Why self-publish?

Dictionary Series - Politics: independent

This is the next post in continuation of the weekly Indie Author Life series, posted a day early due to Friday being July 4th.

I’ve known my entire life that I was meant to be a writer. I’d write blog posts and columns for my campus newspaper, but the idea of publishing a book seemed too lofty a goal, too “out there” for a nobody like me.

It wasn’t until I saw a woman hanging up a flyer for her book signing at the Panera where I worked that I found out about self-publishing. I asked her how she published, and she made it sound so easy. I had a manuscript written already, and I was very impatient to birth it into the world.

There are many benefits to self-publishing over traditional publishing. One is higher royalties: indie authors can set their own prices and earn up to 70% when publishing through CreateSpace, Amazon’s independent publishing platform. Self-publishing happens at the author’s discretion: it can take well over a year for an agent to pitch a book to a publisher, but indies can hit the “publish” button at any time (this is both a blessing and a curse, which I’ll address later).

For me, the decision to self-publish was more about creative freedom. The kind of books I am interested in writing don’t easily fit into existing genres, which can be a turnoff to some publishers. The audience is too mixed. Over time, cross-blending of genres can become more popular (“paranormal romance” did not exist until the soaring popularity of the Twilight series), but it’s uncommon because it’s risky. From an agent’s perspective, a book that combines genres not previously combined before may not be as popular (ie: lower sales).

Publishers are interested in books that are highly marketable, but these are not always genres I think I can write well. Fantasy is huge right now, but I’ve never been interested in that. Erotica is also huge, but I get squeamish just writing kissing scenes with my characters, so that’s out.

My most recent book, for example, is young adult with religious themes – but it’s not Christian fiction. Therefore, it would be difficult to place among mainstream YA. My first novel, also YA fiction, dealt with rape: not a highly marketable subject, either.

Of course you never know what agents and publishers will think of your work until you try querying, something I have yet to do. It could work out well, or result in a pile of rejection letters. However, I had – and continue to have – specific visions in mind for each of my books, from plot to cover design. I write stories that are meaningful to me, with very specific take-home messages I do not want lost simply because such ideas have yet to become “mainstream.”

When a book is well written, edited, and has an eye-grabbing cover, it can sell at the same ranks as traditionally published books. The only difference is self-published authors have to work harder at establishing connections that agents have, so the process of selling in droves can take much longer. Then again, not all self-published authors publish with a goal of topping the bestseller lists. Some people publish for themselves, or an otherwise narrow audience.

Come back next Friday for more on Indie Author Life: the myths, the realities, and why it’s worth it.


9 thoughts on “Why self-publish?

  1. Pingback: Guest Post: Sarahbeth Caplin

  2. Pingback: A Thank You + Links: Feminism, Science Fiction, Writing, Redefining Disability | Natacha Guyot

  3. Both my novels are self-published, for several reasons. One, to be honest, is because I haven’t tried that hard to find an agent. I did write to ten agents but that’s nothing – anyone would tell you the road will be much longer than that. It s more that (1) I couldn’t bear to wait that long for a conventionally-published book to come out (it can take 1-2 years from commission), (2) I can do the editing myself and I like doing covers too, and (3) I want to concentrate on getting my writing to the highest possible level rather than getting caught up with what the market might want – because, make no mistake, for agents and publishers the latter is at least as important – if not more so – than the former.


    • A word of caution about editing yourself: don’t do it. A quality editor is the best investment for a writer, especially if you’re indie. Reading your work yourself, you tend to know it so well you pass over a lot of errors. Trust me, after the first round of publishing I learned the hard way that I could never be my own editor, despite my English degree. It never hurts to have fresh eyes review your work. More than once!


  4. I have to agree with regards to cross-genre books. Mine is new adult, but not contemporary ( which is the new adult flavour of the month). But more than that, its urban fantasy – a genre which is popular with the readers, but not the general public. I don’t even have a new adult option when I approach publishers. To be honest, high end YA readers can still enjoy it as its “clean” with little swearing and no sexual content. I have no idea where I sit but when I pitch to them I’m going to push that I’m trying to blend the genres. Trying to show that you can have tension without sex and without angst. Good luck with your book. Mine has religious mythology in the background but its more bigger picture world building. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    • NA is quickly becoming the next big thing as more and more indies are profiting from it. Funny how first it was about the self-published authors competing for legitimacy among the traditionally published ones, and now the publishers are taking their cues from what we’re doing. It’s great 🙂

      Now there’s this debate about whether NA is just another synonym for erotica, but that’s another post.


  5. I decided to self-publish because it’s kind of how I do almost everything in life: independently. Especially when it comes to my work, I like to be able to call the shots. It’s definitely grueling (especially promotion), but it’s also extremely rewarding.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I was glad when I discovered the option to self publish. When it comes to my academic writing, I either answer call for papers (for short form to be included in a larger volume) or send proposals to publishers when it comes to books (I have one coming out next January and depending on how things go for me, I might query another project later this year).

    I’m planning to self publish for my fiction work though. I have been sitting on a novella for children (Science Fiction) for years and once I get the cover design, I’ll put it on Amazon for Kindle publishing.


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