Today I read an article giving many good reasons not to seek an agent or traditional publishing contract. They were all reasons I’d heard before, but these came from an established author who’d been published by big houses from 1987-2008. He pointed out that the world has changed a lot and… Traditional publishers haven’t. Why keep using a dial-up modem when Wi-Fi is so readily available?
In truth, I still struggle with my desire to have an agent and a book published by one of the “big five.” I’ve done okay with my self-published work, and I enjoy having the control, but… I think many authors are still looking for the validation that an agent and traditional publishing contract seemingly confers. We want to be chosen ones. Even as we know that we don’t have to wait for someone to choose us—we can choose ourselves, believe in ourselves—something inside us still craves it. We’re the girls (or boys) that know we can go to prom alone but deep down still want someone to ask us.
I went to prom with a group of friends—and fellow self-published authors can be that group of friends, too. And the nice thing about my prom photo is that I’m the only one in it. That sounds weird, but it means I don’t have to look at it and think, “That guy.” Not wistfully, or with distaste, or whatever feeling(s) having another person in the picture might have engendered. I can look at that picture and think, Damn, I looked good. And not be sorry.
But maybe still a little sad that I didn’t have a date.
It’s not a perfect analogy, but the sum total is about embracing being single at prom a self-published author. I don’t want to say “resigning oneself,” because it shouldn’t be that. So many people think of self-publishing as a last resort, but more and more it’s becoming many writers’ first choice. The article I linked to gives several good reasons for that. My reasons have become practical ones: self-publishing saves me a lot of time and agony, and my self-published work has done better than my small press-published stuff. I mean, if I’m going to put in the effort to market anyway, I might as well be getting all the royalties, right? And when I self-publish, succeed or fail, I can only blame (or congratulate) myself. It’s a neatly closed circle, tidy, and I like that.
Just like with that prom photo—if I’m going to be sorry about anything, it’ll be how I did my hair or something, not about who I chose to be with. Substitute agent/publisher for that guy in the photo, and… You kind of see it?
God, this analogy is messy.
Unfortunately, there is still some stigma attached to self-publishing. Though the quality of self-published books is largely rising, there are some bad ones out there. And there are readers (and other authors) who again assume that self-published books are the result of “not being good enough for ‘real’ publishing.” Bad enough that self-pubbed authors have to fight that image on the outside. We shouldn’t have to fight it in our own minds.
But we do sometimes. Or I do, at least. I still sometimes think I’m not good enough and wish a fairy god-agent would appear and sell my work to a big-name publisher. It’s an old dream, deeply rooted in the time when that was the only way to publish. Just like a dog that spent its life in a cage will feel vulnerable when first set loose in a yard, will sometimes want to run back to the comfort of its own imprisonment… We know the dog is better off with more room, though, right? And authors are better off with creative control of their work. It’s just that they’ve been told for so long that the cage is safe. Look at it: gilded, lovely. But still a cage, as those who’ve had the door slammed shut behind them can attest.
So. I’m determined to embrace, however awkwardly, the fact that I’m a self-published author and am likely to remain one. No more querying, wasting time waiting for generic responses (if and when they ever come at all). I’ve been pleased by the success of Brynnde and Faebourne and hope to build on that. This is me, alone in that prom photo. No regrets.