Why I’m Choosing to Self-Publish

Today, in her blog that I recently started following, Ayesha Schroeder published a post entitled, Why I’m Pursuing Traditional Publishing. Check it out! She’s thought through her options, she knows what she’s talking about, and she’s making the best decision for her. As you may know, I’m planning to self-publish my novel Wanderlust: A Song For Ireland. This post is about why, right now, I think self-publishing is the best option for me.

I do, ultimately, dream of being a mainstream author, with an agent and an editor and a well-known publisher behind me. By choosing to self-publish, I don’t think I am eschewing the option of traditional publishing. There are many stories about books, from Eragon to Fifty Shades of Greythat began as self-published efforts, did well, and were later picked up by traditional publishers. With Wanderlust, there are a few particular considerations that make me think self-publishing is a good idea.

I want to write Young Adult fiction, and I have advertised Wanderlust as, “A good read for teens and adults.” I created the characters when I was a teenager, and I think a teen audience will find them appealing. I know I did. I found them so enchanting that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about them, even years later. The problem is that the characters’ ages are 19 and 22. This makes them college age, not high school age, and I worry that, to a literary agent, this will make them out-of-bounds as protagonists in a teen novel. Even worse, the novel does not feature a strong female protagonist. It has a few female characters, and some pretty badass ones at that, but most of the book focuses on the adventures and friendship of two young men, and it’s not even a romance. (Not making it a romance is helpful in marketing to some demographics, while making it a romance would be helpful for others. It doesn’t matter either way—I made this choice based on the characters themselves, not any financial or other considerations.) In a YA literature climate where Twilight and Hunger Games are the best sellers, I worry that agents are looking for those female protagonists, especially from a female author, and won’t consider that the teen girls reading Twilight and Hunger Games will want to read a book about boys— even though boys are the reason they read some of the aforementioned bestsellers, especially Twilight. (Aside: If we want to get into some of my deeper insecurities about the book I am writing, I sometimes worry that it will be seen as pandering to a fangirl audience. Fans and the internet turn any male same-sex relationship into a romance, and the nature of the connection between Vanya and Taniel will give them so much fodder to do so. I can’t change who my characters are, and who they are to each other; while I will be flattered by any attention from fangirls they receive, I can only hope that the depth of their characters and the quality of my work will allow my writing to be seen for its literary merits as well.)

Schroeder says, “If you’re an incredibly talented writer, editor, artist, graphic designer and print layout specialist you are well equipped for the self-publishing process” (Why I’m Pursuing Traditional Publishing). I don’t know about incredibly talented, but I have a BFA in Illustration and in Wanderlust, the illustrations are almost as important to me as the text. I’ve also spent a LOT of time thinking about how Wanderlust should look, both inside and out. I want this book to be the best thing I can produce, and I want it to look how I want it. I couldn’t stand to see Wanderlust with one of those awful photograph covers that litter the shelves nowadays. This entire book, to me, is my work of art, and at the moment I’m not willing to relinquish any control. I’ll be getting some help with the editing, of course, and I’ll be getting second opinions like mad on every visual issue, but believe I do have the skills and training to produce a book that is, in both the visual and written aspects, a product of professional quality.

I do have some reservations about self-publishing. It’s going to take a lot of work, and I’m looking forward to it, but almost every link or ad I’ve clicked for a self-published project that looks similar to mine has turned out to be poorly designed, terribly written, or both. It’s always encouraging to know you’ve got a leg-up on the competition, but I’m scared that, because of these poor-quality projects, my book will be dismissed out-of-hand. I guess it will all depend on the ability of my book to distinguish itself for its own merits, and my skill in promoting it and making its caliber known. It’s terrifying (isn’t everything?), but I believe in my project. There’s a long way to go before I can release Wanderlust to the world, but when I do, I’m excited to see how far I can get on my own steam, as self-published author. There are many paths to the dream of becoming traditionally published, and I hope self-publishing will turn out to be an important and valuable stepping-stone on mine.

What do you think? Would you buy a self-published book? Have you chosen either self-publishing or traditional publishing over the other? Why is that the best decision for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

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11 Comments

  1. Lianne

     /  August 2, 2012

    I think that self-publishing has a lot of benefits, and your reasons are sound. I personally have no problem buying self-published books, and in fact have a self-published comic on my bookshelf right now. Because of it’s quality I’ve decided to look into other webcomics that the creators then self-publish. With this one it’s obviously a labor of love on part of the writer/creator. She puts so much thought into every aspect of the comic, and how it should appear in book form – much like you’ve described. It also seems great to be able to present your book in the way that you originally intended, without having to conform to what your publisher thinks is marketable or appropriate. I know that when I was a teenager in high school, I enjoyed reading about older teens, and college-aged characters. (Also, as far as shipping goes, as long as you don’t intentionally include fan-service subtext to it, it won’t come across as you pandering to fangirls. I mean, of course you’re going to get fangirls that will want to put them together automatically because there are two close male characters, but there will be some that see something in the characters and interpret it as the possibility for genuine romantic connection. Yet you’ll also get readers that simply appreciate close friendships for exactly what they are. I know that the majority of tv shows, movies, and books I love have characters with best-friend relationships that I’m completely satisfied by and wouldn’t want to change for the world – as that kind of relationship is powerful in itself).

    Are you planning on using Kickstarter? That’s how this author (and many others I’ve seen around) raised funds to publish hers, and was able to offer neat little packages and extras to the people who donated. I recently read a blog post about why crowdsourcing is a legitimate route to go about self-publishing. I think it really boils down to how you approach it, and how much effort you put into it. It’s perfectly do-able to create a self-published work that is high-quality and professional, and that readers are more than happy to purchase.

