The decision to self-publish was not an easy one for me. I grew up with the belief that true talent didn’t count until it was recognized by someone who had the power to publish my work. I spent a lot of years trying to write the perfect short story. I studied what I read in different literary magazines and I tried to write a story that would make the editors publish me, because I believed that to attention of an agent I had to have a list of publications to present. It didn’t matter that I didn’t particularly enjoy writing short stories or that it wasn’t the medium in which I excelled, I did it because I believed that’s what I had to do. Even believing that good work would get discovered and published no matter what, I still believed I had to have a list of publications and, eventually, attend conferences and meet an agent and editor to get another foot in the door. Seems nonsensical now that I believed all of that, but I did and I had a hard time letting go of that mentality.
My first inspiration to self-publish came from my husband. He’s a self-starter, the kind of person who doesn’t believe in paying someone to do anything you can do yourself. It didn’t make sense to him that I would spend years honing my craft and then give a percentage of my profits to an agent and to a publishing house.
The second inspiration was my grandmother. She’s an artist, who is well-known in her hometown and has had her work shown in galleries throughout Virginia. She told me that after she’d graduated from art school, she sold her paintings in a shack on the side of the interstate. She didn’t wait for someone to accept her or twist herself to create the art she thought others would want. She painted what she wanted to paint and she got out there and sold it. She made a name for herself.
My third inspiration came from the unlikeliest source of all. In Donald Maas’ book, The Career Novelist, he says: “Today, fewer editors are editing more books . . .[authors] also have to prove themselves mostly on their own, since advertising and promotion money is as scarce as it has ever been” (p. 19). So, basically, there’s no guarantee my book would be edited well, or at all, and I would likely be responsible for marketing the book myself. It just didn’t make sense to me that I would be doing all the work and getting 25% of the profits (which is what the typical traditionally published author gets).
I’ve loved the experience of self-publishing, particularly that every decision made about my books has been my own. If a book doesn’t do well, I just have myself to blame and I am entirely comfortable with that. On the flip side, every new fan I get, every little bit of praise, is even better to me than approval from an agent or an editor. The readers are the only ones I care about impressing.