My Top Five Reasons for Self-Publishing

There seems to be a general attitude among many (read: not all), in the professional writing community that those authors who self-publish are “giving up”, “lazy”, or simply “not talented enough to make it in the real publishing world”. Miraculously, none of these reasons came into play when I made my particular decision on the matter, and this got me thinking: what if these scoffing writers  are just misinformed?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am well aware there are many self-published books out there that make us all look bad, and self-publishing certainly doesn’t automatically turn a writer into a Newberry-Award-winning-genius. That said, there are some very compelling, legitimate, and yes, even professional reasons why serious writers are taking their publication into their own hands these days. I can’t speak for everyone, but for this SCBWI member and Master’s student of literature and writing who has been putting pen to paper for over two decades, I can assure you that my own reasons were quite  sound:

5) People wanted my book. 

Not a million people, of course, but I did have fans who were sad to find that not only couldn’t they read my next book, I couldn’t even tell them when it would be possible to do so.

This is not good for one’s career.

Anyone who has had any kind of experience in this field knows that it’s not easy to accumulate initial readership, so the very last thing you want to do when you gain readers is to alienate them. Can we say death-knell?

Of course, not everyone has readers beyond their family and friends (who will usually understand if it takes some time), and even I don’t have quite a large enough fanbase for that to be the one and only reason I chose to self-publish…

4) I wanted my book.

I’m not going to pretend here. I wanted my book. I wanted to hold it, feel it, and yes, smell it. Maybe it’s not the most professional reason on my list, but there you have it. I, too, am human.

3) Having a paper-and-ink book is a great way to advertise.

Blog tours are a blast… as long as you have a book to promote. Similarly, talking to bookstores about doing a reading is a lot easier when you actually have a  book to read from. When you’re a writer, you really need physical proof of your art. Poets have chapbooks. Journalists have magazine articles.

I’m a novelist. I need a novel.

Still, I have self-published before. So why did I have to do it again?

2) Three and a half years of work deserves closure.

“Guts and Glory” was awakened in me as I was falling asleep one night in 2008. Since then, I have written five versions of the same story,  had countless scenes critiqued and criticized, had the whole thing workshopped, received advice and compliments from two New York editors and their readers, and edited and revised so much that it’s made me dizzy (literally, at times).

I have also been rejected by agents and editors. A lot.

Now,  I know this is all part of being a writer. I’m not at all complaining — it’s to be expected, and I had years before “Guts and Glory” of the same. You kind of get used to it… mostly. However, I came to the conclusion that the story I worked so hard on for so long would never see the light of day if I didn’t do something about it… and after all that hard work, I wasn’t about to just let it die.

That may sound like quitter talk to you, but remember — I’m a professional. That means that I didn’t come to this conclusion lightly. The fact of the matter is…

1) The Market Rules All

In the end, this is the number one reason I chose to self-publish. Above wanting to see my book in print, above rejection and hard work and hope, I had to self-publish because the market wasn’t going to allow my book to be read any other way.  How do I know this?

Simple: the industry told me.

See, when you get nice, personalized rejections from agents and editors, it’s usually a good sign that you’re headed in the right direction. Just a little more tweaking, a bit more editing, and your masterpiece will be accepted! But my personalized rejections were a little different. Comments like, “this is a phenomenal story, but we can’t accept it at this time”, and “I absolutely love your voice and energy, but this story isn’t for me”, mixed in with sometimes paragraphs-long replies of the same, told me that my problem wasn’t the story. It wasn’t my voice, or my characters, or any other in-text reason a writer gets rejected. Everyone loved all of that. So why was there a problem?

I turned to some of my published writer friends, who confirmed my worst fear — the 2013-14 market was already flooded with dystopian science fiction.

My book, if accepted by a publisher, wouldn’t be out until 2014-2015 at the earliest. They thought my story was awesome. They felt that my characters were great. But by the time a trade publisher got to it, nobody would care anymore. That is a problem that only has two solutions: give up over three years of hard work and dedication… or get it out now, when the genre is still hot, all by myself.

As you can see, it really wasn’t a choice at all.

As I said, I can’t speak for all self-published writers. But for me, it was neither an easy choice, nor a rash one. As for future series? You bet I’m going right back to querying and editing.

After all, I haven’t reached my personal goal yet. Someday, I will write for Scholastic. 😉

2 Responses to “My Top Five Reasons for Self-Publishing”

  1. You have so much information on your blog, I don’t know what I’m going to ask when I interview you! 🙂

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