Last week, I was looking through my Twitter feed, when the tagline for the latest entry on my colleague Colleen's blog, Writer On Wellness, made me slam the brakes on my scroll bar.
"The Devil On My Shoulder Says: Was Self-Publishing Worth It?"
My immediate reaction was almost visceral. I clicked through, expecting a long guest post extolling the virtues of traditional publishing: yet another diatribe on how those of us who self-publish are wasting their time and producing sub-par work, simply because we do not all have contracted agents, editors, or book deals. I have strong feelings on that sort of judgemental opinion, so I read the article, knowing I'd want to formulate my own response. The guest poster, fellow indie author Sara Secora, actually uttered that phrase while describing one of her darkest moments. Context made me breathe a sigh of relief: she wasn't putting down self-publishing, simply acknowledging its realities, and how they had caused her anxiety.
I immediately did two things: utter a silent apology to the universe for making dreadful assumptions, and message Colleen and Sara. I asked if they'd mind my writing my own blog on the subject, and they were gracious enough to agree. So, here I am, about to share my thoughts on being a self-published author, two books on.
The internet had a lot to say about self-publishing when I started my journey, but what I've found that I wish to share with you is a variation of a popular social media game: Two Lies and a Truth.
Lie #1: You Have To Do Things That Cost Money To Get Noticed. Editors! Cover designers! Primo webspace! ADVERTISING! SO MUCH ADVERTISING! *buzzer noise* Nope. In my opinion, word of mouth and proper networking can get you just as far, if not farther in some respects. Get to know your fellow indie authors. Facebook author groups and other groups (Google+, Goodreads, independent websites) have been hit or miss, with me ... everyone has certain types of social media which "work" better for them than others. Mine have become Twitter and Instagram, inarguably. Connect with people, and they'll want to share what you have even more. (Yes, I'm going to refer you to Amanda Palmer's Art of Asking again. Unashamedly.)
Lie #2: Traditionally Published Stuff Is Better Than Yours, Always
Bullshit. Maybe that's just my ego talking, or maybe it's the fact that almost half the books I read in 2016 were by indie authors. Two of them held court at the top of the list with Stephen King's "Doctor Sleep" and Iain Reid's "I'm Thinking of Ending Things" ... L.M. Bryski's "Book of Birds" and Jette Harris' "Salvage", both of which I've reviewed in older blogs. Indie authors are just as good as any other authors. They just choose to do things their way. (Also, um, I've read indie authors who wrote circles around trad-pub stuff. Looking at you, A.B. Funkhauser.)
Truth: You Gotta Do A LOTTA WORK. And this isn't limited to cover art and editing and fancy formatting. You're your own marketer. Your own accountant. Your books don't get sold unless you make people want to buy them. I'm still on very wobbly training wheels when it comes to marketing - I'll be the first to admit it - and I'm looking for ways to extend my knowledge and make this work a little better for me in 2017.
So, if you don't have to lay out the bucks if you do the legwork, and your stuff is as good as anyone else's, if you work at it like any other craft... IS it worth it to self-publish?
My ultimate answer is this: it depends entirely on how you define wealth. Like Sara Secora, my stories are my passion. If I had gone the route of traditional publishing, I would have felt as though I were a donkey endlessly chasing a carrot on a string... plodding along, submitting letter after letter until they stopped coming back with some variation on the word "no" in them. There's never any telling how long that could take, and I have too much to say, too many things to spin into words, to wait. I publish my novels for their own sake. I hold them out into the ever-growing sea of works to readers, like a vendor selling papers on a busy city corner, and if even one person picks them up and says "Hey, this made my day a little better", I'm over the moon.
Yes. It's worth it. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a devil to flick off my shoulder with extreme prejudice, and a fourth novel to start.
Until next week, I remain your hostess,
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