I’ve been a writer for almost as long as I can remember. When I was in the early years of grade school, I’d use my classmates as characters in science fiction and fantasy epic adventure stories. By my freshman year of high school, I’d graduated to short novel-length, highly derivative works in the same genre, hand written and occasionally even finishing a story. I later moved into teenage poetry, some of which actually wasn’t bad, and genre short stories. By university, my writing had dropped into fits and starts and it stayed there for a long time: short bursts of fiction and poetry followed by long periods of ignoring it. In my 30s, the short periods got longer until, after explaining to my then nine year-old why it was important to follow your dreams, I wondered why I’d stopped following mine.
So I picked up the shreds of stories I’d mostly not finished over the previous couple of years and started finishing them. It took me a couple of months to establish a routine where I was doing some writing (nearly) every day, and on Christmas 2007, after everyone else had gone to bed, I started writing my first real novel, Dragon Summer. I finished it exactly five months later (clocking in at 108,104 words)
I’ve written several other novels and many short stories since, beginning to submit my work near the end of 2008 and placing almost two dozen shorts. This year and last year haven’t been nearly as productive as I might have like, due to a bunch of real world issues and other commitments, but I have high hopes for 2012. Why?
Because I’m taking my career into my own hands and I’m going to start self-publishing.
I have nothing against traditional publishing and have plenty of books on my shelves from traditional publishers, large and small, but the landscape is changing and becoming a lot more virtual, and a lot more personal. Traditional publishing may or may not adapt, but I don’t think I’m willing to wait and see if it does, or wait if it doesn’t. It’s a different world and I think it’s time to see where the waves of change might take me. Maybe past time, but every day is a new beginning, right?
There’ s been a lot written across the internet of the dos and don’ts and the whys and why not’s of self-publishing, and I’m not going to rehash much of it, but after a lot of thought and internal argument, I’ve got three reasons that it’s right for me.
Ignoring how long it might take to write a book, edit, polish, get advice back from your Beta readers, revise, and polish it again, if you’ve got a good story on your hands, the time it takes from initial queries to agents through delivery to book stores can be three years (or four, or five, or more). Then, you’ve got three months, six if you’re lucky, for your book to do really, really well or get pulled from the shelves. It doesn’t have a chance to have any word of mouth or marketing mean anything. If I publish myself, it may not get into stores, but I can have it on Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords as an e-book within a few days of deciding it’s ready. Which doesn’t mean a first draft goes up on the Kindle; a first draft is never, ever ready, not even to be seen by another human being.
Say I’ve negotiated that three-plus year wait from query to print run. Once I sign the contracts, I have very little say in what happens to the book and I’ve probably agreed to make whatever changes the publisher feels are necessary to make it fit the category it’s been put in. If I take on the workload myself, I pick the cover artist and the cover art, when the book releases, what the price is set at and what I want to do or not do for promotion, ancillary material, or otherwise making use of my rights as the story’s creator.
Taking the time I need, and exercising the control I’ll have, will let me produce a work that’s completely reflective of what I want, what I feel is right for each book. The final product will, in some fashion, reflect not just me as an author, but me as a person and my willingness to take care of all of the steps between conception and release. It wasn’t possible for most people even a few years ago. Another reason to love the digital age.
Plan But Be Flexible
So I’m developing a five-year plan. The first year is laid out in fair detail, but after that it’s much more vague and fluid. Even the plan for that first year has a lot of flexibility built in. I have a full-time job and a full-time family. I can project what I think things will be like, but the last couple of years have taught me that a lot of little things can add up and a big thing can blow you out of the water. Things change, sometimes gradually, sometimes rapidly, and sometimes all at once. We survive and adapt and grow.
In my case, we also self-publish.by