The Self-Publishing Dilemma

The decision to self-publish was kind of an arduous one. When I finished Star-Crossed, I thought that it was the most-publishable thing I had ever written and I was filled with confidence that I would soon find an agent and—whoosh!—a contract with a large publisher.

A bit naive, I know, but these were my hopes, nonetheless.

I got a subscription to Writer’s Market and sent out four query letters a month to literary agents. (I find that Writer’s Market is good for finding publishing houses and agents, but they send out WAY too many e-mails asking for yet MORE MONEY that it’s almost not worth it.) I did this for six months, so, six times four is 24, and after a year of waiting, I had gotten four actual rejections.

Now, I know that 24 isn’t a lot, but the feedback that I did hear was “good story!” “interesting!” “I like it!” but not one of them wanted to represent it because “it’s not my thing,” “it’s not very marketable,” and “I want young-adult dystopian sci-fi.” If I hear that someone wants young adult dystopian sci-fi one more time, I’ll probably go get plastic surgery to look like Jennifer Lawrence and cry myself to sleep every night.

I understand that publishing is a business and businesses only do things to make a profit and so quickly realized that the fact that Star-Crossed is a weird mix of puns, horror, zombies, humor, and steampunk makes it a tough sell. Which also means that finding an agent whose tastes would fit what Star-Crossed was selling would be dismal. I could either continue to shop around for years until I got lucky, or I could just pull up my big-woman panties* and just go ahead and self-publish. (This decision was almost made possible by my polling a lot of my regular customers/friends at my coffee shop. You’d be surprised at how accurate and helpful advice from somewhat random strangers is.)

Now, pros and cons–and believe me, I’ve gone through them all—

PROS:

  • I get to control the book price and receive more profit!
  • I can connect more to my audience.
  • Publication is pretty easy and rather instant; the only one controlling how often my books come out is me.
  • If I publish enough / get good enough press, a publishing company might pick me up as a client.

CONS:

  • It costs money to make a quality product (about $2000-$3000 for a novel of my length, about $500+ for professional cover art, and the cost of printing books via Lighting Source).
  • Self-published novels are so abundant, and a majority of them have many issues, that the perception of them is negative.
  • Self-marketing is hard and sometimes even costs more money to get review of your novel out there for a wider audience.
  • Less control over eventual product due to pressures of publishing houses.
  • Deadlines (errrg)

Traditional publishing is going through sort of a tough time right now and I figured that a strange book like Star-Crossed just isn’t something that traditional houses are willing to bet on, so WHY NOT TAKE CONTROL?

So, like Cho Simba, I’ve begun the journey. Next post I’ll talk about my steps and where I’m at now.

*I actually own a pair of Wonder Woman footie pajamas and yes, they are every bit as glorious as you would think.

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