This month marks a momentous milestone for me. I will officially be hitting ‘self-publish’ on my neverending writing project. Making the decision wasn’t easy, though, here’s what gave me that final push.
For the last however long, I’ve been writing a children’s book called Olive in the Heights. I can’t exactly say how long it’s been, but I can say it has officially been ‘years’. And, I’m almost certain that no one who starts writing a book ever thinks they will be one of those writers that ‘takes years’ to finish their book. No sane person would start writing a book knowing that, I’m sure. But, as it turns out, I’m one of those writers.
Now, thankfully, the book is finished. But, I’m faced with a new dilemma: publishing. There’s a lot of questions out there about publishing. ‘Do I contact literary agents or publishers?’ ‘How do I write a cover letter?’ ‘How do I format my manuscript?’ ‘When will this all be OVER!?’ ‘HELP ME???’ (I imagine each of these are typed directed into search engines by other helpless writers on a daily basis.) But, one of the biggest questions seems to be, ‘to traditionally publish or self-publish?’
I’ve been weighing up the options for a while now. Traditional publishing is still well-respected, self-publishing often isn’t. Traditional publishers can potentially earn you more readers, but trying and failing to get published traditionally for years will earn you exactly zero readers. Self-publishing usually garners less readers but the successful ones often have plenty of dedicated readers too. And, the list goes on…
Recently, I stumbled across an article called ‘Self-Publishing: An Insult To The Written Word’, along with a number of other angry writers. (I don’t think I have to explain what the article was about, it did what it said on the tin.) As the idea of self-publishing was mercilessly smushed into the ground by the article author, I felt my heart dropping. Self-publishing was still a choice I was considering, but it certainly seemed a lot less appealing. I started to wonder if all writers (and readers) thought it was as despicable as this writer did. I scrolled with a sigh until I reached the comments section. (Note that this may be the one and only moment that I will be thankful for irate online commenters!)
A number of readers and writers expertly argued in the corner of self-publishing. They argued that traditional publishers may be the ‘gatekeepers’ to the book market but the readers are the final judges. They argued that plenty of fantastic and unique books get turned down because publishers need ‘tried and tested’ story models. They argued that traditional publishing is leaving your fate to be decided by someone else and self-publishing is taking control of your own fate. (And, a few just said that the author was just full of shit, which I also appreciated.)
In my humble opinion, many of the commenters said something a lot more interesting and thought-provoking – not to mention amusing – in their few short sentences than the original writer did in her entire article. Ironically, the words of these commenters (commenters not vetted by the all-seeing all-knowing eye of a traditional publisher, I may add) are what secured my final decision to self-publish, not the words of the professionally published author who wrote 1000 words on the subject. And, if that’s not a tribute to self-published writers then I don’t know what is!