Sunday, January 18, 2009

About Self-Publishing

A short article I wrote about choosing self-publishing was printed in an indie publishers trade journal (The Independent) this month. I am amazed at how many emails I have received about this one article. Here is an abridged version of “Just Said No.”

For nearly thirty years I waited for a publisher to discover me, to say, “Your manuscript is the best thing since Moses came down off the mountain,” to offer me a contract, to connect me with my adoring readers. I wrote, and dreamed, and wrote, and fantasized, and edited, and hoped, and wrote again, and sent out letters and more letters and emails and more emails and followed leads and methodically went through Writer’s Market with post-its and highlighter, and drafted flattering letters to distant agents and perfected the art of the query, and wrote, and hoped. Then I got wise. I researched and pursued self-publication.

A few weeks ago, the most remarkable thing happened: a bona fide small publisher approached me about publishing a sequel to The Call to Shakabaz and (slap me) I just said no. In under three minutes I convinced this publisher that I would be too much trouble to work with, that we would never agree on contract terms, that, in short, I am as batty as Lucy Ricardo on prozac and they want nothing to do with me. All the while, my inner voice was shouting, “What?! Did you just talk yourself out of a publishing contract?! You should be committed!”

The truth is that I love my little publishing company and I want Woza to get all the credit for publishing my book(s). I don’t want to share my meager profits. I’m not satisfied with royalties. I’m doing all the work. I want the reward. I want to market my books in my own fashion. I don’t want someone else mutilating my messages with clumsy advertising. I want to create my image, determine my audience, and select my venues. I refuse to engage in a brutal author tour when I can do just as well touring cyberspace and using the Internet to market my book. I don’t want to contribute to global warming and U.S. dependence on foreign oil by traveling to bookstores in places where I can’t go home to my own bed for the night. I’m a recluse. Why would I want to leave home? I don’t want to submit to an editor. I am an editor. How many publishers would allow me to edit my own book? I’d wager, none. But, I ask myself, who edited Beatrix Potter? D.H. Lawrence? Tolstoy? Flaubert? I admit, I’m not Flaubert, but who’s to say I can’t write and edit? I think I can. I think I did. (Not in French of course.)

I don’t want a publisher to change the title of my book, choose an author photo that makes me look as if I’d done my hair with an egg beater, decide on the cover design, select the interior fonts and the chapter names. I want to have the book printed on recycled paper, even though it costs more per unit. In short, I want complete control over the entire product and the entire process. I did a decent job the first time around, all things considered. I’m confident I can do it again. I like having my own publishing company, as impoverished and unknown as it is. I am that new breed of author who is self-published by choice, who refuses to buy into the traditional corporate established literary complex. I choose indie and I’m proud.

If you have read all the way to the end of this entry, here’s the punch line. I wrote this article in August. By the time it was published, this month, I must admit that the money I had earmarked to publish my next book has evaporated. Without going into the gory details of our family’s personal financial woes, suffice it to say that we are struggling on many fronts, all related to the fact that the economy has tanked. So publishing another book ain’t gonna happen anytime soon. Sigh. I received so many “bravo” emails for that article. How could I possibly cave in and accept an offer from a publisher if it comes my way now? I can’t win. Obama, save me.

1 comment:

Murr Brewster said...

What a tremendous post. There's almost too much to say about it. You hauled me up in a little airplane and you soared and then the hatch opened up beneath my butt and I didn't pack a parachute.

I will say that there are a heck of a lot of souls I know who are also in free-fall. At least, judging from your joyous photographs in the later post, you are wealthy in one very important regard.