This will make more sense if you read Part 1 first.
I want to talk about how I arrived at the decision to self-publish rather that pursue traditional/legacy publishing. It was based around what is important to me as a writer, and which option allows greater scope for accommodating those things.
So, what is important to me as a writer?
- To have the freedom to explore different lengths of story (short stories, novellas, novels, whatever) and different story structures. I’m aware that some of what I write will have a narrow appeal in terms of structure, but I’m OK with that. I’d rather put something ‘out there’ that is entirely how I want it to be than have to rewrite it into something else to make it sell more to a certain demographic that someone else has decided is important to their sales figures.
- To have the freedom to write in a number of genres, any time I want, without ever being squished into an [insert genre here] box. If you followed my January flash fiction project this year, you’ll know that I write everything from emotional coming-of-age stories to queer trash noir romance to gory horror. Being able to do that gives me life and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
- To be able to write, edit and release continuously, within my own time frame. Equally, not to have to have a book finished by a specific date set by someone else. I have no desire to spend 5 years on (someone else’s definition of) a masterpiece. I want to write things I’m happy with and then send them out into the world for other people to enjoy.
- To experiment with new, unconventional and exciting platforms and tools. I’m 100% pro this approach for any kind of art. When I was working as a photographer, I never sought an agent or a gallery to show my work. I built my business and my audience on my own terms and I couldn’t have been happier (until the part where my body crapped out on me and I couldn’t be a working photographer anymore, but that’s another story)
- To create work that may not be the in-thing or that may not be considered marketable by someone else (i.e. someone else who makes decisions about my creative output based on their potential to profit from it). I never want to create a story based primarily on a specific genre being (Mugatu-voice) so hot right now and equally, I don’t want to not write something I’m passionate about because someone else has decided it won’t sell well next year or that there’s already another author writing something vaguely similar.
- To be free to be myself without having to be marketable as a person. Yep, authors, not just their work, have to be marketable when relying on someone else providing you with opportunities and money in return for being profitable to them.
- Control! I love to be the master of my own destiny, or at least the path I take to get there. Having the freedom to change my direction is super important to me too.
- I actually really enjoy the non-writing side of being a writer. I’ve worked in marketing. I’ve also worked in online communications. I’ve been heavily involved in social media since before it was called social media. I live and breathe this stuff so rather than it being a chore I have to do, it’s something I’m excited about getting stuck into. BUT I want to do it on my own terms, with integrity, while making genuine connections. If I ever become one of those people who posts “Buy my book” Tweets ten times a day, shoot me.
So I’m not saying that traditional/legacy publishing is bad, wrong, evil or not the right thing for anyone. I’m saying that after a lot of researching and soul-searching, I feel certain that it’s not the right thing for me at the moment. If the path you’ve chosen for yourself as a writer involves an agent and a publishing house, more power to you. Go do your awesome thing in exactly the way you want to do it and I hope it all goes fantastically well. Writers work damn hard and deserve all the encouragement in the world.
The publishing industry has changed so much over the last decade and more changes are on the way. I so deeply want to see more and more writers being creative not only with their work but with how they release and distribute it. These are exciting times and as much as I wonder how different my life would have been if I hadn’t listened to those “Being a writer isn’t a valid career choice” voices when I was younger, I am so happy to be doing what I’m doing right now, with access to so many wonderful tools and platforms, and so many ways to connect with other readers and writers.
The wonderful thing about writing and reading is that it isn’t a zero sum game. Someone who loves horror stories doesn’t read just one horror story or stories by just one author. They read lots of horror stories. They read stories by lots of authors. It’s one of those situations where the “people who bought this also bought” or “you might like” sections of websites are genuinely really helpful. Authors read books by other authors too. Other writers are also readers, and can be each other’s most passionate supporters.
If you found your way here because you’re a writer who is considering self-publishing, I’m so happy to welcome you to my little corner of the internet. Let’s do this thing!