You’re Not Less of a Writer if You Self-Publish

At the age of 5, I was introduced to the world of book binding and publishing. In fact, the first book that I ever published was self-published in 1992 by Telfair Elementary School in Pacoima, California. Thanks to the efforts of faculty members, I was raised to be an indie author and truly enjoyed every aspect of working collaboratively with my book buddy. Together, we produced a picture book that was featured in our school library and on my bookshelf at home. For years I was proud of that hardcover, and have strived to feel that sense of pride again.

In 2011, nearly twenty years later, I decided to publish my graduate thesis, Synonyms for Grief. However – as I discussed in 5 Steps to Self-Pubbing – I didn’t have the necessary tools to produce a sophisticated piece of work. Still, I was proud of it at the time. It felt like a real book. However, I’d heard others tell me: you deserve more than this. “This” – self-publishing. It was at that moment I considered the value of my words, and wondered if self-publishing diminished the collection’s quality.

It’s true: Self-publishing still carries a heavy stigma. To choose self-publishing sounds as though a writer has given up, or has taken the easy way out; the assumption is: they haven’t tried to pitch their work to agents and major publications. Being an indie author also suggests the work was not “up to par” to publishing standards. Yet, when I think of other industries, and more specifically “indie” musicians, the quality of their music is hardly considered subpar. In the music industry, indie musicians thrive and aren’t stigmatized. The differences between mainstream and indie is more of a marketing thing and less about the quality of the work.

Mantra: My book have value because I have taken the time to produce the best art I can at this moment in time. I am not ashamed of what I have created, and am proud to be called an indie author.

Love from the Barricade will be my first novel as an indie author, and I am excited to share what three years of work has to offer my future readers.

After almost two years of querying and pitching my book to slush piles and other publishing events, I have decided that the one person who is truly passionate about my book is: me. It isn’t that agents and publishers haven’t loved the book or the writing – they have. I have several rejections letters which detail my ability to write. The issue, however, seems to be more of a sub-cultural disconnect and discussion of agent preference. And as any agent will tell you: this industry is completely subjective. So, no, I’m not mad at these agents, nor am I even bitter with their decisions. On the contrary: I’m grateful for these last few years of querying and speaking one-on-one with agents because I know that I am capable of captivating an audience with my writing; I just have to take my own path, and luckily, self-publishing is there for me.

It’s true: Self-publishing still carries a heavy stigma. To choose self-publishing sounds as though a writer has given up, or has taken the easy way out.

As an indie author, I have complete creative control over every aspect of my book. Perhaps because I was on the layout and design team for a literary magazine, that researching book sizes, finishes, paper, and typsetting, etc. is less of a chore. On my own time, I get to walk into book stores to pet books! I can work directly with a designer and discuss how I want the book to be presented; my editors know exactly what I am trying to convey, and they aren’t telling me what story I can’t write because it’s not “marketable.” When all the decisions are made, my book – from front to back – is my own unique vision and no one else’s.

And as any agent will tell you: this industry is completely subjective. So, no, I’m not mad at these agents, nor am I even bitter with their decisions. On the contrary: I’m grateful for these last few years of querying and speaking one-on-one with agents because I know that I am capable of captivating an audience with my writing; I just have to take my own path, and luckily, self-publishing is there for me.

But to get to this level of comfort takes research. Finding a publishing team was a year’s worth of trial and error. It came with heartache, but now that I have experimented and networked, I have found people who I believe in, and in turn, they believe in me. Having your own publishing team rooting for you is the essential tool towards being a successful, and happy, indie author.

Of course, I wouldn’t have gotten here if it wasn’t for Nicole Tone. Although she is my editor, before that, she was an indie author I absolutely respected. It was her courage to self-publish Without Benefits that sparked mine. Additionally, many of my colleagues from my graduate program have began their own publishing presses, or have released their books through smaller, boutique presses. They’re not less of anything, though. Just because they’ve strayed from the mainstream only suggests that they are that much more dedicated to their passions. And that’s a beautiful quality, considering that so many voices are left unheard because of industry preferences.

When all the decisions are made, my book – from front to back – is my own unique vision and no one else’s.

At the end of the day, writers who truly value their work and the effort it takes to fine-tune their craft will outshine those that are slightly more unprepared. And being unprepared doesn’t necessarily mean this author’s work is not valuable; it simply means they need guidance. As booksellers and book mangers, it should be their job to guide indie authors in the direction of more accessible tools so that they can support them at their locations. I don’t mean to suggest that it should be the book manager’s responsibility to become directly involved, but a gentle nudge in the right direction would make this industry a lot more welcoming and accepting of indie authors.

All stories deserve to be told, and if they didn’t, we wouldn’t have mediums to make that possible.

If you’re an indie author with a story, I’d love to hear from you. Please share your story with me here.

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