Friday, June 25, 2010

Why I changed my stance on self publishing

I mentioned earlier that I was going to try and explain my reasons for deciding to self publish my work. This is the first of what is probably going to be multiple posts on the subject. Get yourself something to eat and get comfortable. This is a long one.


I joined the writers group I am currently with a year ago. When we started, one of the members said she was considering publishing some of her work herself. I told her that she was free to do whatever she wanted to do, but that self publishing wasn't something I was interested in. For me the only way to be a "real" writer was to write and polish a manuscript, send it off to agents hoping one of them will like it, hoping that agent can find an editor interested in taking on your book, then hoping that editor can convince his publishing company to buy the book. Once you get that far there is still another 18 month to two year wait before the book hits the shelves at a store nearest you. That's a lot of hoping and a lot of waiting. But that's how I thought it had to be done.

Besides, there was/is a stigma attached to those who self publish. They are considered, at least in some circles, as not being good enough. Self publishing was the route an author took when he or she couldn't get a book published through traditional channels.

Another thing. In nearly every case self-publishing meant your work wouldn't be available in book stores. The only place someone was going to find you was online. And when they did find you they were going to be asked to pay more than they would for a normal book.

So, on top of the stigma behind it, it just wasn't something that was going to make an author any money. If you were OK with that and just wanted to see your words on a bound page then self-publishing may have been a good way to go. But that's not the only thing I wanted. I wanted to make a living at writing. I wanted to have author be my job.

Then something changed within the last year. I went to my first writers conference. I went to sessions that were nearly all led by authors. In almost every session someone asked how the authors got their start, how they landed and agent. Every answer started with "Well don't use me as an example. I got lucky and ..." Every time they said that. For me that was incredibly discouraging. It told me that this business was a lot of luck. And I knew that, but it was discouraging that everyone who the organizers put in front of us didn't find their agent through the typical route. They didn't find them pitching to an agent at a conference. They didn't find their agents by sending query letters. They did it by getting lucky. I came away from the conference with a ton of great ideas and I learned so much about technique. But still, I was discouraged. Having author be my job seemed to be a farther off dream than I had realized.

So I came home and kept writing. I also started reading some blogs and poking around the internet and realized there was another option. There were people making money -- real money -- by self-publishing e-books. People like Joe Konrath and Zoe Winters, who I link to on the right side*. And I thought that if they could do it, then I could too. At least I could give it a shot. Self-publishing was a real possibility now because it was an opportunity to make my dream of being an author come true. I could make money doing this, something I couldn't do with self-publishing in the past. Well, at least the chances of doing it before e-book readers took off was smaller.

Now that e-readers like the Kindle, the Nook, and the iPad are gaining in popularity, more and more readers are having access to the online stores where e-books are sold. They can buy some books for as little as 99 cents, meaning they can take a chance on a author they don't know. And they get that book loaded onto their device instantly. No more inflated price for a book. No more having to wait days for it to come in the mail. You can sacrifice very little cash and have your new book in your hands in minutes. That's a game changer in self publishing, at least in my estimation.

I think as more people have success at this type of publishing the stigma that's associated with self-publishing will start to fall away. I think it already is in some ways. More writers are deciding that they'd like to go the independent route and control their own career, write what they want to when they want to, and, honestly, keep more of their money for themselves.

There are specific reasons (quicker to market, total control over my career, etc...) that I'll go into in other posts.
But that's an explanation of why I've decided to self-publish. It's an opportunity to make real money at writing. I don't expect to have the success that Joe and Zoe and others right away. And it may never happen for me. But I have to try.

* I'd suggest giving their blogs a read. They're both very honest about how well they are doing and how much money they are making self-publishing to Kindle. They're also honest about how much work it is. Going this route isn't easy. It takes a lot of time and effort to make it work.


  1. I think you made a solid argument for your choice. I am still waiting to be discovered and perhaps I'll always be waiting but I'm having fun doing my own thing w/ my 24 followers. That's up one from just a couple of weeks ago. At this rate I may be famous in like....never but I'm ok w/ that. Well sort of. I mean if I'm being honest and all.

    But good luck on your choice. Remember to think positive thoughts so that you will send positive air waves into the universe.

  2. All I can control are the things I can control, and that's the writing and the editing and the marketing. After that it's up to luck, basically. But I am ready to do my part.

    And I will have other reasons to post soon, hopefully helping add to my case.