Why I Self-Publish

It seems like every time I hop onto social media, I see some version of the traditional-versus-self-publishing debate. People are wondering which route they should take, and others on either side of the debate state their case. I think part of it stems from the stigma that’s still attached to being self-published — a stigma that, while diminished, still exists.

Now, I will say this: the decision of which publication method to pursue is up to each individual author. Different people have different aspirations and expectations, and ultimately, the decision as to which path to follow is up to you and you alone.

But I can offer insight as to why I chose the self-publishing route.

Mostly, it boils down to something I don’t have: patience. I’m not a patient person; I never have been, and I likely never will be. As such, the traditional route holds little appeal to me. I don’t have it in me to submit a manuscript to an agent or publisher, only to wait weeks — if not months — for a response (which, let’s face it, would likely be no). That’s a lot of time wasted on… what, exactly?

As a self-published author, I operate on my own time frame. Yes, I have more responsibilities; as a self-published author, I have to worry about editors and formatting and cover design and marketing — all things a traditional publisher would (probably) take care of for me. But that added responsibility also brings with it a sort of freedom. I have control over the entire process. I control the content, and I control the time table.

By self-publishing, I’m able to tell the stories I want, the way I want to tell them, when I want to tell them. That freedom holds a great deal of appeal to me, particularly as I write stories that are just on the outside of what a mainstream publisher might be willing to publish.

Someday, I might pursue traditional publishing; there’s something to be said for receiving advances, writing stories, and letting the publisher handle all of the other stuff. But I see self-publishing as a trade-off, and it’s one I’m willing to make right now. Yes, I have to secure my own editor and I have to format my manuscripts myself. Yes, I have to either hire a cover designer or find my own cover another way. Yes, I’m the one who has to blow up Goodreads and social media to tell people about my work.

But I get to do all that on my own time. I decide when my books come out. I decide what gets published and what doesn’t. And because of this, if I publish a book, then you know damn well it’s something I really wanted to be out there.

Again, it’s your call which way you go. I just wanted to give you all a glimpse as to why I chose the path I did.

I Wish I Knew Then…

You know the old expression “I wish I knew then what I know now.”

Well, in that vein, I want to share a few nuggets with you, things I have learned in the past year and a half of being a self-published author that I wish I had known back when I first published Bounty. Some of these seem like no-brainers in hindsight, but there is no substitute for experience.

But hey, if this post helps you… all the better!

-The cover matters. Yes, I know… don’t judge a book by its cover. But readers do. A poorly-done cover will doom your book right out of the gate — I’ve learned this lesson the hard way, and even though Bounty has a fantastic cover now, you can never get back that first impression. Do not treat the cover as an afterthought; this will likely be one of the more expensive aspects of being an indie author, but the investment is completely worth it (and there are sites like this that offer quality covers for those on a budget).

-Editing is paramount. Another investment that will, without a doubt, help you make that good first impression. It’s true that just about every book — even from the major, traditional publishing houses — will have the occasional error or two, but readers can tell when a book hasn’t been properly edited. And no matter how many times you glance over your manuscript, you will never catch everything; having at least one more set of eyes is so important.

-Keep track of your expenses. Paying for an editor or cover art, investing in book promotion, traveling for an appearance or a convention… you can claim those expenses come tax time. And boy, do they help — especially if, like in my case, you spent more in expenses than you made in royalties. Claiming these expenses can help give you a larger refund or make sure you pay less than you would’ve otherwise.

-The indie publishing market is massive; there are literally millions of books out there, so it could be borderline impossible to get your name noticed — especially if you’re releasing your debut book. Always keep in mind that this is a long-term game, and sometimes, the best thing you can do is just keep writing.

-There will be people who won’t like your book. It’s just that simple. By the law of averages alone, you’re not going to get 100 percent of those who read your book to enjoy it. Even the millionaire bestsellers have their detractors. Easier said than done, I know, but try not to take the negative reviews personally.

-Befriend other indie authors. The sense of community can make the daunting process of writing and publishing a book easier to manage, and you can learn so much from the efforts of others. You can learn what promotion services work and what doesn’t, you can learn new tricks of the trade… sometimes, you just root each other on and find some really great books you wouldn’t have discovered otherwise.