Thoughts on Self Publishing

I recently read an article by Kristin Nelson (in her May newsletter), in which she raises questions regarding an author’s choice to self publish rather than to go the traditional route. And, darn it, after weighing her thoughts on the matter, I seem to come down on the side of self publishing.

I love every aspect of creating a book. I love to write. I love to revise. I love to edit. I’ll write ten, twenty, thirty drafts without ever feeling as if I’m overworking a piece. If each revision makes it better, then I’ll continue to revise.

And then I’ll run it past many eyes: writers’ groups, checkout clerks, paid-for professional beta readers…as many eyes as I can find attached to brains willing to do a read-through. All feedback is considered.

And then I revise.


And I love it. I don’t understand people who dislike this part of the process. For me, it’s the most exciting part, like putting the final touches on an oil painting after painstakingly working the undertones.

I do have a fine arts degree, and I love cover design, love to play with positive and negative space, love finding just the right cover image, adjusting the palette to set a mood, looking at the full image up close, from a few feet away, from across the room… I love interior design, love discovering the right font, playing with the white space around the letters so the eye has a place to rest, creating new paragraph breaks just to please the eye, designing just the right fleuron for those spaces between scenes. I even enjoy marketing, and I’m getting a handle on the myriad ways of doing this subtly and effectively.

I had one book traditionally published, and it was not a good experience. I was unhappy with the editing, unhappy with the design, unhappy with the pricing, unhappy with the lack of marketing, and ultimately unhappy with the product and embarrassed by my connection to it. I could not market that book because I didn’t believe in it, even though it did okay and got a bunch of good reviews. In my mind, it wasn’t ready to go out and could have been so much more than it was.

Now I’m gun shy about becoming someone else’s property and losing control of my work. I want to be the one who decides my book is ready (or more importantly, not ready) to go out. I want the responsibility and the blame. And if I succeed, I want the kudos, too.

I don’t expect to make money, at least not any time soon. My goal will be to produce high quality work, build a back list of great reads, market judiciously, and just keep on working until, years from now, I write a breakthrough. I know I have the talent. I know I have the drive. I know I’ll get there.

I see my writing as a product—not my baby—a product. Sure, I love my stories, and sure, I become emotionally invested—otherwise they wouldn’t be much good, would they? But I can separate myself from that emotional investment when they are complete and ready to become a product.

I have author friends who tell me my current work-in-progress is best-seller material and needs to be represented by a good agent. Self publishing it would be a waste. And they could be right. Or wrong. But now, today, I dunno. I think I want to self publish it and forget it exists, let it languish among the bazillions of self-pubbed titles, undiscovered. Then I can move on, cross it off my to-do list, and work to make the next one even better.

I have no problem with querying and rejection, but my heart’s not in the game. If I get an offer—and that’s the goal of querying, right?—I’ll still be vacillating. Even if it’s a good offer, something inside me will rail against the loss of control that comes with the money. I don’t want someone changing my words, don’t want a cover design that might attract buyers, but doesn’t have a thing to do with my story, and don’t want my book to have four to six weeks to make it or break it—that’s how long a new title gets to have shelf space before it’s sent back to the publisher and pulped.

Maybe I’m nuts, but I’m gonna follow my gut. And I’m excited. 🙂


2 thoughts on “Thoughts on Self Publishing

  1. If that is what your gut says, then that is what you must do. How great that we get the choice now! Can’t wait to see what you put out there. 😀

  2. “I have author friends who tell me my current work-in-progress is best-seller material and needs to be represented by a good agent. Self publishing it would be a waste.”

    Tell that to Colleen Hoover, Tammara Webber, Tracey Garvis Graves, and all the other best sellers who started out by self publishing. I don’t think you’re nuts at all. I think you’re able to look at the whole picture instead of just half of it.

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