    Then there’s self-promotion to contend with, but if there’s one thing that I’ve learned from being part of internet fan communities throughout the years, is that word-of-mouth can be pretty powerful. With comics, there are always conventions to attend and promote at, but I have no idea if there’s that kind of community with novels/illustrated young adult novels? At any rate, it sounds like a huge project to take on, but it also seems like it will be well worth it. Good luck!

    Reply
    • Lianne,
      Thank you for reading and leaving such an in-depth reply! You’ve got me curious; what is the self-published comic you’ve referred to? I haven’t really considered Kickstarter, but I’m planning to publish on Lulu.com, which is a company that prints on demand, and has a lot of helpful tools that make it easy to get an isbn and get your book on amazon.com. Now that you mention it, though, Kickstarter might be really useful in getting enough capital to purchase an initial quantity of copies for me to sell in person, and it might be a really good marketing tool as well. I’ll certainly keep it in mind. Thanks again, you’ve been reassuring on the fangirl issue. 🙂

      Reply
  2. This is a great post and I’ll definitely have to read the other. I’m going through something similar, though I’m inthe early stages of planning. Ultimately I will pursue self-publishing. You hit the nail on the head about other self-published books being poor quality. Like you, I’m an able writer and would hate to have a stigma placed on my book because of the quality of others’. In the long run, however, I believe it’s all about your package and your ability to market it. Over time I’ve learned that publishers are skeptical of authors who have a great quality book but haven’t already built a platform. So, step 1. Start platform building. 2. Write book while continually expanding platform. 3. Find funds while finishing book. 4. Self-Publish 5. Sell and work on getting picked up.

    Good luck!

    Reply
    • I wasn’t quite sure what a platform was, in business-speak, and then I clicked on your blog and your current post explained it to me, so thanks! I built this blog and the Wanderlust facebook page as a platform, to begin reaching an audience (however small) while I’m getting the book ready. Turns out I really like blogging, so it was a good idea. Your five-step plan sounds like a good one, and I’ll keep it in mind. 🙂 Good luck with your own self-publishing endeavors!

      Reply
  3. TheLadyJournal

     /  August 2, 2012

    I like your stamina! Hard work..I am also choosing to self-publish. Don’t get me wrong traditional publishing would be a dream come true but..in today’s market self-publishing I’m all for.

    God willing soon.

    Reply
  4. I wrote up a rather angsty post on this same subject. I think when I wrote it I was getting a lot of people asking me why I decided to self-publish and the looks on their faces told me that they were awaiting my story of rejection from traditional publishing. That just wasn’t the case for me. I can only hope that soon people will see self-publishing as a viable first option. The only thing self-publishers can do is to publish quality books that show it is possible to do it on your own. Good luck!
    http://nicolettereed.com/2012/06/28/my-path-to-self-publishing/

    Reply
  5. I completely understand your decision to go with self-publishing, particularly since you have a clear vision for what your book will look like. In writing my Handy Guide to Virginia Wineries, I knew exactly what I wanted to book to look like, from layout to maps to other materials. And I knew that because new wineries are opening every year, being able to update the book annually would be important in building and keeping a good reputation for being up on the current state of the industry.

    I ended up choosing CreateSpace and had mixed, though mostly positive, results. I loved the cover they created using photos I’d provided. And I mostly liked the interior, which was set up the way I’d asked them to format it. The downside was that there were too many blank pages because I didn’t always know when the chapters would end in my chosen page size (6″ x 9″).

    I’d already taught myself how to use Adobe Illustrator for the 50+ maps in the book so after CreateSpace completed the first version of the book and it became available on Amazon.com, I got Adobe InDesign and learned how to use that. (Thank you, lynda.com, for your wonderful tutorials!) I ended up reformatting the print version using mostly the layout CreateSpace had done but improving it, moving around my “Wine Basics” one-pagers to fill up the blank pages and adding more content to the wine region intros. Then I uploaded the new interior content all on my own. And, as an added bonus, I was able to format the book for Kindle, including incorporating all the maps and reformatting the content to fit the way readers would scroll through an e-pub on a Kindle or iPad.

    It took several months to do all this reformatting, but the revised version came out in May and looks so much better — more in line with what I’d envisioned all along!

    This is kind of a long-winded way of saying go with your instincts on this one. Your drawings are an integral part of your creative process and work, and you’ll be so much happier with them if the final product matches your vision. (Trust me. I hate looking at copies of the first version of Handy Guide — I ended up giving them to my brother in law to sell on eBay and even then cringe to think someone will see them and think this was the best I could do.) Be prepared as well to invest a lot of your own time and energy in creating your print-ready images. But ultimately, you’ll be very happy with your choice.

    Good luck and don’t lose faith!

    –Donna Gough

    Reply
    • I also have a first version of my book that I find pretty embarrassing, but it was five years ago, and I’ve learned a lot since! Aside from skill, I just didn’t put a sufficient amount of time and effort into it. Not making that mistake again! My book (the current version) is 6×9, the same size as yours. I actually designed a 6×9 book in Microsoft Word last year for a student organization, which was a huge pain but turned out fairly well. I definitely needed InDesign for the abridged prototype I made of Wanderlust, though, and I relied HEAVILY on lynda tutorials. The program lets me make beautiful things, but I would not call anything about it intuitive.
      I’ve used lulu.com so far for print-on-demand publishing, but I’m thinking for the next time around I need to order a prototype from createspace as well to compare price and printing quality. Formatting for kindle is going to be totally new to me, though. New things to learn all the time!
      Thanks for your encouragement and for sharing your publishing story. If I’m ever in Virginia and looking for wineries, I’ll know what book I need!

      Reply

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