I could make this article about self-publishing vs. traditional publishing, with a nice list of 5 or 10 takeaways, complete with bullet points and proper indentation. But I can’t do that.
Because I’m freaking out.
Deciding whether to self-publish or publish traditionally isn’t easy. I’ve been going round and round on this. I am on the hamster wheel about it, and I just can’t seem to get to the cheese.
Sometimes, my decision changes week to week. I’ll admit, I am easily swayed by compelling videos like this one or this one that state the case against self-publishing, as well as articles like this one that are pro-self-publishing.
Whenever I view these kind of videos or posts, I feel a hand jump out of the computer screen and slap sense into me, scare me into a corner, or rally me with high-school-cheerleader enthusiasm. All of these outside opinions are causing a whiplash effect, frankly, and I’m not feeling any closer to an answer.
I started thinking about other talents—like painting, making music, or designing clothes—and how those artists deal with it. Do musicians hang their hat on getting signed by Arista Records? Does a fashion designer consider herself a bust if she doesn’t see her clothes on the racks of Macy’s? Maybe, maybe not.
I know a musician who has her songs up on SoundCloud and several creators of different types of art who sell items up on Etsy. I think it’s awesome—and inspiring. It makes them unique. I even kinda brag about them.
I don’t look down on them, or think less of them, because I can’t find their art in a store or hear their song on the radio. I also don’t question their craft because they haven’t signed a contract with a household-named empire.
So why do those stigma apply to aspiring authors? Who knows.
It could be because the publishing industry has done such a good job for so many decades—and still does. Readers expect a high quality of work when they crack open a book or light up their e-reader. No mistakes, no typos. And definitely no issues like plot holes. Gasp and shudder at that.
So if an author chooses to self-publish, the odds may be that some of those things exist. That could be why there is a proverbial asterisk after an author’s name if they self-publish. I’ve even noticed that some people’s social media profiles will say, “Self-published author” or “Independent author.” Why is that qualifier necessary?
Does a musician call himself an “Independent musician?” No. At least, not that I’ve heard.
It seems like the standards we aspiring authors set for ourselves are so incredibly high. High enough to make us freak out, to freeze up, to not move forward, to lock our manuscript in a dark drawer—or even worse, to stop writing. And I think it’s because of the standards that “they” have set, whoever “they” are. I would be willing to bet that “they” are not our family or our friends or the coworkers who we have secretly confided in. That group would think we are awesome and inspiring. And I think they would kinda brag about us.
So am I saying that standards should be thrown out the window? No. I’m saying that I want to block out all of the noise, the opinions, the this-is-what-ya-should-do-or-else thoughts, the thoughts of failure.
I am tuning it all out, and I am asking myself the Big Question: What do I want?
I want to create. I want flexibility. I want to give voice to the characters that run around in my head. I want to tell stories. I want to communicate the stories in such a way that it entertains me and makes me happy, and maybe it will do the same for a reader, too. I want to make my writing available for people to read it if they want. And if they want to pay for it, even better.
And then there’s the Other Big Question: What is it that I don’t want?
I don’t want to waste years of my life trying to put my square stories into a round hole, especially if there are people who may have liked my square stories all along. I don’t want to look back and regret not trying. I don’t want to collect drawers of unread manuscripts. I don’t want to lose my passion for writing.
But most of all, I don’t want to freak out about this publishing thing any more.
That’s not what writing is about.
What are your thoughts on self-publishing? Please share your comments below.