Traditional or Self-publishing – My Liberating Decision

(Author’s note: This post may or may not have been written in a fit of anger.)

When I started writing five or so years ago, I was sure that self-publishing was for losers. But after meeting some fantastic writers who had, for many reasons, chosen self-publishing, I had to admit that I might be a little bit wrong, and that maybe self-publishing was at least a good way to start.

The dream, though, was always to be really published. Self-publish until the real publishers discovered me. Then I’d hit the big time, or at least look like I’d hit the big time. I had been to many a seminar where the speaker told us how poorly they’d been treated by the big publishers. Little to no marketing help, royalties used for marketing without the author’s knowledge, edits the author was not comfortable with…

But still, I wanted to look like I had hit the big time, even though I knew full well that the average first novel traditionally published makes an average of $6,000 for the author. That’s about $5,900 more than I’ve made self-publishing, so it still seemed like a dream to me.

Until tonight.

The other day, I read a great article about how to get more Twitter followers. It was all about engaging with others in your field. Simply, generously, regularly, and kindly. Great advice! So tonight I tried, and I failed. A famous woman in the industry tweeted some guy’s blog, and without knowing who he was or reading his blog closely, I made a comment about publishers, author websites, and SEO that showed I had no idea who the guy was. When he told me, a little condescendingly, that I had misunderstood him, I had an epiphany.

I do not need these people. I do not need them to build my website, I do not need them to tell me my book is great except that it needs a romance, I do not need them to write one more wisdom-from-on-high blog entry.

Right now, a small publisher is reading one of my young adult novels. If they accept it, I’ll be thrilled. We have a personal relationship that evolved naturally out of a writing contest I won, and I’m confident they’d treat me well. But if they don’t accept it, I’m done. I’m done trying to schmooze, conform, network*, in order to publish. I have already published, and it occurs to me that I could be spending my time selling my books instead of tailoring queries for specific people (I love dogs, too! bleh) and sending those queries into the ether trying to get someone else to sell my books for me (maybe) and take a cut.

It took me five years to understand what my writing group friends have tried to tell me all along. Maybe you’ll come to a different conclusion, but if you don’t – if you’re just getting started and five years from now you realize that you and your writing buddies are all you need – come back and tell me about your books. I will tell my friends about them. We are all we need.

*don’t get me started

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