Why I am not self-published

5 08 2012

It was a novel that seemed like it would be a winner. Those who had read it, loved it. Readings were well-received. An agent praised it to the skies and said I “write divinely,” But still she gave it a pass. No publisher was interested. Didn’t fit any genre; didn’t fit standard styles or tropes. Unmarketable, they all said.

So I gave up and looked into Smashwords. Everybody was doing it. Many writers were bragging about their success as indies. But the more I studied what I’d have to do to succeed as a self-pubbed writer, the more I despaired. I’d have to spend 80% of my time being my own business manager and publicist. To do it right required a greater investment of time and money than I had to spare, plus a savvy and expertise that I sorely lacked.

I whined, and my good friends in the community encouraged me. You can do it! they said. I gamely looked through the alternatives and the requirements, the dos and the don’ts, and shook my head. No. I can’t.

So I scoured the listings to find one more publishing house that I hadn’t tried yet. And lo, in my hour of despair, a light shone strong upon me. Double Dragon offered me a contract for Archimedes Nesselrode. And there was much rejoicing.

I feel a relief indescribable. If Archimedes does well, perhaps the two dozen other novels I have on the shelf will find a home, too. There is hope.

But I feel I need to make explicit why I am so overjoyed at not having to resort to self-publishing. It has little to do with the “stigma” attached to indies. There is no question in my mind that the publishing industry is broken and an alternative paradigm must rise to take its place. I’d be lying if I claimed I didn’t care about mainstream recognition for my work, or that I’d scorn success going the traditional route. But I know in my heart there is no way I am going to be the Next Big Thing. I just don’t write those kinds of novels. So I am prepared to be content finding my niche, connecting with the small slice of the reading audience who like my stuff.

My problem is a combination of cowardice, poverty and ineptitude. I can’t afford to pay an editor or to buy cover art. I don’t know how to get reviews. I’m not sure how to properly format a manuscript or get my book into all the right places. I have no faith in my business sense. So I am tickled silly that I have found someone who will do all that for me and advise me on the rest. And not only do I not have to pay them, but I’m the one who gets paid. Joy!

So, to my colleagues who have done it on their own, I wish the best of fortune. I don’t feel superior for having avoided self-publishing – far from it. You all have done something I couldn’t do. I went the traditional route because I lacked the courage and self-confidence to do what you have done. You have embraced the new paradigm. I lacked the nerve.




9 responses

5 08 2012

Can’t say I disagree with anything you say here, self-pubbling is certainly time-consuming and requires certain skills. I have never self-pubbed, but have a few books with publishers. I find that even then I spend too much of my time marketing and publicizing, instead of actually writing! Next year, however, i am planning to ‘go indie,’ the main reason being that I want complete control. I am tired of changing things on the whims of editors, and am even more tired of publishers pricing my books out of the market! Congratulations on getting a publishing contract, I wish you the very best of luck.

5 08 2012

I’m so glad Archimedes Nesselrode has found a home!!!! 🙂 And don’t feel bad. Self-pubbing and traditional pubbing and everything in between is part of a growing and more complete toolset. The options are there, now, for those who want to take those paths. The only right or wrong with the choice is if it fits YOUR needs.

In any case, I cannot wait to hold my own copy of your book!!! *Hugs*

5 08 2012
Huw Thomas

Back in 2005 I was over the moon – I’d just won a national UK competition for new writers. Thought this was it, my career as a writer begins here. Got a contract, substantial prize money, book came out… and then the publishers went bust.
Couldn’t get anyone else interested and went back to collecting rejection letters from agents & publishers.
Then last year my wife bought me a Kindle and a while later I found out I could publish my books myself. Now got one collection of short stories and three novels out there. Sales are tiny (about 300 sold to 12,000 given away!) but on the other hand that’s a lot more people reading my books than last year.
Well done for landing the contract but self-publishing does work too.

6 08 2012
Jaleta Clegg

I went small-press for many of the same reasons you have. I do have the skills and contacts to edit, type-set, and design my book. But I don’t want to spend my time and energy on those things and marketing. I’ve run my own (very small) business for 17 years. I don’t want to do that with my books. I’d rather write new ones with the time and energy I have.

As said above, find the route that fits YOUR needs and desires and don’t let anyone tell you that you did it the wrong way. The only wrong way is to let those stories sit on your shelf collecting dust.

6 08 2012

That’s the key to it: Choosing the method that works well for you. There isn’t any single best choice, no one correct path to getting published. We all have different strengths and weaknesses, and we must work with who we are. As Jaleta said, the only truly wrong choice is to do nothing and allow our stories to pass away untried and unshared.

6 08 2012
Ms. Nine

Very glad for you.

10 08 2012
phoebe wray

I’m with you, Justine, and have stuck with “find a publisher” even when I was in despair that I’d never get a book out. Working with a reputable “small press” is rewarding. I LIKE the editorial feed-back, the harping editors. Yes, you have to do more pr than you’d do with a big publisher, but friends who ARE with the Big Ones ind they still have to do a lot. Publishers don’t have the athletic publicity departments they use to have. The only down-side to small press publishing is the “wait time” which I find crazy-making. I’m still happy with it.

10 08 2012
Ann Gimpel

Congrats on finding a publisher. That’s the good news. However, unless Double Dragon is very different from all the other small presses out there–and even some of the big ones–the lion’s share of marketing will still fall on your shoulders. As will getting reviews. It’s all very time consuming and, since most writers are introverted intuitives, it goes againt the grain.
About the only small press that at least claims to do much of the review getting/marketing for you is Journeystone. They say they publish fantasy, but they’re mostly a horror imprint.

30 08 2012
David Larochelle

Juistine, congrats on finding a publisher! One of my colleagues (lawyer by day, novelist by night) recently gave talk that you might find interesting. He discussed his experience self-publishing on Amazon after being unable to find a publisher.

Spoiler: He says at the beginning that he has not been able to make millions or thousands or hundreds of dollars.

However, there’s a lot of interesting audience discussion about the state of the publishing industry and Amazon’s author program where Amazon does very limited promotional work in exchange for 90 exclusivity.


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