Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Why I Decided to Self-Publish

Share it Please
I stared at the "submit" button for a few minutes before clicking it, thereby putting my work out there for the world to see.  Okay, more like two years. For two years I left Anything Less Than Everything languishing in final edits because I knew finishing it would mean doing something with it. I have notebooks full of writing that I am completely content to have stay there, but this was a novel. A novel! 62,000 words. I knew I'd invested way too much time and effort to allow it to stay with me. The fact that I teach writing to both teenagers and other teachers also pressed me to publish. Publication is part of the writing process, after all, one that gets skipped more and more the older the students get. If I'm going to encourage--require even--my students to share their writing, I have to be willing to do it myself.

I've had other pieces published. While taking Shakespeare in grad school, my professor had the class write a collaborative essay and she submitted it on our behalf to a scholarly journal. Then I was approached by someone at the National Writing Project about including a memoir I had posted on the eAnthology in the National Gallery of Writing. Two years later I responded to a call for submissions for a collection of stories about teaching by teachers. So I have stepped slowly into the world of publishing. The process of publishing a novel, though, is much different than my other publishing experiences.

At least traditional publishing is.

Traditional publishing generally requires an agent, who might be able to help you get picked up by a publisher. Then your book might make it to the bookstores in a location where it might be seen and purchased. To be honest, that was more work and more mights than I was willing to take on. I'm not looking to make a career change or anything! The fact is that I had a story that I was rather fond of and wanted to share it with readers. That's it.

And so I began investigating self-publishing. I read a lot of self-pubbed books to see what those authors were doing right and wrong. There are a lot of horrible self-pubbed books out there, and I didn't want to be lumped in that group. I read about the process of formatting manuscripts, designing covers, writing blurbs...everything. I have complete control of the process, but I also don't have help. Well, that's not completely true. There are myriad resources out there to help self-publishers, but at the end of the day, all decisions are my call. That's both freeing and paralyzing.

In the end, self-publishing was the best way for me to achieve my goal of sharing my story. I do feel a bit weird (okay, a lot weird) proclaiming my authorial status to the world for fear real authors will roll their eyes. I skipped the rejection letters and heartbreak, after all. (Although, an author acquaintance of mine was one of the first to comment on my Facebook post that Anything Less Than Everything had released.)

Selling the book through Amazon, et. al. allows me to get my story out to a wider audienIce while offering a bit more protection of my work than just throwing it up on a website. And charging for the book actually makes it more likely that people will read it than if it were free. Weird, but true. I doubt I'll ever be adding "Over 1 million copies sold" to the cover or anything, and that's okay. That may be the greatest writing lesson I've learned over the years: writing doesn't have to be best-selling for it to be legitimate writing. It still counts, even if the audience is small. It's the doing that's important.

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