Five Reasons to Self-Publish | author’s note

I was against self-publishing for quite some time. It just wasn’t for me, no way, nohow, mainly because of the following two stumbling blocks:

  • I felt bombarded with stories (from NPR, agency sites, advice from other authors) about how the publishing industry looks down on self-publishing. It wasn’t the right way to do it. Self-publishing was a short cut, and they felt it polluted the industry without any standards or gatekeepers. (Maybe it does—but then again, there’s a whole lot of traditionally-published crap out there, too. Who’s keeping up the standards for that stuff?)
  • It can cost major money to publish your own print version books. Minimum a few hundred dollars, possibly much more, and that’s without distribution. I didn’t have hundreds to invest—or rather, thousands, because I wrote a series of seven books so far, and wanted it to come out as a series. One novel? Maybe I’d fork out the cash for printing and distributing. But paying for the entire series to get printed, or even just the first two or three books, was a bigger investment than I was ready to make without any guarantee of sales and no one to help me figure it out.

And so I kept doggedly sending out query letters, working myself up to begin the new cycle of researching agents, writing up that “perfect” query email (which I’ve never been able to do), sorting out which agents wanted how much of which chapters in which format, finally hitting “send” with a feeling less of relief than of utter deflation. It wasn’t even the rejections I minded so much, though they aren’t a picnic. It was the process itself I found so dismal and challenging. It sapped all my creative energy and made me not want to write—and what’s the point of being a writer for fun if writing isn’t fun anymore?

And then, this past June, my mom saw an ad for Kindle Direct Publishing and sent me the link. I read the description of how it works. I read it again. And I got over my issues about being self-published and dove gleefully in. Not only was it free, with free distribution, but a whole boatload of authors—both traditionally-published and not—were jumping on the ebook bandwagon. I didn’t even hesitate, but threw all my energy into creating cover artwork, fiercely re-editing my first book and learning how to format it for Kindle. Within two weeks, it was online and available for sale.

It’s been one of the highest points in my life, seeing my books on Amazon. Maybe I went the “easy” route, maybe I’ll never sell more than a hundred copies. To be perfectly honest, it doesn’t matter in the slightest. I LOVE that my books are available to the world. I don’t care that I didn’t get a contract or a fat advance, or that I’ve stumbled into the bewildering arena of self-promoting and feel totally clueless about it. I’m inspired and thrilled and, best of all, writing again.

So what are the reasons you might want to self-publish your book?

  1. If you go the ebook route, it’s FREE, and the formatting is simple to do yourself. Bonus, if you find a mistake after going live, you can fix it extremely easily.
  2. The internet abounds with communities of authors assisting and supporting each other through the process of self-publishing, not to mention great marketing resources and social media (Goodreads, etc.).
  3. Self-publishing won’t automatically prevent you from being signed with an agent or getting a contract in the future (recently an author told me that agents have taken to checking Kindle bestseller lists for potential clients). The stigma is changing rapidly with the success of so many self-published books.
  4. No more query letters, no more competing for the limited attention of a small audience of agents or editors and receiving only rejections. (This was huge for me!)
  5. You can actually earn some money from selling your book, which is better than sitting on a manuscript and earning nothing at all.

(I have to add here that I believe all published works should be the BEST quality possible no matter who hits that final switch. Edited and re-edited and edited yet again, read by a variety of people to see if they liked it, finished it and wanted to read more. Honest feedback, even if it stings a bit, can only make you a better writer.)

I chose to self-publish because I could so easily, because it brings me joy, and because I decided not to worry about the possibility of being written off by the publishing industry for going ahead with my creative dreams. Of course I’d absolutely adore to have savvy professionals editing and selling my books, advancing my career far beyond what I can on my own. But stellar success isn’t in the cards for most writers, and isn’t my ultimate goal anyway.

Are there reasons not to self-publish? Sure there are, and deciding whether or not to do it is a personal choice. Selling my books through KDP has given me the chance to become what I’ve always aspired to become: a published author, and that’s reason enough for me!

– Emily

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