I washed up on the shore of self-publishing in exhaustion and misery. There were never any guarantees that I would be accepted into the insular world of traditional publishing. Most writers aren’t. But I’ve made a career out of nearly cresting that summit and then rolling back to Square One, and I can’t do it any longer. My arguments against self-publishing have always been as follows:
If I self-publish, I make myself untouchable to traditional publishing forever.
If I self-publish, people will call me a loser.
If I self-publish, I am admitting defeat.
Well, let’s examine the first. Traditional publishing has shown that it does not want my books, or it wants them but can’t produce them. Maybe my lightning strike is just fifteen more years of queries down the road. Maybe it’s tomorrow. But there is a very real possibility that it is never, and that’s what my instincts tell me. I fail to see how self-publishing will hurt a reputation that will never exist, and I’m tired of being a Professional Queryist. I can’t run in this hamster wheel any longer. Other writers can, and I respect that. But I can’t. I want off.
Now the second. Yes, there is a stigma to self-publishing. It isn’t as bad as it used to be, but it does still exist. Yet I can toil in obscurity (likely forever) trying for a publisher, or enjoy thirty fans through self-publishing. Thirty fans are better than no fans, and some of them will recommend my book to others, and maybe then I’ll have thirty-one. My book doesn’t have a Big 6 logo, my readers won’t have the security of knowing this book was accepted into the Big Boys Club and that must make it good, and so my words will have to speak for themselves. Yes, The Dammerung is self-published. But people have read it and enjoyed it, and that’s what a writer wants. I have thirty fans for a book that was going to have no fans at all, so I won’t make Sour Grapes Face over it not being thirty million. In the end, does validation come from saying I got a publisher and a massive print run, or from a happy reader? Does it come from bragging about who I signed with on Facebook? No. It comes from knowing someone read The Dammerung and now wants another book with my name on the digital cover.
You can call me a loser. That’s fair. I did lose. But it felt more like losing to live with that book gathering virtual dust in my laptop. Now it’s out there, and only a few people will ever run into it, but that beats no people at all.
I struggled against the last argument most of all. Am I admitting defeat?
I admit defeat with traditional publishing. Some people believe in HOLD ONTO YOUR DREAMS and NEVER SAY DIE and THE ONLY LOSER IS THE PERSON WHO QUITS!!! Well, I quit. I’m done. I will not sink any more time or money or stress into the pursuit of traditional publishing. There will be no career for me, not ever. It was a dream that didn’t come true. Not all of them do. Writing will only ever be my most beloved hobby, and self-publishing will let me share it with a few other people. The sales I’ve made through self-publishing have netted me more than I made when I was published traditionally. It isn’t hard to beat $0.
It has taken me years to let go of that lightning strike chance ever out of reach, but that bolt isn’t aimed at me. So I raise the white flag. You win, traditional publishing. I’m out of this race. I will release everything through self-publishing. At the end of March, I’ll put out two sci-fi short stories, one for those who like serious literary science fiction, and one for those who like their sci-fi light and fluffy. The first book of my series will be released at the end of April.
And for the first time in a long time with my writing, I’m excited about it.