This is a question that comes around into my mind from time to time. It is a purely personal question and does not reflect on self publishing in itself or on the many authors who get great satisfaction from their self published work. But every now and then I do ask myself, “should I have self published as much of my work as I have?”
There are several parts to this issue for me. To start with, as nice as it is to work on the layout, the cover, and follow the whole process of the book through to final publication, it cannot replace the excitement I feel at waiting to be published by someone else. Yes, the wait can be frustrating and longer than I might want, but to know that someone else believes enough in your work to put the effort into producing a good looking product that they can attach their publisher name to is very satisfying and to some extent justifies the time I put into my writing and how seriously I take it. I am proud of the books I have self published, but I am more proud of those few published by others – and that includes anthologies that I have been lucky enough to get a story into.
Another point – while I always strive to ensure that everything I self publish is written to the best of my ability (having gone through several drafts and been proof-read to death) I fully believe that a good editor can encourage a writer to produce work over and above their usual standard. Also, it always helps to have another pair of eyes look over your writing. It’s amazing how many things they will pick up on that you missed. In my case, Hard Winter: The Novel benefited hugely from the input and encouragement of Kate Jonez at Omnium Gatherum.
Next, a minor point really, but there is still a stigma attached to self publishing in some areas and by some people. I don’t think that’s fair. Yes there’s a lot of rubbish being self published, but then there’s a lot of rubbish being published by the big traditional publishers as well. There’s also a lot of really good stuff coming out. There will always be good and bad. And one person’s piece of trash is another’s book of the year. However, there are those who look down on anything self published, and on any writer who chooses to self publish. I don’t like the thought of people looking down on me. I think attitudes are changing, but the change is very slow.
Finally, because I’m even boring myself, there are my reasons for self publishing. It began with the honest belief that there were certain works of mine that would prove very difficult to find a publisher for – not because of their writing (I hope) but because of the subject matter or genre. The Szuiltan Alliance is a perfect example of this. I don’t believe there are publishers out there who would be willing to take a risk with an unknown author on book one of a proposed space opera trilogy. That’s space opera as in spaceships, alien worlds, action, adventure, a bit of political and religious intrigue and a smattering of romance. Therefore I chose to self publish rather than put myself through what I saw as the pointless agony and frustration of trying to find a publisher. So far so good. But what has happened is that I have started to self publish some work, not because it’s a difficult subject or genre to publish but because self publishing is easier, quicker and less stressful than the submission/rejection/re-submission process. That’s fine for those who want to do that, but it’s not what I set out to do. I have become a coward about my writing and take the easy route rather than risk rejection.
I have been lucky in being able to use covers by the talented Steve Upham (Screaming Dreams) for most of my self published releases, and in one case the work of the photographer Amanda Norman. Also the multi-talented Tony Longworth has kindly produced video trailers for some of my work (both self published and otherwise). The help of these friends has meant my work has, I believe, always looked professional. But it’s still no substitute for seeing the final result as done by another publisher.
I find I wish I could turn the clock back and not self publish so much. I think books like Welcome Home, Raised In Evil and so on would have a reasonable chance of finding a publisher. But it’s too late now. No one is interested in previously self published work.
There is still a place for self publishing within me. I think there will always likely be work I produce that I think is better served through self publishing for one reason or another, and it does give me the opportunity of releasing work by my father, or collaborations with my brother, or my wife’s old weight loss website redone in book form. These are things I love working on and producing and will continue to do so. But with other work I think I will return to the daunting prospect of submitting to publishers… and try and be hard-skinned about the rejections.
To this end, my novella “Reanimated” sits with Screaming Dreams, waiting for a place in the publication diary, and my current WIP, The Village Witch, will, when finished, find itself heading out into the big scary world of long waits, soul crushing rejections and the vague hope of another submission ahead.
If you’re one of the publishers who finds my work in their inbox in the future, please by all means be honest but be gentle within that honesty. If you’re a reader, I hope you will try both self published and other published work of mine and of the many other authors out there pleading for your money. You will find things to enjoy out there, and if I’m lucky my writing will be among them.
Wish me luck.