I self-published my debut book three months ago. It hasn’t been an easy journey and I’m certainly still trying to figure things out. I’ve been wanting to write this post and explain why I chose to self-publish my books for a while but never thought there was a right “time.” I recently saw someone on Twitter post something that rubbed me the wrong way and I figured now was as good a time as any.
All Opinions Matter
I’m not going to name names or quotes tweets. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and I recognize there are people out there who believe traditional publishing is “better” than self-publishing. On the flip side, there are people out there who believe self-publishing is “better” than traditional publishing. What I’m realizing is that these people all have one thing in common – they write what they know.
“Write what you know” is a big piece of writing advice that people toss around. The people who think one way of publishing is better than the other, do just that. They write what they know in the sense that traditionally published authors believe that’s better because they never tried self-publishing. Self-published authors think that’s better because they were never published by a traditional company.
Obligatory disclaimer: I, of course, don’t mean everyone. There have been authors who let go of their agents deciding to self-publish instead and there have been some self-published books that were picked up by agents. These things happen and if it happens to you, great. You get the best of both worlds and try out all the different angles of getting your work out into the world. Again, everyone is entitled to their option no matter how they came to the conclusion.
Here’s What Bothers Me
The tweet I saw basically said that an agent or publisher will pick you up if you write good books. Rejection means that’s it not good enough, it won’t sell. Therefore, keep working and try again.
I don’t agree with that.
Yes, rejection, in a sense, is good. It allows you to grow a thick skin, take another look at your work and keep improving. Determination, patience, all that fun stuff. Who is to really say whether a book will sell or not? There have been traditionally published books that didn’t sell and the agent left the author because… well, it’s all about money. I mean, fair enough. It is a business for agents and that’s their job. If they can’t make money off your book, then bye-bye to you.
What really bothered me about this statement – and maybe I misinterpreted it, but I think it’s worth talking about anyway – is that it said you’ll only get picked up traditionally if you write good books.
Well, who is to say a book is good or not? Certainly not one single opinion. Certainly not that person who has two books in hand and can only take on one more project and they just happen to enjoy that other book more than yours.
In my opinion, the readers decide that. If you market the target audience well and have a great following before, during, and after your book is released, you’re most likely good to go. No one said writing was easy. No one said it was a “get-rich-quick” scheme.
You will be someone’s favorite author someday. Even if it’s just a handful of people. Your writing is good. Your story matters. Don’t ever forget that and keep going. It doesn’t matter if an agent or publisher deemed your book “worthy” to see the light of day or if you took a chance on yourself and tossed it up on Amazon.
The Rules Of Writing
Okay, there are “rules” that we should follow when it comes to writing. Grammar is important. However, there are other general rules when it comes to creative writing. Show, don’t tell. Write what you know. No adverbs.
Well, rules were meant to be broken. People don’t speak in perfect English, so neither should your dialogue. Sometimes, it is better to tell than to show. Research is your friend – write what you don’t know. If it’s fiction, embellish a bit and make something up.
Do you know what this is called? Style. Every writer has their own writing style. This doesn’t make your writing “good” or “bad.” It’s your own unique voice. Some people may not be impressed but others will absolutely love it.
So, I ask again, who is to say a book is good or bad?
Which Is Right?
I have read some great self-published books and some not so great. I have also read some awesome traditionally published books and some that were not so hot. Why didn’t I enjoy these books? Not because the author was represented or because they did it themselves, it just happened to not be my cup of coffee. Maybe I couldn’t relate to the protagonist, but someone else out there does. Maybe I thought the plot was dull, but someone else out there thought it was fabulously well-executed. Maybe my copy was riddled with typos but someone else got a later edition than mine and that had been fixed.
You can say authors who are traditionally published are hard-working to meet their agent’s deadlines, determined to get that agent, and patient while they wait for their query to hopefully be seen. You can say authors who are self-published are hard-working to meet their man-made deadlines, determined to get their story told regardless of the number of rejections, and patient while they research their audience, trends, marketing plans, cover designs, and more.
