If you really want your story out there and you have the means, self-publishing can be a very good alternative to struggling to find a literary agent or rejection letter after rejection letter. Having said that there are some definite draw backs especially if you have no publishing experience.
When I wrote my debut novel, Making Amends, I didn’t know what I was going to do with it. I set it aside for well over a year before the universe intervened and put a gentleman in my path slogging his own literary work in my local Chapters.
Since I know how hard it is to go through the process of writing and publishing, as we chatted I mentioned my own manuscript gathering dust in a corner in my office and the conversation turned to self-publishing. Even though he had been approached by a traditional publishing house, he opted to self-publish explaining the need to control his work superseded all else for him. He explained that contractually, a publisher has the absolute right to your work. You lose all ownership of it.
Writing a book has always been a goal of mine from the moment I finished my first chapter book at age 10. So I made the decision to cash in a portion of my retirement fund and take the leap into the self-publishing world. I believed, and continue to believe, in my story so I searched out a company and started the process knowing full well that I knew absolutely nothing about publishing and this would be a huge learning experience. A learning experience it has been!
The first lesson I learned was: publishing a book is incredibly hard work.
The second lesson I learned was: publishing during a pandemic is even harder work.
The third lesson I learned was: promoting your work is not for the faint hearted. Even Mark Twain needed to get his works read. Getting your work out there is an uphill battle and it’s entirely up to you when you self-publish. The company will give you tips and help you set up websites and social media accounts but the rest is completely up to you. Of course trying to sell a book during a pandemic has it’s own challenges, self-published or not.
The forth thing I learned was: The process takes a really long time.
The final and most valuable (painful) lesson was: Even if you trust the person editing your work implicitly, go over your final manuscript one more time, then go over it again. This was a particularly painful lesson for me as I felt like such a novice I was absolutely certain the professionals would catch anything that needed catching before sending it to print. After all, it’s their reputation too, right?
No, not right. When I went back over my work in order to write the sequel I was mortified to find error after error missed by the professionals. I felt awful. I’d paid what was for me, a lot of money and had complete faith in those working with me.
To be completely fair, I made the choice to assume complete control over my work and I take full responsibility for the final product. That’s what it means to self-publish.
Would I do it again? I would, but I would be more likely to follow the very sound advice of ‘trust but verify’.