house here].”

But more and more, I’m finding the idea of putting out my own product my own way really appealing. It sounds like such an exciting challenge. Picking my own publishing team of editors, designers, etc.; electing the cover and marketing materials; setting up my own strategy based off my own research; having only myself to answer to about my public persona, how I come across, what project I should work on next. I have ideas all over the board – an adult scifi, an epic contemporary fantasy, maybe a YA contemporary and an MG adventure. I’m a potential marketing nightmare for a publishing house, but if I’m the boss of my own writing career…

Yeah, I could fail. I could fall flat on my face and only sell three books – all of them to my mom – because my work is crap and I just can’t see it. And if I pursue traditional publishing…I could fail. I could fall flat on my face and only sell three books – all of them to my mom – because my work is crap and I just can’t see it.

Yup. I’m a one-trick pony today.

I’m just saying – there are no guarantees when you put a book out there, no matter how you put it out there. I’m going to make my decision based on what’s best for me and my work. Ya’ll go out there, look at your amazing options, and make the decision for your work, and I promise to 100% back you for whichever path you choose. With chocolate. And pom poms. And cute animal pictures.

Because canoe or kayak – it doesn’t matter. We’re just trying to make it down the river.

19 thoughts on “Here’s the Thing Part Deux: On Self-Publishing and Why It Often Crosses My Mind

  1. Can I paste this post and put it up on my blog as if I had written it? (except for the co-authoring with Brenda, of course). Because that’s EXACTLY how I feel.
    I’ve think A LOT about self-pubbing my work. At least some of my manuscripts, then try pursue the trad route with others.
    And, really, when I’m reading, I don’t care if the book came from self-pubbing, small press or big 6 (5?) as long as the book is GOOD, well-edited and looks professional.
    Amen to all you said. *high five*

    1. See, and I don’t think the majority of readers care where it came from either. I mean, some probably do, but most just want to read good books.

      I think every mss is different – some work better as self-pub and some as trad. Keeping your options open is the name of the game now.

  2. I think it does make sense, especially since you’re already getting a lot of connections through the contests/#writemotivation. That initial pool of (at least potential) readers will, if the book resonates with them, become your initial marketing team. Word of mouth is the strongest marketing tactic there is, and impossible to artificially generate. I think the biggest difference is getting though the noise factor. There are SO many self-published books, vs the big houses output.

    That’s the main reason why I’m aiming at traditional publishing, hoping that the signal boost of it being through a big house will overcome a lot of the noise to get it into the hands of readers. If I didn’t get at least a medium sized house, I probably would go self-pub rather than go through a small house, though. I wasn’t at all impressed with the sales figures on the anthology I had through a fairly decent sized e pub, and I haven’t been that impressed with most of the submissions for my internship (Frankly, my rough nano drafts, before even spell checking, are better than some of these!). So while I know I COULD do self-pub, even with some of my existing stuff, I think I have a shot at big houses. I’d rather wait, take that chance, and then if that doesn’t work, THEN self pub. It’s a lot harder to go from self pub with low sales to traditional pub than it is to go from unpublished to traditional pub, then self pub if it doesn’t work out.

    1. There IS a lot of noise, and figuring out ways to filter out that noise is going to be one of the biggest challenges of the commerce side of the industry for the next several years. It’s going to need some creative thinking.

      And I think you have an awesome plan – smart, well-reasoned. You *definitely* have a shot at trad – I know you can totally do it. And the thing is, if that’s your dream and what you really want, then dude – there’s no reason not to pursue it.

      And I’ll totally have your back the whole way. ❤

  3. I find the whole self versus traditional debate exasperating because there is no right answer. Those who choose sides are choosing what worked best for them. What may have worked for one writer may not work for the next. Why? Because no two authors are the same, just like no two author’s careers will be the same. There is room for everyone, peacefully, in the publishing landscape. There is no line. There are no sides. Just good books written by good people. Smart writers, as you mention, will get out there and research. They will discover what works best for them. And they will flourish, or fail, accordingly. Publishing, self or traditional, takes guts. Period. It’s hard enough without all the arguments. Drown out all the noise with some good music and be smart enought to do what’s best for you.

