I guess writing a blog post about it makes it official – after months of consideration, lots of prayer, and deep discussions with my incredible writing group and family, I’ve decided to pursue self-publishing over going the traditional route.
This has been both the hardest and most liberating decision of my writing career.
Occasionally I’ve encountered the attitude in the writing community that self-publishing is a quitter’s way out; it’s reserved for those who are “not good enough” to make the cut in traditional publishing. I bought into this as a teen, believing that if I ended up going the route of self-publishing I was settling for obscurity and selling myself short. But boy, how wrong I was.
The truth is, there is plenty of merit to both traditional and self-publishing. It’s not a matter of which is better so much as which one fits the individual author best. If you’re where I was a few weeks ago, I’d like to give you some insights into why I chose this path. Please know that I still celebrate traditional publishing and cheer for every one of my friends who lands that coveted agent/publishing house deal! It’s just not for me.
And here’s why:
Reason #5 – Full control of my content
Admittedly, some agents, editors, etc. are stricter about this than others. But I spoke to many friends whose acceptance by an agent was dependent upon changing things both minor AND major about their core story elements. This notion has always bothered me because I’m specific about the kind of story I want to tell. I don’t want my story to make or fail the cut based on someone else’s opinion of what elements my story MUST have in order to succeed.
I want to take the advice of professional editors. I want a whole FLOCK of mentors, if I can find them! But what I don’t want is for someone to be in a position to tell me what my content has to be or else it will be rejected.
Additionally, as a perfectionist I have frequently been terrified of doing any kind of promotion/self-marketing that would endanger future agent deals. And I don’t need that kind of stress! Marketing is one of my passions, and I love having the freedom to market my stories in a way that makes ME feel accomplished and comfortable.
Reason #4 – The process beyond agenting
The more I’ve come to understand publishing from the inside perspective, the clearer it’s become to me that even when you land an agent, there’s no guarantee that your agent will agree to represent every story you write. In my naivety, I expected that landing an agent was it: after that, all you had to do was crank out, polish up, and hand off manuscripts, and the agent would start pitching to publishers. Not so! Published, agented authors still have to make a proposal to their agent for every novel they hope to publish, and the agent can approve or deny that novel.
Now, don’t get me wrong – many, if not most authors write in very tight knit with their agents, and with their support and encouragement. But for me personally, I haven’t been settled in my spirit with how this process works. Which brings me to Reason 3…
Reason #3 – The merit of the story
I get that agents, and publishers, are often unwilling to take a risk on a certain novel because they understand the ebb and flow of the industry. They know what’s hot and what’s not (for example, stories representing current social issues are gaining a lot of popularity lately, whereas dystopian is a slowly-fading trend) and they want writers that write within the sphere of popularity. Reason being, publishers want to sell books: it’s their business. Agents in turn want you to have a fighting chance with an over-saturated publishing house. So both agents and publishers are more likely to reject an MS that isn’t on the cutting edge of what’s currently marketable.
My personal beef with that is how dystopian was a practically-untouched genre before Hunger Games, Divergent, etc. broke out. Similarly, paranormal teen romance wasn’t a market-mammoth genre before Twilight went big. These stories had to have the chance to stand on their own merit, and the response was overwhelmingly positive.
While I would never boast that my stories are “the next Twilight/Hunger Games/Harry Potter,” what I want for them is simply this: that they have the chance to stand on their own merit, too, without being rejected by the forecast of the market. If they sink, they sink. But I believe they’ll swim, and I’ve decided not to let anyone else decide ahead of time what their future will be.
Reason #2 – The Agent Debacle of 2018
If you’re not on Twitter, you may have missed the mini-blowup regarding a small portion of agents who misrepresented themselves and their clients. More and more writers have come out of the woodwork with stories about the imbalance of power in the industry between the publishers, especially the Big 5, the mediating agents, and the authors who can often be left with the short straw if they land a less-than-reputable agent.
Don’t get me wrong – there are so many great agents. There are also ways to vet them. But many of the agents who are certified and renowned only pick up 2-3 clients per year. That’s an awfully small number from a pool of thousands of submissions, and beyond that you’re left carefully combing for an agent who may or may not be quite so easy to vet.
For some writers, this risk and challenge is worthwhile. For me, due to timing, stress, etc., it was not. All of which pales next to the ultimate reason I gave up pursuing traditional publishing:
Reason #1 – Writing is my passion, but not my purpose
Y’all. Writing is HARD. It’s time-consuming. It’s TOUGH. And it’s what I’m passionate about. That’s why I run a blog, why I get up at 5am every weekday to write for a couple hours before my full-time job. I just love to write.
But lately I’ve been getting a heads-up from the Big Man Upstairs that He has bigger plans for me, and I’ve let my obsession with publication and making it big as an author get in the way of that. I’ve put writing on the pedestal as the greatest thing I’ll ever do or be; I’ve let the notion of publishing consume me, and hung my hopes and dreams on it. I’ve put other passions on the back burner because I feel the ticking clock urging me to write faster and better, land an agent sooner, get published ASAP. Writing started to consume my whole world. In the words of one Lin Manuel Miranda, “Why do you write like you’re running out of time?”
That. Was. Me.
And it only gets harder when you’re published. Suddenly there are mandatory deadlines and book tours and live events and things that require lots of time, usually large chunks back-to-back. For someone with a full-time job and limited yearly vacation time, the mere prospect was putting a lot of pressure on me mentally.
I’d love to write full-time. But I also love to do more than that. And I love my job and don’t want it to become a roadblock to my writing, which is how it was starting to feel.
Self-publishing is a perfect middle ground for me. I’m taking courses and doing research to find out how to make it work. I’m putting the time and effort into making it a worthwhile and profitable venture. There are some doors open to the traditionally published authors that aren’t available to the self-published – but I’m okay with that. I’ve chosen the venture that best suits my own lifestyle and goals, and after making peace with giving up the dream of stocking the Barnes and Nobles bestseller tables and having my stories made into movies, I’ve experienced an excitement like I’ve never dreamed.
The weight is gone. The pressure has shifted. It’s not up to an agent or publisher to make my stories marketable – I already believe they are, and now it’s up to me, and me alone, to get them in front of people.
Y’all. I am so full of determination, vision, and ambition right now – not just about my books, but about life in general. And that’s how I know self-publishing is the right choice for me.
So keep an eye out on this blog, my newsletter, and my social. There’s lots of exciting information to come. Including one announcement for 2019 that I am very, very excited to share…