Taking the Leap

Taking the Leap

There seems to be an eternal debate between Traditional Publishing and Self-publishing. People will argue over which is ‘better,’ with certain camps believing adamantly that self-publication ‘doesn’t count.’ I’m not here to throw my two cents into the ring; it’s obvious where my opinion falls. Suffice to say, there are advantages and disadvantages to each method, and every writer ultimately has to choose which path is best for them. My journey has been a roller coaster of indecision, bouncing back and forth between one and the other before I decided to take the leap. I appreciate the value in both ends of the spectrum, but there were several reasons I settled on self-publishing.

When I started writing full-time three years ago, I had no idea where the journey would take me. I hoped my efforts would lead to publication, but when, and of what, I couldn’t have guessed. Three years later, I feel like the time has come to release my work into the wild. Though finding an agent and selling my work to a traditional publisher might have given my sales an initial boost, it would also mean waiting much longer to get my work into the hands of a reader. Traditional publication takes a great deal of time, so that all the professionals who help make the final product have time to do their work.

Part of the control aspect of self-publication is being able to take it at your own pace, and to set the release date when the time comes. It may seem impatience on my part – and it is true that I’m eager to share my work – but I assure you I didn’t allow myself to rush. Three years writing, re-writing and polishing a manuscript has resulted in a product I’m proud to share, and that’s the book I’ve put into your hands. As an added bonus, I can get feedback directly from my readers on the finished product and use that to improve my novel’s upcoming sequel. Some may very well make the argument that time is money especially considering…

Most first time authors are expected to bear the brunt of marketing their first book. It’s true that traditional publishers use their contacts to get your work in bookstores. But if you aren’t a bestselling author, you aren’t going to see a lot of money go into the promotion of your book. In fact traditionally published authors are encouraged to use social media to network with fans, as well as keep a blog (all things which I already do). Many agents seem interested your author website and social media platform as well.

This isn’t to say I couldn’t benefit from the support of a traditional publishing company; I’m sure I would. But I am willing to put the work in. One of the things I love most about my blog and social media, is that it lets me connect to people who share my passions; readers and writers alike. In fact, I’d like to stay approachable as long as I can, so that if someone does like my work they’ll be able to connect with me with relative ease. Without readers, after all, I won’t be able to continue doing what I love.

Creative Control
The number-one argument you always hear for self-publication is that you get to maintain control over every aspect. Generally when you traditionally publish, the publisher chooses the cover art and the writer gets no say. Likewise, the publisher might ask you to make changes to the details or names of the characters to make them more marketable. Case in point, I’ve been warned on several occasions that, were I to traditionally publish, I would probably be asked to change my main character’s name (from ‘Catilen’ to ‘Caitlin’). And while I’d have made that change without putting up a fuss, I’d rather not have to.

This isn’t to say that an editor couldn’t give me valuable feedback that would help me improve the flow, pacing, and prose of my work. But I haven’t written in a vacuum either. I’ve had the feedback of several trusted beta readers to guide me. Not to mention the help of my co-author. I’m also fortunate to know a talented artist who was willing to provide me with a cover that perfectly matched my vision. I like that my fingers are in every aspect of this project, as is my creative influence, and all of it fits into my final vision. It would be difficult for me to give up that control, even if I knew others were working to enhance the project.

Traditional publication is a rigid process. It works a certain way. It comes with deadlines and contracts. All those things serve their purposes, but I like the idea of being able to do what I want. I like the idea of rearranging projects to get the readers what they want. I like the idea of offering short stories including people’s favourite characters as gifts of gratitude. Traditional publication often (but not always) requires you to sign away your rights, limiting your ability to publish other stories within your own world. I like the idea of future anthologies and collaborations. After all, I made these worlds; I’d like to play in them.

Perhaps the best thing about the decision, though, is that I can revisit it with every project. If something is particularly suited to the traditional market, I can seek representation later.

Unbeatable Experience
I never realized how much work went into publishing a book until I decided to do it myself. For all those who say self-publishing is easy, I can safely assure you that’s not the case. Doing it all yourself isn’t nearly as easy or simple as it sounds. But I’ve learned more about what goes into making a book since I set out on this journey than I ever thought there was to know. Putting a book together has given me better insight into my own writing process, into the editing process, and into the general structure and make-up of stories in general. I’m a much better writer – and a much better person – on the other side of this journey than I was when I started.

Sink or swim, the experience of self-publication is valuable enough that I think it’s been well worth the effort, and I doubt my mind will change. If anything, I wish I’d decided to take the plunge sooner. Alas, I was hung up on the distinction between self-publication and traditional publication, mistakenly believing I required an agent and a publisher to validate my work.

I’ve written this prior to the actual release of my book (though it will go up after), so as to how things turned out; that’ll be another blog post for another time!

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