Why Self Publish?

Posted: February 20, 2016 in Musings
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As we all know, the world of publishing has changed. For writers like myself and many others, the changes have opened doors that once seemed permanently locked and barred. Over the past few months of my publishing journey, I’ve taken note that some people think these changes are for the worse, which I found surprising. Isn’t a place with more books a better place?

Apparently some people don’t agree.

A new author has a 1-2% chance of being picked up by a traditional publisher. In 2002, 81% of Americans surveyed wanted to be an author.  This was before the advent of simple self-publishing on the internet. Back in 2002 it cost upwards of $2000.00 to self-publish a physical book. I know because I looked into it. It was a daunting amount of money, and still is for many people.

In 2008, 5,000 books crossed publishers’ desks every year, which means approximately 50 of those books were chosen. In 2013 over 450,000 books were self-published. Think about that for a minute. 450,000 is really close to half a million people wanting to get their books out there, and is a much bigger number than 5,000. That shows how many people were not querying or who gave up completely after multiple rejections. It didn’t include every person who wanted to publish, either, just those who were early to the game.

I know writers get annoyed when talking to random stranger who say “I’m a writer, too!” It’s funny when you think about it.  I’m doubtful that accountants are annoyed when someone says “I’m an accountant too! I’m all about accounts payable.” (I don’t know if accountants say things like that. I’ve never been to one of their parties.)

The reality is, there’s a very good chance that a person is gushing because their mom loved their stories from elementary school. They could be saying it because they think writing a book is easy, or that person could legitimately be a writer.

Think about your own writing. That 450,000 people is only a sample of the how many writers are really out in the world, all of them wanting to get published. They may or may not query. Imagine an agent’s desk drowning in a sea of books.

The reality is this: Rejection is Subjective, (and they almost rhyme, so that should tell you something.)

Proof of this can be found in best sellers. You can Google “how many times was my favorite best selling novel rejected,” and you can feel uplifted by what you read. You can say “Stephen King’s Carrie was rejected 30 times before it was published!” But think about what you’re really saying; 30 times an agent or publisher looked at it and said: “This is crap.”

A publisher is not an all knowing being in the clouds who can magically pick a masterpiece out at first glance. They’re human beings forced to make a choice out of an overwhelming number of selections.

Rejection doesn’t necessarily mean anything other than your book was dropped into the wrong hands. That’s why when I hear someone act as if a traditionally published author is somehow more magical and sparkly than a self-published author. I disagree. The only difference is that one won the lottery and the other didn’t. It’s the same as playing the PowerBall except the “ticket holders” have some skill and understanding on how to choose their numbers.

When the world of publishing eBooks became free, the flood gates were opened. Today anyone can jump out and publish a book. You can choose to do it poorly or you can choose to work hard and try to get it right. You can hire help with things or do your best to learn for yourself. The gatekeepers still stand at their gates, but those gates are no longer the only way into the palace.

Yes, there are a lot of books in that 450,000 which are poorly done, that’s true. I’ve seen some comments about how you can’t purchase an indie book because there’s a good chance that it’s bad. These less than stellar books are gumming up the system. They make the good indie authors look bad.

I hate to say this, but those books were already making writers look bad in traditional publishing. Remember the agent digging through 450,000 queries? How many times did that agent look at a horrible book only to then move on to another book with similar themes, plot, or characters to think: “Not another one of these rabbit zombie apocalypse stories! Ugh!” and throw it directly into the trash?

Agents are human. Wrong time and wrong place, grumpiness due to a bad day, and pre-conceived notions can all play a factor in their choices. I’ve seen agents on Twitter listing things that they don’t look for in an attempt to cut down the number of submissions they receive.

Now instead of one agent you have thousands of customers. You’re still in a pile of 450,000 books. The only thing that has changed  Nothing has changed, except that now your book is floating around available to be read by millions of people instead of hoping just one will look at it.

The point of writing a book is to have it read, right? Even if the audience is small and you’re not a best seller, the goal is to reach at least one person.

I don’t self-publish for fortune.

I’ve made less than $30 in four months. Except for those “lottery winners,” both traditionally and self-published, it’s not easy to live solely off of your writing. Just because you have a traditionally published book with a marketing team doesn’t mean  you’ll be successful.

