Drafts & Rejections

Why did I choose self-publishing?

This is a question I get a LOT.

I get this question mostly from people who are struggling to write.

I get this question also from people who want to be traditionally published.

I think it’s important to point out the differences between these two different types of people and their current journeys.

If you are struggling to write and are already focused on getting published…well, maybe there’s a connection there. Maybe you’re struggling to write BECAUSE you’re focused on getting published. Maybe you’re struggling to write BECAUSE you’re too focused on your potential market and on what others will think. Maybe you’re struggling BECAUSE you’re focused on the possible future, instead of focusing on the now.

If you want to be traditionally published, why? What’s in it for you that you wouldn’t get from self-publishing? Explore the inverse of this as well.

I started writing because I loved to write. I loved writing stories. I am a discovery writer. Characters and stories pop into my head. I love playing with words to see how those images and scenes in my head translate onto the page.

I write for ME.

When I started to shop “Waiting for Fate” around, that’s when I started to care about what others might think of my writing. That’s when I started to really hone my skills, research how to craft a pitch and proposal letter, and learn how the publishing business works.

I shopped “Waiting for Fate” around for years. The picture here is of a stack of my drafts (about 1′ tall) next to a stack of my rejection letters (about an inch tall). The stack of drafts also includes notes on the characters and Junoan universe (‘cuz fantasy world-building is a whole other level of craft). Both stacks illustrate my commitment to improving my writing skills and effort to be recognized by a publisher or agent.

It took several years and several heart-wrenching revelations to finally see that my book wasn’t going to be represented by an agent or traditional publishing house. Why?

  • My book wasn’t normal. It didn’t conform to normal content, structure, characters, or themes. In short, it wasn’t marketable.
  • My book needed to be noticed by that ONE person who would then champion it to a publisher. The likelihood of getting in front of and then be noticed and THEN loved by an agent was approaching nil. (Yes, I’m a pragmatist).

With these revelations, I then saw some other things:

  • I didn’t want my book to be normal. I liked my characters, the story, the structure. I wanted to maintain my artistic integrity, and really, really didn’t want an editor/publisher/whoever saying that I needed to change X, Y, and Z in order to be marketable.
  • Agents and publishers are people. Agents and publishers are people with opinions. They create a bottleneck through which all material must pass in order to make it to market. I would be depending upon the opinions of these gatekeepers in order to reach an audience. Bottomline, I needed to gain the approval of people BEFORE I could get to my readers.

Maintaining the integrity of my characters and story is a big thing for me. By the time I realized just how important this was, I had gone through a re-write (not just a revision), dissected and analysed (to death??) the two main characters, and re-plotted the entire novel. I didn’t not like the way things had turned out in the book and reverted to a lot of original things. By this time, I was really low on self-esteem, and was pretty convinced I couldn’t write and that this story would never see the light of day.

Then self-publishing started to take off (about 1999 – 2000). I decided to say “fuck you” to the middleman, the bottlenecking, opinionated people who decided whether or not I was worthy of the market. I wanted to let my readers decide. But self-publishing was, at that time, expensive and complicated. Also, I had lost all faith in myself. I had stopped writing for ME. And I stopped writing all together.

I didn’t write creatively for a LONG time.

In hindsight, one of the reasons I stopped writing is because I was focused on gaining the attention and approval of an agent or publisher.

How did I regain the faith in myself to finally release “Waiting for Fate”? I started being creative just for me. I started a painting practice just for me. I started blogging just for me. I started pottery just for me.

I am still going through the motions of regaining my writing practice; however, I am hopeful that it will return.

For anyone who is doubting the validity of self-publishing, I’m going to ask you this:

Why are you writing?

Traditional publishing may be attractive to you if you are writing for someone else, are seeking the recognition and approval of others, seeking to gain attention and stroke your ego. Non-fiction is a better fit for traditional publishing because you do need to write with the audience in mind.

If, however, you are writing as a form of self-expression, to engage in flow, joy, and as an act of creation, I urge you to consider self-publishing.

Waiting for Fate is now available in print on Amazon, and as an ebook through most major vendors.

Further Reading

Lauren Sapala – Intuitive Writing Video Course

The Creative Penn – The Pros and Cons of Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publishing

Heart Breathings – Why Comparison Kills your Joy as a Writer

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