I’ve self-published a few books, so far, and I intend to release more in the future, but I wouldn’t consider myself an expert on the topic by any means. Of course, that doesn’t stop me from both A. having opinions, and B. wanting to share those opinions, which is what I’m going to do here. If you want to read more about the actual process I went through in making my books a reality, you can do so over here.
So, what are my overall thoughts on self-publishing? It can be great. Key word: can. It can also be awful, if you do it wrong. But, generally speaking, I’m in favour of it. I like the opportunities it gives to people who – for whatever reason – can’t or don’t want to be traditionally published. That’s not to say I’m not in favour of traditional publishing, because I am. They’re both good, for their own reasons, and in their own ways. I think some types of books are more suited to one particular publishing method than the other and, when it comes to my novels, I want to go down the traditional route, only using self-publishing as a plan B.
I self-published ‘Still Dreaming’ and ‘Wake’ because it suited the books and it suited me, at the stage of my writing career I was at (i.e. the very first stage). Traditional publishing wasn’t a real, tangible option for them at that time, mainly because they were works of poetry and short stories, which are also known as ‘things most reputable publishers won’t touch with a barge pole unless the author is already very famous’. As sad as it is, that stance is completely reasonable for publishing houses to have because the chances of them selling these types of books in large enough quantities for them to break even – let alone make a profit – are very low.
If my primary motivation in getting these books published was earning a substantial amount of money from them I would have had to agree with the professionals and ditched the poems for something far more commercial, but that was not my main motivation and I therefore I got to publish what I wanted without having to worry about sales targets.
I self-published these books because I wanted to and even if I was the only person to ever buy them I would still be very happy that I created something that I love.
I feel there’s something accomplished about an agent or publishing house loving your work so much they are willing to invest hard cash in it. But that’s not to say self-publishing, especially self-publishing from scratch – using only your own skills and not bringing in any outside help for editing or covers – isn’t accomplished because of course it is; but some accomplishments are bigger than others, it’s all just a matter of perspective.
I think it’s a fair assumption to make that, if you’ve poured months, or years, of work into a book, you’ll consider it good enough to be published. That’s a bias you can’t get passed, and one you don’t actually need to get passed, just be aware of. Aside from it, though, the opinion of a professional company that has existed since before you were born – a company that has decided to gamble part of their reputation on you and your work by giving you a contract – is going to mean more than your own whether you like it or not. By that standard, I guess being traditionally published is the ideal situation for most people, at least in terms of their ego.
If poetry and short stories were more marketable, and a well-established publishing house was likely to accept my collections, would I go with them instead of doing it myself? Yes, I would. But that’s not the world we live it. And, so, self-publishing was the right decision for me, in this case, and it may not be in the future, and that is okay.
As a last note: I do not consider the path I’ve chosen to get my books ‘out there’ to be vanity publishing. I know there is a lot of debate on the topic of where self-publishing ends and vanity begins but, but this is how I see it: yes, I used companies (Lulu & Amazon) to physically publish my work, but I designed the layouts myself, edited and formatted myself, and used my own images. It may be print on demand but I didn’t pay the companies a huge whack of money (or even any money at all) before they’d accept my work. Throughout the process, I have retained sole rights to my work. Some people prefer to call this ‘assisted self-publishing’ and that’s a label I can live with.