I don’t self-publish for fame.

I’ve sold or given away 90 books. I’m still a big giant nobody.

Even if you’re a New Your Times Best Seller it doesn’t make you a household name. Authors like Stephen King and J K Rowling are exceptions to the rule. I’d guess that if I grabbed a random person off the street, they’d know the title Game of Thrones before they knew the name George R. R. Martin. (I give it a 50/50 chance, anyway.)

I self-publish because being published is my dream.

I wanted to be a author since the third grade. I’m guessing for most writers it’s a similar story. I just want a chance to tell my story. Maybe how I’m doing this isn’t perfect enough for some people. Maybe my lack of funding for an editor or graphic designer will cause people to turn their nose up at me, but oh well. If my story can reach a few people who truly enjoyed it, then it’s better than sitting down in the mud and giving up.

I’m also teaching my kids that you can make your dreams come true even if you have to get up and go to another job every morning. It takes hard work and dedication reach your goals. The Blue Fairy isn’t going to come down and smack you with her wand.  I want them to see that nobody should tell you “you shouldn’t do this because of xyz reason.”

Even if your dream doesn’t turn out perfectly or the way you planned, reaching your goals is what makes life worth living.

Thanks for reading and I hope all of your dreams come true! Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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Comments
  1. I’m self-publishing due to a slightly apocalyptic view that traditional publishers–who are in the midst of some pretty stupid business decisions right now–will soon collapse, and I don’t want my rights to be stuck with them.

    If a book is well-edited and has a good cover, most people will never know it’s self-published, so when I hear things like “self-published books are awful” I just assume they’re talking about the ones that look like they were put together in Microsoft Paint. Fair enough, I think those are awful too.

    I have no idea how many people will by my book. I hope plenty, but we’ll see. Either way, I’m happy with what I’ve done so far and will continue to keep doing it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • rrwillica says:

      I don’t know if the traditional publishing houses will collapse fully in the near future. They are slowly attempting to change. I do agree about the rights, though. It is nice to know my book is still my book.

      I was actually really surprised with the quality of my paperback from CreateSpace. I also got a traditionally published book for Christmas from a friend. It’s published by Harper and according to the cover is $13.99. The cover is not as high quality and the paper is flimsy compared to my $9.99 self-published book. That just shows self-published doesn’t mean substandard quality.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. cwhawes says:

    I could have written every single word in this post. I agree 100%. I’ve read plenty of traditionally published books and wondered what the heck the editors were thinking to give those books the green light. I’ve read some outstanding indie books that probably wouldn’t have made it through the gauntlet. A good book is a good book. No matter how it’s published. Amazon, Apple, B&N, Kobo all let you sample a book before you buy. There is no excuse to get stuck with a bad book. I’ve not purchased many indie books because after I “looked inside” the look was too scary! The same with traditionally published books. I also read the negative reviews and look for things like characterization and writing style comments. If I see comments like “flat characters” or “poor dialogue” from enough folks, then I won’t buy. And if I’m on the fence, I download a free sample and then decide.

    This is a wonderful new world. I’ve been reading about writing and publishers for over 50 years. A lot has changed in that time and at the same time very little has changed. Traditional publishers still accept very few of the books submitted to them. They still pay the author the shells of the peanuts. They still lock up an author’s rights and often don’t return them, usually by controlling distribution and publishing. The biggest change is that self-publishing is beginning to be respectable once again. After all, the publishing industry is less than 200 years old. Before printers became publishers, all books were self-published. Once upon a time, there was no other option. Self-publishing was it.

    I’m with you, RR. This is a great time to realize our dreams of publishing our books and finding that audience, even if it is only a few people. The advantage is we don’t have to worry about some distant publisher remaindering our books or firing us because we didn’t meet our bottom line. Our books can stay in print forever! In a sense, self-publishing can assure a writer of immortality for more easily than the poor sod who goes the traditional route and ends up selling nothing and getting canned by his or her cherished publishing house. Because once that happens, that person’s writing career is dead.

    Thank you for this wonderful post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • rrwillica says:

      Wow! Thank you for this comment. You brushed on some topics I didn’t even get to, and I really appreciate your feedback and addition to my post. Everything you said is true, and I’m proud to be a self-published author.

      Like

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