I first met Jeanne Jusaitis when I joined my writing critique group several years ago. She had self published a young adult fantasy-adventure-magical-realism-type novel called Journey to Anderswelt. I thought the storyline sounded cool, but I’m not sure I was quite as impressed as if it had been traditionally published.
After I’d known Jeanne for a while, she told me that her book had been under consideration by a legit publishing house, but that the company changed owners and the new owner decided to nix all young adult projects. Meanwhile, she’d spent a good deal of time working with one of the publishing house’s editors. She decided, I suppose, that life was too short to start the whole process over again, and she self published her book.
The longer I hung around Redwood Writers, a 300-member writers’ group, the more of these stories I heard. Books held up for months or years by a publishing company that got bought out or chose to go another direction. The authors finally chose to self publish, and their books were high quality—many of them high enough quality to have been accepted by a traditional publisher. And the ones who did complete the traditional publishing feat were often disappointed with the way they were treated by (especially the larger) publishing houses and chose to self publish their next book. Slowly my mind was changed about self publishing.
But the problem is, buyers’ minds have not changed. I can’t blame them, because I used to feel the same way before going to writing presentation after writing presentation. Another problem, I think, is that we can’t conceive of someone we know personally being anything but an amateur writer. I get far more compliments on my writing from people who don’t know me personally than from friends. Maybe my friends hear my nasally voice when they read my words. Maybe they can’t not picture my bad posture or my political Facebook posts.
I recently met someone who works for a publishing company, and she agreed to read a manuscript of mine that I never self published because I couldn’t figure out what to use for cover art. I couldn’t help but think that maybe if it gets accepted, my friends will see me as a real writer. The thing is, my essays and articles have been published by other people. I am a real writer. An agent said that my book was well-written and she loved the theme. She would have accepted it if it had “a sweeping romance.” (Yes, I’m still hung up on that.) I’ll bet you can think of a few traditionally published authors that you think are worse than me! And his or her first edition probably had just as many typos as my books.
So why not give your friend’s self-published book a shot? You will make his or her day. Most people who publish their own books first hire a content editor and then a line editor. Okay, not me, but most people. They are usually quality products. Maybe the author didn’t want to spend years writing to publishers, or maybe the publishers “loved the book but didn’t have space for a book in that genre at the moment.” I’m not even thinking of myself. I know that all my friends have the same lament, and I know that you have a friend who’s always talking about her book. Why not make her day? Why not give him a chance? Why not try self-published!