It was around the 50,000 word mark of my first draft that I decided that I wanted to self-publish the then untitled, ‘What We Saw’. The draft, as all writers will be aware, had become a real slog at times, my motivation and energy levels struggling to climb to anywhere near the dizzying heights of the earlier stages. I found myself at a creative crossroads, without giving away any spoilers, forking off in two directions: what I wanted to write and what I thought would be the most applicable, and likely to be accepted by a traditional publishing house.
I did something really cheeky. Instead of listening to my inner critic, I went down the darker, grittier, and dirtier route. I surprised myself whilst committing the words to paper, in the same way that I want to throw my readers. For the first time in months, I felt free of constraint, and simply followed my instinct. The following 30,000 words were a doddle. I fully believe that ‘What We Saw’ is a much better story as a consequence.
Not so coincidentally, it was also at this stage that I started to severely debate taking the much bemoaned ‘self-publishing’ route. Self-publishing: what dirty words! In an age where any old idiot can write 40,000 words of drivel, mash up a cover on Paint, upload a PDF file to Amazon and call themselves an ‘author’, the notion of the ‘self-publisher’ is arguably under even more scrutiny nowadays than it was in the physical age.
However, a major shift is occurring in the publishing landscape. The big publishers are under threat, refusing to adapt to the laws of the digital era. Some authors, or would-be authors, are having their perfectly good manuscripts rejected at the expense of yet another generic novel about vampires, or werewolves, or whatever it is that sells right now. As a result, authors are turning to self-publishing, many of whom are doing just fine.
Other areas of the internet are flourishing as a result of the rise of the eBook and its implications on the publishing world. Many graphic designers are offering stunning cover art for indie authors, whilst professional editors are providing their expertise, at a cost.
‘What We Saw’ will be self-published. However, I promise you that I will be investing money in having a damn good cover designed, because I take pride in my work. I’ll be hiring an editor to make sure as many little mistakes as possible are ironed out. I’ll be blogging, Facebook-ing, Tweeting and Google+ing the hell out of it. There will be competitions, offers, and ways of you getting involved, one of which launches this Friday.
Yes, I am self-publishing, but this is a decision of my own. ‘What We Saw’ has not had the opportunity to be accepted or rejected by any publishing houses, because it isn’t going to be sent to any publishing houses. I’m young, and I’ve got time on my side. If this experiment fails to work, then I’ll retreat to the ways of the traditionally published author. Right now, though, the creative control, audience engagement, royalties, and pure freedom that indie publishing offers, over the stresses of the traditional route, is much more appealing to me.
Grand, hyperbolic claim alert: I promise you that ‘What We Saw’ will be a better book for being self-published. It’ll be out on eBook and paperback, and it will be the book that I always wanted people to read. No, I won’t get rich off it: everything I make will probably only cover the costs of the premium services I’m investing in. But I believe that by investing in these services, it sets the self-published ‘author’ aside from the ‘hobby writer’. I don’t want to be just another poorly edited member of the Amazon Kindle 20p club begging for sales of my shitty little product. Who knows? It might be a catastrophe of an investment. But I for one cannot wait to see the results.
Part 2 will take a much more in-depth look at the three main benefits of self-publishing over traditional publishing (at present): creative freedom, audience engagement, and royalties.
*Note: I have nothing against the publishing industry whatsoever. I am fully aware that many publishers are in the process of adapting to the ways of the ‘new world’. However, my argument is that, from a personal standpoint, the self-published route is the more attractive road right now. This might, and probably will, change. Just enjoy the prose.