So, self-publishing. An option that hasn’t always been the most favorable, reputable, or simple. An option that is very quickly raising in ranks.
Two years ago, I decided I was going to self-publish my first novel, Bewilderments of the Eyes . It was an extremely tough and overwhelming decision, especially considering I had previously ruled self-publishing out completely. I queried literary agents for a year, and most responses were rejections. But it wasn’t the rejections that changed my mind about self-publishing; the waiting, the effort, and the long road of rejection was something I fully anticipated when I decided to seriously pursue writing. It was actually the one full request that I received that did it.
After many, many fruitless queries, an agent requested a partial and then a full manuscript from me. The sheer disbelief and hope I felt at that point was just ridiculous. Staggering. Throughout the entire exchange with this agent, I was useless to the rest of the world. I couldn’t focus on or think about anything else.
After the designated amount of waiting time, I followed up on the request. I received a response that my manuscript had been lost, and was asked to resend it. I did, of course. Another six weeks of silence went by, and I followed up again. This time, the agent’s assistant replied, claiming she had no knowledge of the request and could I send it again? I resent it. Another six weeks went by and, after one more follow up, I finally received an answer: rejected.
Again, it wasn’t the rejection that flipped my entire game plan. It was the confusion.
As a new writer, I was aware of my lack of knowledge of the industry. I researched writing and publishing every chance I could, but after this debacle it finally hit me. I could read as many blog posts, articles, and second-hand stories as I could get my hands on, but I didn’t have first hand experience with the publishing world.
So, my decision was based on the following:
My writing, Bewilderments in particular, was my baby. I put my heart, soul, time, and every ounce of effort I possessed into writing that book and editing it and re-editing it and re-editing again and again to make it the best that it could possibly be. That book was my everything at the time. And I didn’t want to be taken advantage of or have my book be compromised in any way. I was under no delusion that self-publishing would be extremely difficult, or that I would be a raving overnight success. But I wanted to take this first book into my own hands, have complete control and ownership. I wanted to be brutally forced to delve in and really learn. Any mistake I made and any downfall I had would be my own doing, as well as any success that I had.
Over six months have gone by since Bewilderments was officially released, and I confess that I haven’t had much quantifiable success at all. I haven’t sold nearly enough copies. And that’s okay (for now, at least) because I have achieved a raving amount of personal success.
I’m very proud of the work that I’ve done and how far I’ve come and how much I’ve learned. I’m even more proud of the fact that, despite the sometimes excruciating work and my lack of knowledge and how many long, hard years it takes to see any kind of substantial turnaround within the writing field, I haven’t given up and quit. I still have a lot to learn, and am acquiring new information and skills every single day. I can absolutely still do better, and I intend to. I feel so much more confident and secure than I did when I was first starting out and depending on someone else to get me through such a harrowing process.
All in all, self-publishing my novel has been SO TOUGH, but SO worth it in so many ways. Here are just a few of the skills and lessons I’ve learned throughout my self-publishing journey:
- Problem solving: getting things done, figuring it out, not stopping at roadblocks.
- Marketing: the most difficult aspect for me, and I am still learning and improving, but I can’t believe how far I’ve already come.
- Coding, website building, website maintenance: my website is still a work-in-progress even though I’ve had it for over a year. It is always changing and improving based on what I’ve learned from others and also my own trial and error.
- Recognizing the difference between a legitimate freelancer (editors, cover artists, formatters) and the scams. Also recognizing the differences and actual values of print on demand services and “all-inclusive” self-publishing services.
- Understanding that my work is mine, and others can give input and advice, but ultimately I know what’s best for my stories. I used to take the word of everyone I spoke to or hired, assuming that they knew best because they were already in the industry, and I learned the hard way that I need to stand up for myself and my work and stick to my guns while still absorbing and growing and taking advice.
Really, the list of ways in which I’ve benefited from my self-pub experience is endless, and I’m not the only one who whole-heartedly believes in the process. Millie Schmidt of Millie Schmidt Writes…With Cats wrote a guest post for me called 9 Reasons You Should Self-Publish that is definitely worth checking out if you’re considering self-publishing, or you’re a self-publisher in need of validation (aren’t we all).
What experience with self-publishing do you have? Are you considering taking the dive, but have concerns? What are they, what’s holding you back? If you’d like to have a more in-depth conversation with me about self-publishing v. traditional (whichever situation you’re in) please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be more than happy to dive in with you!