I’ve been writing poetry and the occasional short story for as long as I can remember. But, when I first started the adventure of writing a novel, I started researching possible literary agents who might be even mildly interested in reading what I was writing. I also researched smaller publishing houses who might be more open to dealing directly with an author, should finding a literary agent prove impossible for my particular work(s).
Because I wanted to cover all my bases, I even looked into what self-publishing might be like. At the time, that option was a “just in case NO ONE wants to even look at my manuscript(s)” kind of thing. This was many moons ago.
I have continued to work on the manuscript I was originally working on, and added a couple more (Hey, I know I should stick with just one at a time – tell my muse that! S/he seems to think I need more multi-tasking practice). And, I have continued to research my various options, once one (or more) of those manuscripts is polished to the best of my ability. I’m pretty sure I have decided to bypass the whole looking for an agent or publisher issue and go straight for publishing the book(s) myself.
1) Time. I have thick skin and I can handle rejection. But, how long do you go through the rejection process before you give up on that novel you LOVE (that readers may well love too) and shove it in the back of a drawer, to gather dust.
I write because I love to write; because I HAVE to write. And, I know I’m not the only reader on the planet who would thoroughly enjoy what I’m writing. I don’t want to put so much work and effort into something I LOVE, but will have to change into something I only like, or give up on seeing in print (or ebook) form.
Then, after I’ve spent a year finding an agent, and the agent has spent a year finding a publisher, and the editor has spent a year revising and re-revising my manuscript, and the publishing house has spent a year getting the book designed, ready for publication, and creating a pre-buzz…
2) Marketing/Sales. Agents and publishers often have a particular mind-set that I’m not sure I can get on board with. Don’t get me wrong. They have a career that demands respect. They have their place in the writing community and I am in NO way trying to speak ill of them. But, their job is to make sure the book is as marketable as possible. That’s great! That’s their job – make that book fly off the shelves (or … internet equivalents nowadays). I don’t want that to become my main focus though.
I’ll market my book(s). No matter which option I choose, I will have to market my own books – publishers don’t do that for you anymore (not if you’re new any way). I’d rather do it my way though – on my terms. And, I’m willing to put more time into it, if that’s what it takes, to see my book in reader’s hands.
I want to write what I LOVE. Not like. LOVE. Of course I would love to sell the books I’ve worked so hard on. But, I believe there is an audience for essentially anything and everything. Sure – finding that audience may be more or less difficult, depending on what and how you write. It is there though. I would rather LOVE what I write, and sell fewer books, than not really enjoy the writing and sell TONS of books.
Honestly, that’s just me though. If your goal is to sell as many books as possible, no matter what you’re writing or how passionate you are about it – go for it! And, kudos to you (absolutely NO sarcasm intended).
3) Control. When I was in high school, I received the “I’ll Do it My Way” award. No, I’m not kidding. I was involved in the Humanitas program at Verdugo Hills High School, and Mr. Reimer presented me with the award, at the Humanitas awards ceremony, in my senior year. There’s a reason I got that award (every Humanitas senior got one – no two were alike).
If I want my ex-husband to do the cover illustration (because he’s good, he’ll do it for free + credit, and I think it’s a fun bit of trivia), I can have my ex do that illustration, without fighting, IF I self-publish. However I want the layout of the book done, or the cover, or if I REALLY want to keep a scene that my editor wants to cut, or…. I have full control over all those things, IF I self-publish. I have full control over my rights. I get the final say, even as a brand spanking new author. IF I self-publish.
It’s not that I don’t trust the publisher, or not like the illustrator. But, if it’s MY book, I want to have that say.
4) Royalties. I get higher royalties, per book, as a self-published author, and I have control over my pricing. So, if I want to sell the ebook version at 99 cents, for a limited time, or $2.99 period, I can do that. I’m not sharing my royalties with anyone, the publishing house isn’t trying to charge an OUTRAGEOUS 10 bucks for an ebook (despite what I may say about it), and so on.
Honestly, I don’t much like fighting (not anymore at any rate). It just adds more stress and pressure. I’m a mom, with an ex, a fiance, elderly family members who need me… I have stress and pressure, in spades. I don’t actually need any more of that at the moment.
5) Pressure/Stress. I’ve never done well with deadlines. Deadlines I place on myself – I’m good with. Deadlines placed on me by others? Not so much. I’ll MAKE the deadline. I’ll probably even be early. BUT, I’ll be panicking the whole time about it. It’s just not healthy (I hated taking timed tests in school, even when I aced them). Remember that whole not needing any more pressure thing? Yeah, I know, how could you not remember, it was like two and a half seconds ago. Well, let me tell ya – I could forget! If I was working to a deadline someone else demanded – I could forget what happened two and a half seconds ago.
It’s not that I don’t think I could handle being traditionally published. But, with so many other options out there (the vast array of self-publishing options especially), I don’t think I would have nearly as much fun.
I still greatly respect publishers, literary agents, “gatekeepers”. But, I also greatly respect the idea that, in a land that is supposed to be all about free-speech, we now have a way to publish anything and everything. And, for me personally, I’m pretty sure that self-publishing is the best fit. 🙂