Do It Yourself

I’m not sure when I decided to self-publish. For a long time I assumed I’d finish a book, submit it to a dozen publishers, and eventually get accepted. I’d fight the slush pile and win the old-fashioned way. Slow and steady.

But somewhere in there a radical thought crossed my mind, which quickly turned into a battle cry. I’m not going to go the traditional publishing route; no, I’m going to do it myself. I’m going to self-publish.

That was one of the most invigorating decisions I ever made for my writing. My productivity on the project tripled. With the September release date approaching, my excitement continues to gain speed like a runaway train charging downhill. Traditional publication slips farther out of mind while I love my decision to self-publish more and more each day. I’m already making plans to self-publish two other novels within the year after my first release.

Why the change? Simply put, as soon as I got into it, I realized how incorrigible I and my writing are. I discovered a couple of reasons why traditional publishing might have been a terror for me – and saw how self-publishing was the perfect solution. Here’s why.

My book is a weird length. The draft of my first book, Red Rain, averages out at 35k words. That’s a short novel and a long novella. It was too short to pitch to a publisher as a stand-alone novel, and breaking in with a novella can be almost impossible for unproven authors. Trying to convince a publisher to take my awkward novel(la) would have been entertaining at best, but when I self-publish, I can make my book any length I want. I can market it for what it is and set the price accordingly. Ebooks, which is the route I have chosen for Red Rain, are especially friendly to abnormal lengths.

My book is an obscure cross-genre. Red Rain isn’t too bizarre – dystopian soft sci-fi with a Christian overtone. Okay, I could probably find a Christian publisher that takes sci-fi and we’d be okay. But some of my other novels? Well, for one of them, the best genre tag I’ve been able to come up with so far is “Colonial fantasy.” What’s that mean? My point exactly. The thing is a cross-genre monster; I’ve never heard of anything like it. While cross-genre is becoming more popular, you still have to find a publisher that accepts books of the same category as yours. And the more obscure your book is, the harder that becomes. With self-publishing, I have the freedom to break from genre conventions and market directly to my target audience. The same reasoning applies to books that are directed at an unusual, or very specific, demographic or age group.

I’m impatient. Traditional publishing involves a lot of waiting. After you submit, you may wait months before receiving even a form letter rejection. Even when your work has been accepted, there could be a year’s wait or more before the book actually hits the shelves. With self-publishing, the only person I’m waiting for is myself. I can get that book out as soon as I’m ready; the harder I work, the shorter the wait time. That knowledge has a strange motivational effect, and I suddenly have the enthusiasm to push myself farther and faster.

I want control. With traditional publishing, there are several areas of production that the author has little or no control over – cover design, illustrations, etc. With self-publishing, I’m in control. I pick my cover designer, I decide on illustrations, and so on. The book is exactly how I want it and my only restrictions are the formatting guidelines for my chosen publishing service. This control not only gives me the freedom to do untraditional things, like include character sketches as illustrations in the book, but it also allows me to support my fellow indies by hiring my peers to do the design work.

I want all the rights. Similarly, traditional publishers often claim some of the rights to the book. This can cause trouble both before and after publishing. Before publishing, some companies can be particular about where excerpts of the book have been posted; after publishing, a company may retain rights to new versions, sequels, and the like. With self-publishing, I own all the rights and all the earnings. This also means I can do all sorts of bizarre things in the name of self-promotion – blog world-building articles, release a free audio book, even post the entire book in 140-character chunks on Twitter. Nobody can say “cease and desist,” and if anyone wants to make a movie out of the book, they’re going to have to go through me.

Overall, I found self-publishing a liberating option that gave me complete control over the book’s destiny. But these freedoms come with a price. If I’m going to do it myself, that means all the work, publishing expenses, and promotion fall to me. I’m releasing this book entirely at my own cost, and its success is solely dependent on my effort.

Self-publishing isn’t for everyone. It takes determination, bravery, and enthusiasm to be the sole proprietor of your book. If you’re willing to make the effort to find a publisher and wait for their favor, the company will take some of this burden from you. But if you – or your book – fit one of the above criteria, you might consider ditching the big houses and going indie.

Be yourself – do it yourself.

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5 thoughts on “Do It Yourself

  1. All of your points resonate with me, especially the one about genre mixing. I advertise my novels as chicklit, but I also mix in social commentary, political intrigue, sports, and whatever else interests me. What a traditional publisher would make of all that, I don’t know. I suspect it wouldn’t fly.

  2. Self-publishing is definitely becoming a better options these days, especially with the popularity of e-readers rising. While I have never self-published anything before, I have (and still am) started my own business and it is not easy at all. It takes lots of hard work and many hours late at night to get it going. Can’t imagine self-publishing being any different, but I think it’s worth it in the end.

    Of course, if writing is just a hobby and you want to put a book out there for whomever may read it, self-publishing is also a good option :)

    • I absolutely agree. Self-publishing, like any home-based/self-employed venture, can either be a serious business or a hobby. It depends on how much effort you put into it and what you’re hoping to get out of it.

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