Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Can you afford NOT to self publish?

About two years ago, I decided to get "serious" about writing! Well, I already had my M.F.A. in creative writing, had already been in writing groups, sent out short stories to competitions, and was writing on my own time, while working and looking after my daughter. But "getting serious" meant quitting my freelance job and actually trying to get an agent for my first completed novel. I spent more than a year revising my novel, researching agents and the publishing industry, tweeting to other writers, and sending out queries. And where did it get me? ONE follow-up email from an agent, asking for a copy of my novel. That didn't lead to anything. Not to say that my novel was perfect -- I realized later I needed to change the point of view. I'm not blaming agents or publishers -- my book just wasn't ready.

But my point is, I spent a year and a half NOT working on any other writing projects because I was so busy researching and trying to get an agent. With each batch of new rejections, I would dive back into my novel, trying to figure out what was wrong. I researched genres. Was my book a mystery or a literary novel? Then, I'd send out more queries, trying out different approaches, different "hooks."  Six weeks later (or never), I'd get back more rejections. Back to the drawing board. Yes, I needed to revise my novel, but did I also need to spend countless ours searching out an agent??

Finally, my friend Lisa Logan published a collection of her short stories on Smashwords from her master's thesis. I had a master's thesis sitting on my computer, too. Along with tons of other short stories. I decided to follow her lead and publish a mini collection on Smashwords. Two years later, I've completed a draft of my second novel, published another collection of short stories on Amazon, and have just released a how-to guide with Lisa called Publishing and Selling Your Ebook on Kindle.

If you are a writer who, like me, won't feel satisfied until your books are out there to be read -- whether by 10 people or 10,000 people -- can you afford NOT to self publish? Sure, if you already have contacts in publishing and/or have the time (and money) to travel to writing conferences, networking and meeting literary agents, then traditional publishing might be the best route for you. But many of us can't do that. We have kids or a full-time job, or we can't afford to spend $300+ on a conference or take a weekend trip to New York City to hobnob with literary agents and visit publishing houses. For the typical, every-day person, self publishing might be the only viable option.

Yes, you have to spend tons of time marketing your own books, but from what I've learned, traditionally published writers are having to do that anyway. They tour, they blog, they tweet... If you only have one year to spend "getting serious" about writing -- do you spend that time trying to find an agent, or do you write? For me, now, the answer is clear -- I write.


Ellis Shuman said...

Very interesting article. Many of us writers have come done this very same path. I don't think a year of running after agents is a waste of time if you are simultaneously working on improving your novel, making it better.

The bottom line is that there is more than one way to get published. Going the traditional way has its own drawbacks = it takes time to get your book in print, you don't control the process, and it doesn't mean that you are going to become rich.

Deciding to self publish is a major leap of faith, but there are many benefits as well. It's not for everyone, but then, writing a book is not for everyone either. Good luck to you if you choose to do this!

Louisa said...

Thanks for your comment! Yes, this is what works for me right now; not all writers will want to self publish. For me, I am just more productive and happier as a writer when I'm not worrying about finding an agent!