Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Self-publishing: Stigma or Celebrity?

My decision to self-publish arose, I’m embarrassed to say, out of impatience and also a distinct aversion to rejection. Having submitted a few manuscripts for children’s picture books before completing my novel, I was well acquainted, not only with the very real possibility of rejection, but with the secret-society nature of the publishing business. Most houses won’t look at unsolicited manuscripts, and if they will, they estimate weeks and months before you’ll have an answer (which will likely be a photo-copied form letter telling you no). And finding an agent (I would assume) is almost as difficult as finding the publisher—again you’re looking for someone who loves your work so much that they’re willing to take it on as their own. And then that agent has to somehow find the right publisher at just the perfect time… Seems like everything might as well be directed by a Ouija board!

When I first considered the daring, daunting deed of self-publishing, I wondered about how a self-published book would be received—would people be able to tell the difference on the outside before they (conceivably) noticed the difference on the inside—in the writing? I wondered and waffled over it. I wondered how I’d get reviews, how I’d manage to design a cover, how I’d go about editing, how I’d market it once I had the finished product in my hand and whether I’d be able to sell the quantity I was comfortable with ordering.

I wondered if I’d rather invest my energies, talents, and monies into self-publishing, or if I should direct them instead to the business of crossing my fingers and waiting. The impatience, remember? I didn’t like waiting, knowing that I could be doing something about realizing the dream of getting to see my name in print, getting someone other than family to read the novel I’d worked on for four years. So I took the plunge and decided to self-publish.
Now when I tell people I’ve written/published a book, their eyes and smiles get wide and they want to know all about it. Most want to know what it took to get a publishing house to accept it. And then I have to tell them. Part of me feels a little awkward telling them since I imagine they’ll just see me as someone who couldn’t make it in the publishing world. And maybe I couldn’t have, but still I’ve managed to get some good reviews, get my novel into libraries and bookstores, and develop a (still smallish) fan base.

It seems I’m having more trouble convincing myself than I am other people. Lots of people I’ve talked to seem even more impressed (or curious at least) that I’ve done it all on my own. And to those people, I want to say thanks. To those people who appreciate the road less-traveled, the path to print outside the realm of the New York houses, I hope you find my book. And like it.

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