The Whole “Self-Publishing Surge” Is Not New

When I stopped writing after college, there was a five year break where I didn’t write anything except one poem. That really depressed me. I was afraid my Muse had packed her bags for good and that I would never write again. Five years is a long time not to write. That’s a pretty freaking long break. I was going a bit insane –  not because I was trying to write and couldn’t (I was newly married with a full-time job), but because I didn’t have an outlet for my creative energy. My job was far from demanding creative energy. So what did I do? I bought a camera and started taking pictures.

Ah, photography.

My pictures sucked at first. They were awful, but my brother who was taking photography classes in college at the time helped me out. He taught me the basics and I started delving into the fantastic world of light. It was amazing and I fell in love. I learned photography using film. I believe in starting with the very basics and moving up, and after a few years my photography blossomed. My favorite became portraits, and I was excited to open my own business and start making money!

Then everything came to a screeeeeching halt.

Turns out I wasn’t the only young working female in my state who thought, “Oh, when I’m staying at home with my young children I’ll open up a photography business and that way I can make money from home and do something I love.”

Turns out everybody had the same idea because, well, all of a sudden good photography was becoming cheaper with the rise in affordable digital cameras. Quite frankly, it pissed me off to no end. My career idea seemed like it had been shattered. Everybody around me wanted to be a photographer all of a sudden. Everybody had the same idea as me, and it was unfair and terrible because the better I got the more I could see that I simply couldn’t compete with the hundreds of other photographers around me. I didn’t feel their quality was as good as mine, but their prices…well, their prices were way lower than mine and when it comes to where I live, people are cheap so they usually choose the cheaper price over the higher quality. Where did that leave me? Frustrated and angry because their was no way I was going to lower my prices for the amount of work I put into my work. NO WAY.

So where did this lead me? I’m happy to say that it led me back to writing. After five years my brain was getting back to the point where writing seemed more doable. One cold day in February I’d had it. I was tired of doing the same thing over and over and over and over at home with my 8-month old. I was just done. My husband came home and I said, “Honey, I’m going to write again.” He had no idea what I meant by that…

Needless to say, I dived in headfirst and it took a full two years before I was back up to par where I’d been in college, and then even longer to get my fiction to a point where I truly thought it was publishable. Now, years later, I’m looking at my photography experience in the same exact light as the self-publishing surge in the writing world. With the rise in e-books and digital publishing, getting a book out there for sale is more doable than ever. It’s almost exactly like the problem professional studios have come across with amateur photographers and their super-low prices. Suddenly business is spread out more and consumers are going elsewhere to get their products – even at “lesser quality” – and oh, yes, we can argue up and down which is better quality in both worlds.

It has been a bit frustrating to me to have worked in two fields where it feels like there’s a bit of “undercutting” going on. However, I’ve been a part of that undercutting in both instances. In photography I was an amateur charging less than big studios, but producing quality product, and now in publishing I’ve self-published my own novella, Cinders, and been part of that whole “self-publishing thing.” Now I’m in with a legacy (traditional) publisher, however, and I’m seeing both sides of the fence. Needless to say, it’s interesting. Also, I have some very good friends who don’t have big photography studios, but they produce quality work at affordable prices.

I think there’s a place for everyone, honestly, and I think it’s a wonderful thing that people who couldn’t get into things before because of cost can now have a chance. I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for those opportunities.

Anyway, what I’m saying is that the surge in “doing-it-yourself” ideology is not new. I have found my own niche back into photography by doing things on the side. I am frequently hired to work on book covers or designs for clients, and I still work at improving my photography whenever I can even though it is not my main focus. I think that all of us can find our own places (even large traditional publishers) if we employ our creativity wisely. We don’t all have to be scrambling for the exact same thing.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle

14 comments

C. N. Nevets

I have a story that Loren Eaton and B. Nagel have read that's essentially about a man in a similar position who prayed to God and his wish was granted: he found his niche as a serial killer.*cough*Glad you didn't take that route.

Small Town Shelly Brown

Did you take that picture? It's really beautiful!I fully heartedly agree, about the photography bit, and the self-publishing world.

Michelle Davidson Argyle

Nevets: Um, yeah, I'm glad I didn't take that route… Shelly: I did take that picture. It's one of my very favorites. 🙂

Michael Offutt

I'm in envy of people like you that have so much talent that you can do anything super good. 🙂 That's a compliment.

This issue resonates throughout the arts. The value of your effort as an artist is a personal issue, and one that I think only the artist can answer. Participation in and enjoyment of the arts is a basic human need and right, but that doesn't mean that we are all equal in talent and/or desire when it comes to achievement. So I say, to each his or her own. The cream will rise to the surface no matter the venue, so long as the artist never concedes to self-doubt.

Michelle Davidson Argyle

Michael: Well thank you for the compliment! Really, thank you. I'm not good at everything. Not by a long shot. Gardening – meh, but I try. Cooking, I'm ok. Sewing, zilch. I'll keep trying. 🙂Taolivia: Very well said!

Ricky Bush

That is a beautiful photo, Michelle. Yeah, the digital world changed a lot of things; photography, movies, music, and of course publishing, and made it easier for more people to try their hand at some of it. Those with talent and perseverance will succeed.

Karen Amanda Hooper

That pic is gorgeous! I am repeatedly astounded by your talents. See, and now you can take photos for the covers of the books you write. Best of both worlds!

Gutsy Living

Hi Michelle,It's been a while. I'm not published yet either, however, I agree there are so many options for all of us. I'm leaning towards making presentations on Gutsy Living and other topics, as I have no desire to become a photographer. Is legacy publishing the same as cooperative publishing or what they call subsidy publishing or is it the name of the company?

jbchicoine

Personally, I have always gravitated toward do-it-yourself. I love the whole process of learning a new endeavor and seeing it through, though I don't usually look seriously at the money-making end of things, so I suppose I haven't been left with too many frustrations. …and you know I love that series of photographs!

Michelle Davidson Argyle

Ricky: Yeah, digital has changed everything, absolutely. Photography isn't even the only thing, you're right. You're even more right about the talent winning overall. It will! I'm happy there are more opportunities these days, for sure.Karen: Yes! The short story collection I plan on self-publishing this coming year in 2012 will definitely have my own artwork on the cover. 🙂Sonia: Hi! It's just lovely to see you here. I just want you to know I still lurk on your blog. :)Legacy publishing is the same as traditional publishing. Just a different name for it, sorry. I probably shouldn't use those interchangeably, lol. 🙂Bridget: I've always gravitated toward do-it-yourself, but after publishing Cinders myself and then finding Rhemalda, I realized that Rhemalda is a happy medium that suits me better. I hope you find your happy medium, too!

Amber Argyle, author

Trying to balance the things I love to do with the things I need to do with the things I have to do.SighThere's never enough time to do all the things I love to do.

Oops, used the wrong account.I just picked up photography recently and am enjoying it a lot as a hobby. I know it's difficult to make a living as a writer/photographer/artist, so I'm trying to just have fun with it and not put too much pressure on myself. But I do enjoy learning about the business side of those pursuits and want to build a solid foundation should I ever find an opportunity to make those hobbies into side businesses in the future. Love your photo, and thank you so much for sharing your insights about writing and photography. 🙂

Michelle Davidson Argyle

Amber: There isn't ever enough time, sadly, but you try, and that's what counts. 🙂Linda: I hope you don't put too much pressure on yourself, yeah. Enjoy the hobby for what it is and not what it can get you and you'll end up happier. Thank you for your comment!