Why self-publishing is my first choice

June 7th, 2011

NOTE: Sabrina will appear on Dotto Tech on CISL AM 650 at 6:00 PM on June 15 to discuss the self-publishing revolution. Listen here.

In the traditional book-publishing paradigm, the publishing company stands between the writer and the reader. On the rare occasions that a publisher plucks a book out of its massive slush pile, the author loses complete control over the book. The publisher—the exalted gatekeeper—is in charge of everything: editing, production, marketing, and distribution. I have decided to skip the slush pile altogether, and appeal to my readers directly. I didn’t even try to find a publisher. Self-publishing is my first choice.

Besides the fact that the publishing house pays for all the costs associated with book production, many authors are hungry for a publishing contract because they want validation. The majority of wannabe authors will never receive this validation. Rejection is part of the traditional publishing game, and it’s a part I abhor, because this sad cycle of validation and rejection do not a writer make. And I’ve read again and again that the publishing industry is dying, that publishing houses are closing up shop and fewer new books are being printed each year. At the same time, via Twitter and Facebook, I’m meeting writers and readers from all over the world. They’re all hungry for quality fiction. They don’t care who publishes it, as long as it’s good. For me, validation is getting my book read, plain and simple. And so I’ve opted to get it out into the world the fastest way I know how.

Even though musicians and filmmakers have been successfully producing their own albums and films for decades, self-published writers have had to battle stigma and prejudice. Maybe this is because not everyone can strum a guitar or operate a camcorder, but countless people think they can write (and a large percentage of these same people are completely delusional as to the scale of their talent). This self-publishing stigma is institutionalized. Self-published writers are not allowed to join the Writers Union of Canada, apply for government arts grants, or be considered for most of the top literary awards. Hey, I get it: there are a lot of poorly written, error-ridden self-published works out there. But some self-published books truly rock, and independently produced works are breaking sales records. It’s not embarrassing to walk the self-publishing road anymore.

The first step to success in self-publishing is belief. I believe in my work, and I believe there is an audience for my work. As a reader, you’ve got to take my word for it that my book is worth your time—and it might be easier for you to take the word of a publisher. But it isn’t easy to get a publisher to read your work, and quality work slips through their fingers every day (like New York Times bestseller Still Alice; after numerous rejection letters, author Lisa Genova had to self-publish it first to get the attention of Simon & Schuster). Most publishers don’t give an unsolicited manuscript a single glance. They want to receive it from a literary agent—and it’s a rare agent indeed that’s picking up the phone these days.

I spent two years writing my book. I’m not interested in bouncing it around from one slush pile to another. No, the more I thought about it, and looked at myself as a writer and a consumer of books, I realized that the only way I was going to be able to share my story with the world was to publish it myself.

I’m in the thick of production right now. I’m editing until my eyes bleed. I’m getting the feedback I need from numerous learned sources to ensure that my product is top-notch. Once it’s good to go, I know I’m going to have to work my butt off to get my book read (luckily I’m a publicist by profession). I have sales goals for myself, and despite the hefty price-tag of the initial investment, these goals are small. This is a passion project for me. I know I’m not going to get rich doing this. I love books, and I have a story to tell. I want people to read what I write. I’m not going to wait around for the exalted gatekeeper in order to make this dream come true.

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