I received an email from a reader asking why I decided to self-publish. I get asked that question a lot, and even though (most of the time) it’s probably a harmless/genuine question, my first instinct is always to defend myself and my decision, as if they were really questioning me as a writer. While self-publishing has been around forever–it has obviously become much more prevalent thanks to the Internet and Amazon–it still has a stigma, especially among writers.
Self-publishing is a lot like online dating was ten years ago. Back then, no one wanted to admit that they did it. People would rather say they met in a bar (the previously looked down upon way of meeting someone). The reason people did that, and the reason we do a lot of the things we do, is because we’re afraid of being judged. The perception was that anyone who online dated “had to” because they couldn’t meet people otherwise. While that might have been the case for some people, it wasn’t true for most. Nowadays, just about everyone has realized that it is actually a great way to meet people and get to know them before you start dating. Rightfully so, the perception has swung in the opposite direction. That much can’t be said for self-publishing.
It is still widely believed, especially among writers, that anyone who self-publishes does so because they “have to.” That kind of thinking is great for traditional publishers, because even though the physical barriers to publishing have mostly disappeared, that mental barrier is just as important. It perpetuates the belief that anyone who self-publishes isn’t a real writer. After all, anyone can do it. I refuse to believe that. Anyone willing to put in the hours to write a novel and then has the cojones to put their work out there, in my book, is a writer.
Hopefully, in less than ten years, writers’ perceptions about self-publishing will change and they will see it for what it is: an amazing opportunity. When done correctly, and by that I mean not rushing and taking all of the proper steps to ensure the quality of their work (i.e. countless rewrites, paying for copy-editing, hiring a cover designer, etc.), there is no better way to retain artistic and financial control. That is why I am self-publishing. Not because I “have to”–I’m not even sending my work out to traditional publishers–but because I “want to.” Here are a few of the reasons why:
- The submission process is filled with rejection. It’s something everyone encounters. There are countless stories of incredibly successful books (like Harry Potter or Moby Dick, maybe you’ve heard of them…) that got rejected over and over. Since I’m always working on new stuff, there’s nothing worse for my productivity than having to deal with a constant stream of rejection.
- As evidenced by the number of popular books that have gone on to success after being passed over, the rejectors/gatekeepers don’t necessarily know everything. Sure they might be incredibly knowledgable about the marketplace, but they don’t bat a thousand. Just like their counterparts in the film industry, they have just as many bombs as they do blockbusters.
- I want to be in control of what I write and when I write it. The freedom writing gives me is one of the things I love most about it. I don’t want to lose that.
- I’m kind of greedy. The royalties you get from self-publishing ebooks are over four times what they are for traditional publishing, and the print royalties vary from two to three times that of traditional. Plus, I got mouths to feed and would like to start a family in the not-too-distant future.
- I believe in myself.
I encourage all of you to believe in yourselves a little more. Don’t worry about being judged by others, just follow whatever path feels right in your creative and regular lives and success will follow.