Once upon a time, books were copied by learned scribes. They were precious and valued, the manuscript itself considered as much an art as the words it contained. Long story (very) short, movable type was invented, then the printing press and within a few centuries, books could be made and bought with relative ease by large companies.
Cut to 2011.
I’m publishing a book this fall. I didn’t sell it to a publishing house. I’m publishing it independently. Does this mean I’ve sent it to a bunch of agents and it was rejected? Nope. Does this mean I think it wouldn’t stand a chance in legacy publishing circles? Not necessarily.
There are other reasons to publish independently, and I’d like to outline just a few that are important to me. It comes down to three things that are priorities for me. I want to publish what I want, when I want, and I want full creative control.
I’ll be honest, I’ve never been through the query process, but I have a fairly decent idea of how it works. It doesn’t appeal to me. I’m an independent person by nature and I’m starting from scratch, so I’ve decided I might as well do it my way.
I want to publish what I want. That means, if I write a 50K word short novel/long novella, I don’t want to feel like I have to adjust the word count to fit a publisher’s expectations. With electronic publishing, there is no need. That also means if I want to publish a short story to go along with a book, I don’t have to group it with a bunch of other short stories in a collection by authors my readers might not have any interest in. I can put it up for .99 on Amazon and readers can decide whether it’s worth the dollar to read it. I publish what I want.
I want to publish when I want. That means, I don’t want to wait the average of two years or more for my book to hit the marketplace. There is no need to do that. I can have it edited by people I trust far faster than that, and send it to the marketplace with much more alacrity. That also means, if I want to release a novel in serial fashion on my blog (like I am with Tracing Shadows) and then make it available for readers as a book later, then I can do that, too. I publish when I want.
I want full creative control. Does this mean I think my writing is perfect and beautiful, a thing to behold that I am gifting to the world in a magical e-book resting upon a rainbow cloud?
Um … no.
But I do know I can find the people I need to help make it as close to rainbow-like as possible. That means, just like independent writers, there are independent editors, graphic artists, and others to make my book a professional production. That’s partly why I don’t call myself “self-published,” though I don’t make a fuss if others call me that. So many people have contributed to my book already, and more will be involved by the time it hits the market. But all of them have been chosen by me. Not because I want to have my ego stroked—far from it—but because I have chosen those who I think will make me a better writer.
I have no illusions about becoming an overnight sensation, or even a sensation at all. I hope, in the next five years, to develop a body of work that people are excited to read and buy. I hope it will enable me to someday, down the line, support myself financially by writing. It may never be my sole source of income, but it’s something that I take seriously and is a goal I have chosen to work toward. Frankly, I’m going to be writing anyway, I might as well see if someone might like to pay me for it.
I’m not a fan of epic blog posts, so that is all I’ll write on the topic for now. There are many resources out there about publishing independently, but I wanted to give a quick mention to David Gaughran’s new book, published today and available as a free download on his website, Let’s Get Digital: How to Self-Publish and Why You Should. David interviewed thirty-three successful independently published authors for the book and I’m looking forward to reading it.
I’d love to hear from any independently published authors. What are your main reasons for foregoing traditional publishing? What has the experience been like?
To my readers, how many independent authors do you read? Do you still feel like there is a stigma attached to authors who have not been vetted by large publishing houses? If so, what could change your mind?
Thanks for reading,