The whole truth about why I self-published

Three years ago, I started this blog to chronicle my journey to publication of my fiction writing. I wrote often about my trials and tribulations in writing, editing, and querying my first novel. I had always planned to get an agent, who would then sell my book to an editor at a traditional publishing house. It didn’t work out that way.

The_Brevity_of_RosesPart of what went wrong with that plan was not something I could control. By the time I finished that novel, traditional publishing was in upheaval, and editors were buying fewer debut novels than ever. It seemed the only way to get an offer was to have an inside connection or write a book in the hottest genre. Neither my book nor I qualified.

One element that I could possibly have controlled was to write a book destined to become a classic. I may be a bit delusional about my talent, but I know I’m not that good a writer. My book is a good story, it’s a pleasant read, but no one will ever add it to their favorite-book-of-all-time list.

So, if no editor was likely to buy my book, no agent was interested in representing it. I woke from the dream of seeing my book published by a big New York publisher. I started exploring other options. I researched self-publishing as well as small presses.

I was leaning toward submitting my book to these small publishers when something happened that changed everything.

Exactly a year ago, my husband’s employer downsized and because my husband was the highest paid manager in his store, he was shown the door. Overnight, our income dropped by 60%—sixty percent! We’ve never had much money, and what we had we didn’t manage the best we could have, so I knew if my husband didn’t get another job right away (difficult because of his age), it wouldn’t be long before we exhausted our savings. Long story short, he didn’t.

I panicked. Then I decided I could help. I had a book to sell. Suddenly, waiting another year or so to have my book published by a small press was out of the question. So in an extraordinary mixture of overestimation, misunderstanding, and fantasy, I chose to self-publish.

If you know the stress of total DIY publishing, imagine adding to that a total lifestyle change. I think I handle stress well, but I don’t really. I just internalize it. My body takes what it can and then starts packing on pounds, breaking out in skin problems, and producing pain, pain, pain. Nice, when you have no medical insurance, right? Okay, that’s the last of my whining on this blog.

Now I’ve finally told you why I really self-published. It wasn’t a well thought out decision. I think only now, seven months later, do I even understand how I should have tried to market the book. And despite what I wrote earlier, I now know you can publish without spending a lot of money, but it’s incredibly hard to successfully sell without spending money—at least not when you’re trying to sell a debut novel.

I apologize for writing so many glum posts this last year, but maybe now you’ll understand why. Nothing has changed in our financial situation, but I’ve decided it’s time to change my attitude. I’ve read many posts lately by writer friends that have lifted me up and shown me the path I need to get back on. This post is already too long, so I’ll publicly thank them next time.

I know you are, but what am I?

My friend Kayla Olson brought something to my attention this morning. She pointed me to a rant, posted anonymously by someone at a book review site, screaming at DIY authors like me using the term “Indie,” as in Indie author or Indie publisher. Their contention was that Indie was a term coined by vanity presses to scam would-be clients into believing they were legitimate independent presses.

So, what’s the definition of independent press? Traditionally, it applied to a small trade press. Now, that definition has been muddied because vanity publishers have adopted the use of the term and self-published authors refer to themselves as “Indie published.”  Am I self-published, then? Well … not if the definition of self-published means you only sell your books directly, which is how some define the term.

I don’t want to insult anyone by usurping a term I’m not entitled to use. I also don’t want to slap an unwarranted negative label on my work. I am the author, publisher, book designer, and cover artist for The Brevity of Roses. It’s a first-class job on all levels. Label it how you will. I don’t think readers care. So, for clarification—I’m an AUTHOR.

Update:  You’ll notice in my sidebar over there —> that my book is now available in digital formats at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. The print version will be available at Amazon within a week, I hope.

Support your local indie, self-published, DIY author!


Take heart queriers!

In my last post, I voiced my opinion that nowadays it’s almost impossible for a writer to obtain representation through cold-querying an agent. I also asked you to share your opinions. Some of you agreed, some of you disagreed, and some of you were discouraged. Today, I’d like to address all those reactions.

If you agreed with me, you’ve surely been down the same path I trod. Enough said.

If you disagreed, you’re in good company. Jody Hedlund, whose recent blog post, in part, inspired mine, stopped by to remind me that she advised those still looking for a literary agent to query the new agents. That’s good advice. New agents are actively building their client list and are more open to cold-queries.

Some who disagreed, did so because they or a writer friend recently found representation through cold-querying. I would bet they all write YA fiction. And those that don’t, write in another hot genre. Bottom line: it is easier for some writers than others to get the attention of an agent without a referral or a prior connection, simply because of what they write, not necessarily because they are better writers than those who get form rejections.

So, for those of you who might have been discouraged by my post, take heart. Agents still need books to represent—new agents, especially. And if you can make contact with those agents through conferences, seminars, their blogs, or Twitter, so much the better.

And if the traditional route doesn’t work for you, you can query the editors at small presses. Or you can come back here and we’ll discuss Indie Publishing. Good luck to us all, whichever way we publish.


Can we get together and discuss this?

I know very little about self-publishing or e-publishing—or even small press publishing. I wanted to get that out of the way, so you understand I’m asking for information and discussion today, not stating an opinion from a knowledgeable viewpoint.

I do know that vanity publishing (where the author pays money to the “publisher”) is NOT something I’m interested in. But the longer I travel this agent query road, the more I find myself wondering about other publishing options. I haven’t given up trying to find an agent to represent my novel to a big name publisher (I have queries and partials out) but when I allow myself to read agent statistics, I tend to question whether I ought to face those facts with my head rather than my heart.

Consider this: established agents receive a conservative average of 50 queries a day—that’s almost 20,000 queries a year—but during that time take on maybe 5 new clients! Sobering odds, huh?

If you’ve ever looked up the agent who represented your favorite author, chances are you found that said agent “does not accept unsolicited queries.” The fact is the best way to get an agent to consider your query is by client referral. How many of you know an author offering to put in a good word for you with their agent? Show of hands.

For the most part, I search for new agents trying to build their client lists. They are just as hopeful they’ll discover the next best-selling author as we’re hopeful we are that author.

I know I’m not the only one who’s curious about the other publishing options. Natasha recently wrote a post about this. And super agent Nathan Bransford has written about e-publishing and self-publishing options.

So now, I’d like to know your thoughts. Have you considered (or chosen) one of these options? What do you know about the pros and cons? Do you think what you write should be a consideration? In the end, does it come down to a simple decision of why you write, whether you write just to share a story vs. writing to make money?