The Independence of Self-Publishing
Djuna Shellam The Write OWL Episode 24
To be sure, there is and probably always will be a certain controversy regarding the independence of self-publishing. The controversy itself is fluid and changes with the ages. Back in the beginning days of publishing, there seemed to be a lot of self-publishing going on, though it was generally the rich doing the publishing because it was a costly enterprise.
In time, the big dogs took over the industry and anyone who sought the independence of self-publishing was mocked and ridiculed as a vanity publisher. Ah, some mocking was well-deserved, I’m sure; but, other writers were the subject of industry disdain simply because they did not agree with the rejections they received from publishing houses, and chose self-determination instead.
For me, it always felt like I was asking permission to oh please, powerful strangers, let me be a writer. As soon as self-publishing became an electronic affair, I was all in—and I never looked back. It’s a known fact that I am somewhat of a rebellious sort. Of course, the big house royalty advances are always a nice dream, but that’s what it is for a vast majority of writers—a dream. Getting published by a big publishing house is like winning the lottery. Maybe the odds are even worse. I don’t know. But for the amount of energy put into trying to get someone else to publish me, I’ve opted to put that energy into self-publishing.
While there is a lot to be said for the independence of self-publishing, there is a downside. It’s not for everyone. It’s a lot of work, for not usually a lot of money. It’s not why I chose to be in control of my own work. Sure, I’ve made mistakes along the way, learning how this old, newish, industry works, but each mistake or stumble, I believe, has been an invaluable learning process. Every misstep along the way just makes me stronger and wiser.
As with everything, there is always a price to pay in one form or another. If a big house publishes you, you relinquish a lot of your creative control and input. If the book fails, it could be because it wasn’t a good book in the first place; or, it could be because the editor messed with your story a bit too much, or the marketing was lacking, or… lots of reasons that perhaps you had no hand in—whether you wanted to or not. And then… your once bright future does not look so bright. A failed book. Bad. Trying to get your first book published was difficult. Trying to get your second after the first one “failed?” Closer to impossible.
The flip side of the coin is that the independence of self-publishing also means if your book “fails,” it’s all on you, baby. And it’s up to you to decide what went wrong—all while trying to write your next book, while trying to edit or format another, and while also trying to market another. It’s all on you, but… you have complete control of your projects, your timetable, covers, editors, etc. And if it’s a success? It’s also all you.
Me? I love writing. I love sharing my stories. If I make some coin in the process? Fantastic. If not, at least I’m in charge of my art and the only people I have breathing down my back are my fans who can’t wait for my next story. No matter what, I’ll take the independence of self-publishing over “getting” published every day of the week.