    Nice post, by the way. I came for the pitchwars and stayed for the awesome writing. My compliments to the creator. I shall follow accordingly. 😉

    1. Great post Becca.

      I think that a lot of writers who get a kick out of the creative, marketing, and business aspects of publishing feel the same way as you (myself included). I really liked your line “I’m finding the idea of putting out my own product my own way really appealing. It sounds like such an exciting challenge.”

      Isn’t self-publishing similar, in a way, to freelancing in the corporate world? It affects which paths you can take, what you do with your time, and who you do it for.

      My own prerogative has always been getting my work into the hands of the most readers. Which route will offer you the best opportunity to get your book to the people who’d love it? That’s the key for me.

      Also—is there an in-between? What are your thoughts on smaller, indie publishers? You would add to the resources and netword that you already have, yet have more creative control over your work.

      Thanks for sharing this,

      John

      1. Self-pubbing is kinda like freelancing, yes. I think it’s even more similar to entrepreneurship, and people should think about it that way. Sit down. Create plans. Use spreadsheets and budgets. Treat it like a business.

        As for small, indie publishers, I think they’re a good in-between, but you need to do your research. A lot of people are throwing up ebook publishers left and right, some with good intentions, some not, because there’s little overhead, and they’re not always experienced to be any use to you. Just like with any publishing option: research. Research the crap out of it and make sure the people you work with are knowledgeable and legit.

    2. Thanks, Brian! Glad you liked the post! It is unfortunate that these divisions exist, but I think they’ll get less and less noticeable as over the next decade as more and more writers mix it up in their careers.

  4. I self-published my first book sixteen months ago. I’ve now published seven books, three short stories, and combined two sets of books into box sets. I’ve sold 165,000 copies to date. And no, that is does NOT include free downloads.

    Self-publishing is hard work. I’ve never worked harder in my life, but I’ve never been happier. I have control over covers, prices, and the editorial process for my story. Does this mean I won’t consider traditional publishing? No. In fact, I plan to make an announcement in the very near future about this.

    The key is to do what’s right for you with the right book. There is no us versus them. There is no line in the sand unless we draw it. I firmly believe that the successful authors of the future will do BOTH.

    1. I’m pretty flattered to have such an authorial bad ass stop by and leave a comment – thank you!

      You make some great points throughout, but the last paragraph in particular makes me want to go, “YEAH!” It’s not even just individual-specific – it’s BOOK-specific. Be flexible, be open-minded. The fact that we have all these options, that there’s more than one way to put your career together, is so awesome.

      Oh, and it sounds like congratulations are in order – looking forward to reading about your big announcement!

  5. Yeah. Pretty much. I’m still sending out queries, and I’m in the middle of a revision for a few agents right now, but the fact is–every day, self-publishing looks better and more appealing. For the reasons you listed above.

    1. Yeah, I’ve had my YA UF pulled for awhile for revisions, and even though it’ll be a totally different animal by the time I get it done and I could start querying all over again, I just…kind of want to take this on myself. Choose my own team and put it out my way. It’s not fair to query if that’s where my heart is.

  6. I’ve been feeling that way for a long time – that there’s really not much difference between self and traditional publishing anymore, especially since most publishers don’t market for you unless you’re already making them a lot of money.

    I will probably end up doing a hybrid, eventually. My NaNo Novel this year, I will be pursuing traditional publication for, but I have several other smaller projects (and different projects) that I will definitely go the self-publishing route for.

    For me, one of the main reasons I will be going traditional publishing especially for my fantasy fiction is because there’s no way I can afford a good cover artist right now, or to pay a freelance editor. Those are major advantages to me that I won’t go without, and so since I don’t have the money out of pocket to pay someone to do it, I will glad take a cut in my profit over time to make sure my book(s) will be as polished as possible.

    1. This is the smartest angle on publishing these days, I think. Take a look at the mss, what you want out of it, what you need to get there, where it fits in the market, and then, BAM! Make a decision on how you want to attack it.

  7. Well said. This is something I’ve also been thinking a lot about. I find it reassuring that so many others are considering self-publishing, because that means the stigma attached to it is dying. Maybe we need a self-publishing support group?

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