Saturday, April 16, 2016

My Personal Self Publishing Debate

So I saw this well timed blog post, Real Writers Don't Self-Publish, as I was trying to marshal my own thoughts on self publishing. Why I haven't, why I may not, why I might, etc.

I read this interview with Hugh Howey, which caused me to tweet about it, which caused a friend to ask me if I'd blogged about it. I have, occasionally. Nothing fully connected or cogent, I don't think. Maybe I can't promise what follows is going to be cogent. But I'll try. I'm trying!

So really. I have pros and cons when I think about what self publishing could or would mean for me.  I read a Maggie Nelson interview the other day, and in it she said "Self-publishing wasn't what you did because you were rejected by HarperCollins; it was what you did because it was fun to  make zines and run around with them." And really, that's a cool sentiment. I've never been a part of a zine, but in a way, putting stories here on my blog, in the way I have, is like self publishing, and for that reason. It's fun to share stories, and hear what people think of them.

So a reason I would self publish is to collect the stories I've put on my blog, which I can't submit to paying markets as "unpublished" nor necessarily as "reprints" (guidelines vary by market), and put them out there in that manner.

Another reason I might self publish is my Learn to Howl trilogy. No, book 2 isn't finished yet, and book 3 isn't outlined or anything, but it seems to me that once I write those books, it's a package deal. But I hear of publishers signing on book 1 and then rejecting book 2, and that kind of thing just makes my stomach drop. I feel bad for the authors for any number of reasons, among them story reasons. If I already wrote one book 2, regardless of whether anybody else read it, how on earth would I pretend it didn't happen and substitute another? I'm sure it's possible. It's just hard to wrap my mind around.

A lot of people have been happy and successful with self publishing. They're great at organizing projects, micromanaging, doing marketing and self promotion, the accounting (or have somebody for accounting), and oh yeah, they've got to be pretty good at the writing too, one would think. They are happy with the control they have over their novels and the details regarding them, they're happy with the difference in royalty percentages they can get going through Amazon vs. a publishing house.

And there's my turning point. Me, Jen, is not that kind of focused and detail oriented when it comes to the checklists. Marketing, promoting, lining up an editor, a proofreader, a cover artist, getting the cover formatted, accounting, etc. etc. I'd have to farm out all of those things and then bring it all back home again. Granted, I know a number of people possessed of these skills, and I would want to pay them a fair wage for their work. So then....there's that. I'd be investing monetarily in my self publishing venture, which can get pricey and....sounds scary, frankly. There's always that doubt: what if I fail?

Well, if I fail to get a novel published via querying and slush pile submissions, and all I invest is time and some emails? That's my time (which yes, is valuable. I'm not saying that) and some emails. If I self publish and my novel fails to turn a profit or even break even? That's dollars down the drain, which seems a lot bigger and more concrete.

I've been submitting my stories to magazines for years. I think I sent out my first submission to Glimmer Train in 2002 or 2003. I've gotten a lot of rejections over the years. Hell, I've gotten a lot of rejections this year. But, I write my stories to see what happens. I write my stories because it's a topic, situation, or character that interests me. And I write my stories to get them read, and get them published. If I didn't believe in myself, I could have stopped submitting by now. I could have just written for myself and the people I know.  But I do believe in myself, and that it takes time, and patience, and effort.

And those rejections? I've gotten more in the last year, yes, but I've submitted more stories in the last year. And I've been getting more personal rejections in the last year, which contain valuable insights and criticisms.

I've also gotten acceptances within the last year. This last week saw the one year anniversary of my story, "Adventuring", in Daily Science Fiction. On May 1, my story "The Lion and the Dragonslayer", will be in Mosaics 2: a Collection of Independent Women.

I just need to keep writing stories, and keep sending them out. And maybe one day I will self publish. But not yet.


  1. It's a complicated decision, and does come down to your comfort level. Janet touches on it occasionally, but with a distinct bias. I wrote about my understanding of the economics of self-publishing a while ago in my blog. WR Gingell chimed in with some useful insights, and ended up writing about it in her blog also.

    Janet's post (you probably read):

    My reaction:

    WR's Post in response to mine:

    1. Thanks for coming by! I did read Janet's post, but didn't read your reaction or WR's yet, I'll have to check them out.

  2. I love your self-confidence and I really do hope you'll keep going. I like how you write "I write my stories to see what happens". It's so true for me too. I write because I want to. Self-publication seems like a lot of hard work, but some people are quite successful with it.

    1. yes, some people are quite successful in it, which is awesome! I envy them, really. I just don't have that level of drive and detail orientedness. Maybe one day...

  3. I'm pretty much with you. I have self-pubbed some short stories, just to help build up the backlog and get my name out there more, but I can't imagine doing it for a full-length book. Getting the formatting perfect nearly made me pull all my hair out the first time around (though I'll admit it was easier the second time through). One cover I slapped together on my own, and the other I outsourced to a friend (for a reasonable fee). Bottom line is, like, you, I much prefer turning over all of the little details to SOMEONE ELSE.

    1. Oh, the formatting....formatting is such a dreadful issue, isn't it? Always. Even if you're just trying to make an outline that's consistent with itself!

      I'm really not confident at all regarding cover art. I'm, let's say, deficient in the art department (though I know many talented artists). Even those websites that let you put things together, like Canva, I'm just unable to function.