When I first found out I could produce a book and put it out into the world all by myself, I got so excited I jumped at the chance. Then I jumped a second time, and a third. Suddenly, I wanted to self-publish everything. Within a few months, I had several projects planned and– yep, I basically got wayyy ahead of myself.
Not all of the projects I planned saw the light of day, in the end, and I think that’s for the best.
As I said in my previous post, I wasn’t ready to self-publish when I first did. I just didn’t know enough to realize how much I didn’t know.
In part, I’ve been thinking about this because I’ve joined the recently formed Irish Independent Authors’ Collective. It’s also on my mind because I’m trying to get traditionally published at the moment as well.
At some point, I started thinking a bit more long-term and realized that all of my impulse publishing decisions might have hurt my writing career in the long run, which – oops?
Let me not beat around the bush: the very first books of mine ever printed were sub-par quality, and I’ve had to spend a LOT of time and effort re-doing them in the years since. The editions available to buy now I’m mostly okay with but, if I could do it all again, I’d have brought out fewer titles and spent more time over each of them.
I would still have self-published Juvenilia (the bind-up of my teenage poems), brought out a poetry chapbook as a stepping stone to submitting a full-length poetry collection to traditional publishers, and maybe released a short story collection (that just had stories and was not mixed in with poems) as I worked towards my novel, which I would aim (and still do aim) to get traditionally published.
I like the idea of being a “hybrid” author – having a foot in each camp – a lot. In the modern day, I think it makes sense to try and build an audience while you’re trying to attract an agent.
BUT – and here’s the kicker – only if you’re ready.
Self-publishing a book badly is undoubtedly worse than having nothing published at all.
Going back to my own specific experience, I have been genuinely tempted to take all of my previous works off the market, change the pen-name I write under, and start again from scratch.
Except, you know, the small issue of this being the twenty-first century and clean slates being virtually impossible due to the internet.
At this point, I can only do my best going forward. One day, I would like to see a poetry collection of mine traditionally published. In the meantime, I want to self-publish the two micropoetry collections I already have in the pipeline.
In terms of fiction, I’m considering self-publishing to be a backup plan if I can’t find an agent for my novel, but I would really, really like to follow the traditional route for that if possible.
If there is a takeaway point from all this, it’s not to discourage others from self-publishing – a lot of other people have done it right and done brilliantly from it, right from the get-go (Claire Savage springs to mind as the perfect example here) – I just urge prospective self-publishers not to rush things, do your research and, for the love of god, hire a professional editor and proofreader. Seriously.
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