I’m a self-published author. I chose to self-publish my first novel in 2012, and four years later, I’m still happily self-publishing my novels. I’ll admit that sometimes I feel a little isolated from writers who choose the traditional publishing path, particularly when I find myself surrounded by discussions about agents, queries, and submissions. However, this has not caused me to question my decision to self-publish. For me, self-publishing is best for a variety of reasons, first and foremost being that I am happy doing what I’m doing.
I’ll be honest — the whole of my self-publishing journey has been interspersed with the occasional foray into the world of traditional publishing. I did actively query agents for one of my earlier books. A couple of years ago, I threw my hat into the #PitMad contest ring. However, when I take a good and hard look back upon those experiences, I never felt totally comfortable doing those things. I remember worrying about how I would manage life as a traditionally-published author. I have my own professional and personal reasons why self-publishing is a more comfortable fit for me than traditional, and ultimately it all boils down my specific life-work-health balance (*cue juggling here*) and overall sense of well-being and happiness.
So yes, my bottom-of-the-line answer to the question of “Why self publish?” is that it makes me happy. I have learned so much and grown in leaps and bounds (and am still learning and growing) as a writer and publisher since I started this endeavor. As one of many happy self-published authors in the world, these are some of the things about self-publishing life that I’d like to share (in case you didn’t know):
- Let start off by being real — sometimes self-publishing gets a bad rap. This is because there is a wide range of quality of self-published stories on the market. My favorite go-to authors are a mixture of self-published and traditionally-published for similar reasons: their stories and characters are raw and real and daring. The bottom line is this: a successful self-published author must produce works that are of the highest quality and shouldn’t settle for anything less.
- In the world of self-publishing, there tends to be an exaggerated sense of a more-book-releases-in-a-shorter-span-of-time-is-better attitude. As a result of this, you will see more serials (sections of books published as installments) here than in the traditional-publishing industry. This used to be frustrating for me because I am a pokey-ass writer, and I simply cannot keep up with the breakneck pace of the “suggested” two or three novels (or more!) a year. I also haven’t jumped on the trend of publishing serials, and my stories tend to be longer (around 100K). There is very little that I can do about the fact that I’m a slowpoke writer (oh, believe me, I’ve tried to fast draft or sprint, but my brain just doesn’t work this way), and I’ve decided against serials because I like to structure my stories differently. BUT I write what I write because these stories are true to my heart, and self-publishing gives me optimum freedom to keep them this way.
- Self-published authors may or may not have an agent, but we have the same sorts of writing support units including critique partners, beta readers, editors, copyeditors, and cover designers. Our books may go on book tours, and we may attend author events. We enjoy learning new things for our craft, networking with other authors at writers’ conferences and other events, and going on writers’ retreats. Self-published authors have to take full responsibility for financing these things or making them happen in the first place (but so do some of the traditionally-published authors that I’ve spoken to). Regardless of expense, I’ve found great fulfillment in all of these elements of the craft, and I have loved learning all aspects of my trade.
- Like any type of publishing, self-publishing comes with its shares of ups (e.g., financial success, great reviews, bestseller status, TV/movie options, unlocking other major achievements) and downs (e.g., lulls in sales, publishing works that don’t live up to our wildly high expectations, negative reviews, writer’s block). While we often beat ourselves up for the latter, we really shouldn’t; both markets and readers possess a large degree of subjectivity and unpredictability. When faced with lows, we have to do the same thing that all authors must do — keep writing.
- Self-publishing is not “just self-publishing.” C’mon: would you describe a dedicated worker who has set up his/her own business as “just self-employed”? Self-publishing is not at all an easy thing to do, and it is an overall happy place and very viable for many authors. It’s a creative avenue that encompasses all aspects of publishing, if you’re willing to learn and embrace all of those things. For those of us who feel at home here, we can’t imagine leaving.
Some of my most memorable highlights from self-publishing have been picking out my own cover models and directing photo shoots (!), working with incredible artists, talking with TV producers, going to author events and meeting fans, forming life-long friendships with incredible people on my street team, and being part of an amazing group of critique partners. Will I ever query or pitch again? Perhaps? Maybe in a faraway future? Sometimes I do think about it, for the one hard reason that self-published books do have much less visibility than traditionally-published books. Self-published authors have to do the legwork to get our books onto shelves of brick-and-mortar (usually indie) bookstores. We have to do more marketing in general (though now there are lots of services out there to help) and we rely much more heavily upon word-of-mouth recommendations and book reviews to get the word out about our books (read, review, and recommend!). So yes, I have thought about it in a general sense for future works. But right now, I’m content as a self-published author. I love the creative process. I love what I can do with my characters and my stories. I love my support units. I love my publishing schedule. I love learning about all aspects of publishing. I love what I’ve chosen for my writing life. And I’m not alone.
Helen Boswell loved to get lost in the pages of a story from the time she could sound out the words. She credits her dad, an avid fiction reader, with encouraging her to read ALL OF THE BOOKS on his shelves from the time she was a teenager. An author of both urban fantasy and contemporary romance, she loves to read and write characters that come to life with their beauty, flaws, and all. She is the author of the urban fantasies MYTHOLOGY, THE WICKED, THE ETERNAL, and contemporary romances LOSING ENOUGH and SCARS RUN DEEP (coming soon). You can find out more about her at www.helenboswell.com.