A Change of Heart

Giving self-publishing a try


I’ve always chosen to pursue the traditional publishing route. I think this stems from my time in academia, where an article is only as reputable as the peer-reviewed journal that accepts it. Skip peer review and good luck getting anyone to take you seriously. So, when I began fiction writing, I followed the same logic.

I am a fan of the traditional route. I don’t mind the time it takes to find out whether a publisher will accept my latest story. In the meantime, I go on to the next piece. Once it’s been accepted, I like handing my work off to in-house editors who will give me detailed comments back.

I have no flare for the graphic arts, so I’m relieved that publishers do most of that work for me. And absorb the cost. I don’t have to put up any of my own cash, and that’s awesome. And safe.

But — and you knew this was coming, didn’t you? — I started to think that maybe, just maybe, I should learn all parts of the publishing process. Several years ago, I would have scoffed at the idea of being self-published. I mean, how good could the book be if it hadn’t undergone what amounts to peer review?

Especially since the indie works I’d browsed had always looked self-published: poorly photo-shopped covers and even poorer formatting of the text, grammatical mistakes, spelling errors, and lousy storytelling.

Then I stumbled over Josh Lanyon’s Adrien English series. I was looking for a new mystery series, and a friend recommended Lanyon, so I picked up book one on my e-reader. I didn’t realize until after I’d bought it that Lanyon was an indie author. The dreaded self-pub. But I LOVED the series. Adored it. And it singlehandedly changed how I viewed self-published works.

I started adding self-pubs to my to-be-read list, and I keep a list of self-pub authors who are auto-buys for me. There is still plenty of dreck out there, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how good some of the indie works have turned out to be.

Even so, I hadn’t considered going that route for my own work. As I said, I like the ease and lack of upfront costs associated with a traditional publisher. However, the publishing landscape is changing. There are fewer and fewer mid-list authors who can make a living as full-time writers.

Many readers now purchase e-books, and Amazon has moved in as the dominant book distributor as brick-and-mortar bookstores close their doors. Author advances are shrinking, book tours are becoming a thing of the past for all but the most successful of authors, and FB launch parties are now commonplace. Blogs and other review sites have flourished.

With the changing landscape came the realization that I should know all parts of the publishing process. I won’t say I jumped up and down at the prospect. I didn’t. I’m lazy and comfortable in my current publishing niche. I also didn’t want to spend the money.

While you can publish a book for almost nothing, it will also look like it. Professional presentation takes money and time. A lot of both. Did I really want to sink funds into something that in all likelihood wouldn’t make enough to cover the initial outlay?

In the end, I decided to go for it, though not right away. I kept on my current schedule, submitting to traditional publishing venues until I wrote a piece that I felt would be an ideal candidate for indie publishing. It’s a comedic m/m fantasy romance with a private-detective protagonist. The genre bending alone is enough to make going the traditional route challenging. It’s going to be released on September 29th, and I’m extremely excited for it to see the light of day.

Learning the ins and outs of self-publishing has been a long and sometimes uncomfortable process, but I can honestly say that I know a lot more about the publishing world than I did before. Will this knowledge help me in the long run? I can’t be sure, but it certainly won’t hurt. Not only do I feel a ridiculous sense of accomplishment with this piece, but I feel a lot braver — and more ready to take chances — than when I started this journey.

And courage is never a bad thing, right?  

Next month, I’ll talk more about the actual process of self-publishing a novel…

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