Why should you self-publish? To answer that question, you need to answer another question first.
Why are you a writer?
If you’re in it for fame or money, well… You might receive one of these — maybe even both — but I think you’re better off getting a real estate license or starting a Youtube channel to reach those goals.
Good grief, I’m about to do the thing that I usually can’t stand: preach. For anyone who doesn’t want to hear this, kindly exit the church while I’m climbing into the pulpit…
What I’ve learned from my own continuing journey is that writing a book requires willingness to be genuinely vulnerable. In the past, my fragile creations have been handled by publishers with less delicacy than a UPS guy in a hurry. I didn’t think I could survive it. It hurt immensely. But I’m still here. Still struggling, still working like all of you, my best beloveds, to give expression to my narrator’s experiences of 1880s London and the far edges of Europe. I crave the work. Every day. And when I’m not at it, I get grumpy, like an ex-smoker on Nicorette. That’s why I write. That’s why I labor by singing light. So…
If you can secure a deal with a big official firm for your manuscript, by all means go for it. But remember: self-publishing shouldn’t disqualify you from the traditional route in the future. For some, I think, it’s a way station until the big deal happens — a first step, a chance to see their work in another light, all dressed up, ready for the show.
Most people’s perceptions of self-publishing are still very immature. But all of that is changing. Who knows? You might be one of the people who leads the change, if you’re willing.
Here’s something else to consider: Have you heard about what is happening between the conglomerates? Did you read anything about the big, ugly war this past summer between Hachette and Amazon? In these battles, authors’ works have been moved around like pawns on a chessboard. You read about that big full-page ad from writers against Amazon in the New York Times, right? (Writers used to band together to free Soviet bloc dissidents, didn’t they?) Self-publishing provides a measure of control and independence in an environment that’s increasingly devoid of both.
Call of the Siren’s previous post on self-publishing (“Self-publish, are you crazy? The cons“) presented some of the biases and criticisms that continue to persist — but every position has its opposite, of course, and I find far more persuasive reasons to consider self-publishing than not — or, at least, to keep an open mind as you seek an agent.
One of the most persuasive cases for self-publishing, for me, comes from author Jim Rossi, who isn’t trying to market literary fiction — his manuscript examines solar energy and its future implications (usually, self-publishing seems to be the resort of fiction writers). He has a simple desire: He wants to reach readers. That desire makes sense to me — nothing feels better than good exchanges with other bloggers in the WP universe.
So what do you do, as in Jim’s case, if a publisher wants your book, but doesn’t want to provide any kind of digital version to reach those readers? Before the advent of the internet, you took the card you were dealt. You were stuck.
Next: More responses to the cons.