Fiction, Life, Marketing, Novel, Promotion, Publish, Real Life, Writing

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.

31 thoughts on “The whole truth about why I self-published”

  1. Reading over the comments, Linda , I was struck by what Jennifer said.—“I don’t think I would have the courage in such a situation to take the leap of faith needed to do what you did.” —- I know I wouldn’t have had that kind of courage. Reading about your journey this past while has been amazing. You are courageous. Not only that, you’ve worked so very hard. You need to be proud that you followed this through.

    Marketing is challenging, even with a traditional publisher. I certainly had no idea what I was getting into, either. Like you, I’ve gained insight into what I might do differently another time around. Thank goodness we do learn as we go.

    I have said this more than once, but post publication is a bit of a strange place to be. Other authors have also said this. I can relate.

    I’m glad you’ve decided to become optimistic. I’m sending you nothing but best wishes, Linda. 🙂

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    1. But, Laura, didn’t it take courage for you to submit your book to a publisher?

      I think you’re right, no one knows what post-publication is like until you experience it.

      Thank you for the well wishes, and I hope you have a good time with your granddaughter this weekend. 🙂

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      1. Thanks Linda, I will actually have the entire week with my granddaughter. I feel very fortunate. 🙂

        By the time I submitted my book to publishers, I was very used to submitting and receiving rejections with my short stories. It didn’t feel as though it took a whole lot of courage on my part, but then maybe when we look at things from someone else’s perspective it feels much different. However, in the beginning, submitting was VERY difficult for me to do, so I guess in that way, you’re right.

        I still say you have done something that many wouldn’t have and you have my utmost respect for following through with your dream.

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  2. I’m still hyperventilating at the idea of a sudden, unplanned 60% drop in income. While I’ve certainly had some tough times, most of those were when I was much younger, more flexible, and less established. I see now why you went for this in such a dedicated way. But the difference between you and many others, is that you still took time to get it right. You gave your readers the best product you could deliver, not one that said ‘I’m desperate so forgive the crappy editing, pretty please’.
    I have admiration overload. Your diligence and application are exceptional 🙂

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    1. It’s been quite a shock, Suzanne. But we go on, don’t we? I do like to do a job well, and unless I wanted to write the next book under a pseudonym, I figured I’d better do the best I could on the first book. 😉

      Thank you for the praise, but I know it’s no less than you would (and have) done.

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