There are people out there who self-publish because they were frustrated no one would pick them up. Or they self-publish because they just want to get their story told. They’re not looking for the money. They do it because they love it.
Some people go the traditional route because they don’t want to do the majority of the work or they don’t think they can. Or they want to see their physical books on the shelves in bookstores.
There are so many reasons people choose one or the other. They do what’s best for them, what’s best for their story. And that’s the way it should be. If someone wants to spend, potentially, a few years querying, then more power to you. Good for it and good luck. If someone else would rather do the majority of the work themselves and learn the ropes of self-publishing, then I say the same. Go for it and good luck.
Why I Chose To Self-Publish My Books
I’ve been writing since I was ten and, at the same, traditional publishing was the only “right way” to get published. Self-publishing wasn’t as big and it didn’t have a great rep around it. I didn’t know anything about anything, so I followed the crowd and thought my book would be on the shelves at Barnes & Noble from some big traditional publishing company and I’d be sitting in a pile of money.
Of course, ten-year-old me didn’t realize how obnoxiously wrong all of that actually is.
I chose to self-publish for two reasons.
1. I tried the querying game and didn’t like it.
I queried for a few years. Novels, children’s books, poetry. Nothing ever came to be. The rejections were hard, but I knew I just had to work harder.
Just because no one wanted my work, doesn’t mean I chose to self-publish as a way of “giving up.” I just didn’t like the process of it. This agent is currently not taking on new clients, this one wants the first three chapters, that other agent wants the whole manuscript, while this guy wants a blurb. The agent wants a paper copy, this one wants an email. It was hard to keep up and keep track of it all. Sure, I had a spreadsheet of which novel I sent, to who, which company, when, what format, when/if I heard back, etc. But it was time-consuming and the research was killer. (Seriously, I can’t begin to explain many agents and publishers I researched that I could find any of their information anywhere on their website… I hope this has changed since then because one of those agents could have been the one for me. But I shall never know now.
In addition to this, I realized something about myself as I got older and learned more about the process. Hence, my other reason for choosing to be self-published.
2. I want it my way.
Yes, sounds selfish, I know. But when I was in high school and was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, my therapist noticed something about me. They wanted me to get back into school, but she recognized my ambition and took that into account. Instead of trying to get me back into high school for my senior year, she found a dual enrollment program at a local community college.
I went to college for my senior year of high school. My courses counted toward my high school credits as well as credits toward my degree. I killed two birds with one stone – getting my high school diploma and getting my first year of college under my belt.
This was the best thing for me because she knew I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I was already doing it. Writing in between school, homework, and my job. Not only did this allow me to continue my schooling and graduate high school, but it allowed me creative freedom and set the foundation for where I am now.
Later in life, I’d take a risk and quit my job and pursue this writing thing. I have worked harder than ever before, researched and taught myself so much. I’m an entrepreneur. I’ve become a businesswoman. I’m always looking to grow and expand my current work. I’ve learned about creative writing, blogging, website building, freelance, social media/marketing…
Hey, I even published a book myself.
And I’ve helped other writers and bloggers along the way, promoting their work as well. I’ve met a lot of great friends and have learned from them as well.
I have ideas. I know how to grow. I want to create bigger and better things. I can’t do that if I had to go through my agent who then needed to go through whichever publisher decided to take a chance on me.
I mean, I have a novel timeline through 2021. Do you know how fast publishing a book would go if I went through traditional publishing? I’m not sure, but I know it can take a year or two. Faster is not always better, of course, but it’s easier when you’re mostly answering to yourself.
Do What’s Right For You
I’m not saying self-publishing is better than traditional publishing. I’ve never been traditionally published so I have no idea what the pros and cons are. What I am saying is that self-publishing was the right choice for me. Some people may not enjoy my books, but I know there are people out there who will enjoy them. To those people, my book is considered good. And it wasn’t accepted by an agent or represented by a high publishing company.
Which route did you or will you take when publishing your books? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.
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