Like many artists, I was often discouraged (sometimes lovingly, sometimes viciously) to play it safe at the nine-to-five job, to not waste my energy or time on creative pursuits. But finally, I decided that in 2019 I was going to take the plunge and write my first book. I currently have several novels in my head and even part of them on paper, but for my first book I decided that I would publish a poetry collection.
If I knew how easy it was to self-publish with Kindle Direct Publishing or other self-publishing platforms, I would have gotten into it years ago. Disclaimer: I’m using the adjective “easy” quite loosely here. I’m not saying “easy” in the sense that self-publishing is itself easy. It takes work to ensure that a book is self-published well (editing, teaching oneself formatting and digital illustration if you don’t hire the labor out). I think the better word here is doable. For so long I didn’t think I could do it because I was confusing self-publishing with vanity publishing, that I would be out thousands of dollars without the support of a traditional publisher.
Like many have stated before me, I like the creative control that self-publishing permits. I also enjoy the lack of time restrains. If I want something done, I don’t have to wait on anyone but myself.
In some ways I wish I had started self-publishing earlier, yet at the same time I am glad I am only starting now as the stigma slowly fades away. Even now the judgment still persists, and it’s not just at the publishing houses, either. Authors are torn on whether it is worth taking self-publishing seriously. Here is a quote from someone in one of my writer Facebook groups who did not mince his words in regards to his opinion on indie authors.
Most self-published books are poorly edited, and are riddled with grammatical, continuity and layout errors. Dialogue punctuation is the biggest source of problems, which immediately tells me, despite what the author may claim, that the book has not been professionally edited. A lot of the time, an indie author will consider their own editing to be enough, yet when questioned on it many of them will claim it has been professionally edited (ie lie).
Qualified, experienced editors are worth the money, and as far as I can tell, virtually no independent authors will spend that money to get the editing they need. It baffles me that someone would spend years writing a book and then not care if it is polished, or at least of sufficient quality for publication.
The comments on this post were straight down the middle, with half happily agreeing and the other half being deeply offended. Myself personally, I’m not the type to condemn an entire style of publishing just because some people are looking for a quick-fix to their writing careers and thus do not put in the approriate effort. Part of my decision to self-publish was that with every self-published book that is done well, I hope the perception illustrated above will become less commonplace.
I think my opinion to not judge comes from my experience with fan fiction. If I began a fan fiction story that was starting to look bad, whether because of grammar or anything else, I would simply stop reading it and move on. This has happened more times than I can count in my decade-long experience with fan fiction. Yet I never became so incensed that I gave up on fan fiction entirely. There are some traditionally published books that I’ve picked and wondered, “How the hell did this get published?” And then there are fan-fictions so beautifully written that I still keep them on my computer, going back to them for reference.
Both realities are true, that self-publishing can be plagued with bad writing, and that traditional publishers can be too narrow-minded to take a chance on something new. Nowadays I feel no author should be shamed for choosing one path or the other. It just depends on what are the preferences and priorities of a given author.