Excuse the super-long post as I talk about something close to my heart today. I recently discovered that two people I know through blogging have decided to self-publish their work. Not only have they decided to self-publish, but they have told me part of their decision to self-publish was because of me and my own path to self-publish Cinders. I won’t get into why this scares the crap out of me. Instead I want to talk about a side of self-publishing I don’t talk about very often in public.
First of all, you must know I’m a huge advocate of the Indie movement in publishing. I love small publishers. I love self-publishers. I love doing things myself. I love the unbeaten path. Last September I did a series of posts on The Literary Lab blog about my self-publishing journey titled: Why Self-Publishing Is Better Than You Think. I still think self-publishing is a fantastic way to go for many people, but as you’ve probably noticed, I didn’t stay on that path. I knew I most likely wouldn’t, and that it would be more of a necessary stepping stone than a complete path. For some it is an entire career choice. For me it was one bridge to cross over to another. Today I want to share a few things I discovered as I journeyed on that short bridge.
not for the faint of heart
It took a lot of courage to self-publish my novella. A lot of courage. I lost sleep over it. I made myself literally sick many times, but I also knew deep down that it was something I truly wanted to try.
Honestly, it was a risk.
I knew that it was my first book, my debut, in a way. I knew that by putting it out there with my name on it that my career as a serious writer would be impacted forever. Even if I took the book down and never sold another copy, people would still have it on their dusty shelves, on the dashboards of their cars, in the bottom of their handbags – forgotten, lent out, torn, and maybe even read more than once. My words. My name. My story. My first book.
That’s a scary thought. I also knew that every single editor, agent and publisher who was interested in my work in the future would look up my name and see this self-published book come up with that name. What would they think of that? Would it weigh against me? For me? Would they see the bad reviews? Would they try to look up sales? They wouldn’t see all those books I sold by hand or mailed out. They wouldn’t have accurate numbers. They wouldn’t see all the reasons I self-published the book. They wouldn’t see the absolutely 100% invaluable knowledge I have gained from that venture.
So needless to say, these were huge things to consider. Huge. I knew my career would span to traditionally publishing one day and that the choices I made the day I self-published my book would impact the rest of that career for better or worse. Talk about a risk. Quite frankly, it’s still a risk. My career still has many more steps, and Cinders may follow me forever or it may simply fade nicely into the tapestry of my writing past. Who knows.
I have many friends who are serious Indie authors. They’re making a lot of money self-publishing their books, or they are at least starting out with the much-needed excitement and energy it takes to get the ball rolling. The truth of the matter is that no matter who I talk to in the Indie world, there is a constant push against The Stigma. You know what I’m talking about.
I recently attended a writer’s conference where I overheard several conversations about the evils of self-publishing. I also got the general vibe from some panels and other authors that there is only one way to respectably publish, and that is traditionally – preferably with a large press and a big advance. This isn’t anything against the conference or the authors, but seems to be a general attitude amongst writers – and mainly writers. Frankly, I get fed up with this attitude. It rubs me the wrong way on one too many levels. I have nothing against Big Publishing. I hope I get there one day, but it’s not my end goal by any means.
Attending that conference made me realize something. If I had decided to stick with self-publishing, I would never have felt very welcome at such a convention. It felt good to go there backed up with a “book coming out from a publisher,” and this depresses me when I think about it. Do I really need a publisher to feel validated? Really?
This all brings me to the loneliness factor for me. I have friends who are perfectly happy self-publishing. They don’t want it any other way. They might not feel the loneliness I have felt with a self-published novel, but I must put it out there that self-publishing is not an easy road. It’s hard to push against The Stigma every single day of your writing career. It affects your marketing, how you talk about your book, how you feel about your book, everything. I’ve only had a small taste of it with Cinders, but I’ve even felt it with Monarch and being with a small publisher instead of Random House. Perhaps it’s more of something I push onto myself than anything else, but I simply have not been able to ignore how isolated I felt with a self-published novel. Everything was on my own, even if I hired someone to do something for me – it was still all by myself. Even though I knew I was in good company and had many friends doing the same thing, it still felt so utterly lonely.
I envy any self-published writer who doesn’t feel these stigmas and pressures and voids called loneliness. At the same time, going through all of this has taught me valuable lessons in what I want out of my writing and my life. In the end it does not matter who publishes my work, only that I am happily writing and successfully sharing my work. Period. I’m keeping this in mind as I watch my friends boldly put their work out there by themselves. It’s exciting and honest and courageous and something I stand behind 110%.