As Shakespeare once said, “To self-publish or not to self-publish… that is the question!” Okay, so I may be paraphrasing here, but Shakespeare’s original line from Hamlet is not far from my own feelings today: indecision. Granted, my question does not deal with suicide, it does however, deal with a different type of death, creative death. Do you wait to be found by a giant publishing house, or do it yourself through blogs and eBooks in the hopes that you’ll reach your audience through a different route? I was talking with a friend the other day about this exact topic, and to be honest, after our discussion and much thought-gymnastics I am not sure that I am any wiser.
If you have the luxury of bookish connections, publishing, writing, then getting yourself and your creative endeavors out there can be easier. You have a strong publishing company to back you, pay you, and guide you through the production part of your creativity. The company somehow found you and believed enough in your words to put their money where your mouth is.
On the other hand, if you are not found by a company straight away… what should you do? Everyone can write a blog I guess? What’s that quote about opinions and butts? Everyone can self-publish, and how do you know if you’re actually good at what you do? You could be just one of those people who think they can sing, but sound like a dying cat when they’re on the X Factor stage? You can show your work to friends, but in my experience, most of them won’t read it. Or will say blanket statements like, “Yeah, it’s good.” or “Oh, I liked it.” To what extent can we ask the people around us to judge our works without bias or fear of hurting our feelings?
So, without any close guidance or divine publishing intervention, you may find yourself in a similar spot to myself. What do you do when you want to write, work in writing, make writing your whole life? I’m not sure what to say other than, “Go with your gut” (lame cliche I know).
Before I started my series, “Repeat After Me: Death, And other Essays” I had the ideas for these essays floating around in my head for months, years actually. I tested the waters with a few people, but most people told me I should be careful, don’t upset myself by bringing up the past, and my favourite question/concern: How can you make people want to read about death? It’s so morbid. Whilst, Penguin Publishing is not knocking on my door (any time now would be great guys!) I have had some unexpected responses from readers across WordPress and social media. Many people liked it. And despite the topic, felt comforted, relieved, and even excited to read more. But basing what you write and if you write based on what other people think is not good for you either, in the end. Ultimately, write and create because of how it makes you feel and only write because you cannot imagine yourself doing anything else. Then put your words out there and see what comes back.
If you never show your work to people, then how will you get your name, ideas, and stories out into the world? It’s completely terrifying to do, but you have nothing to lose. Right?
How do you feel about self-publishing? How do you overcome your fear of failure so you can keep on writing? Remember to share the reading love.
Self-publishing feels like one of those self-fulfilling what’s-it-calleds to me. The fact that it exists means publishers no longer actually need to go out hunting for new talent.
Why risk spending money on an un-tested author when you can track how many reads another is getting on their ebook or blog?
I’ve been given some insight into how the process works by a friend of a family member (the closest I get to having connections). Agencies and publishers get sent a huge pile of manuscripts and say to their reader people “This month we want a dark, flintlock fantasy novel. What’ve you got?” or “Sorry, reject that. We’ve filled our crime fiction quota already. Yeah, yeah, I’m sure it was brilliant. Bin it. Quota filled.”
I don’t feel like a writer has the option to chase publishers any more in this digital world. They’ve got to build their own audience, take their reader count to the publisher and say “Here’s the proof. Now you’ve got to make it worth my while.”
The deck is more heavily stacked against the writer than ever before. So writers have to go on the offensive. Self-publish, self-publish, self-publish!
Very true words. I sometimes feel that there is still an overwhelming notion that you have to wait for the publisher to recognise your work. That if you self-publish, you must not be very good since you don’t have a large company behind you. However, as you say… You need to go on the offensive. The reality that your manuscript will be found on the right desk, on the right day, at the right time, by the right person, in the right publishing house feels like the same odds for winning the lottery where the prize is a goose that lays golden eggs.
Just put yourself out there and see what happens! 🙂