Why I Decided To Self-Publish (And The Doctor Who Giveaway Winner!)

The winner of the 50th Anniversary Doctor Who book THE SILENT STARS GO BY by Dan Abnett will be announced at the end of this post! But first, I’m going to talk about self-publishing and why my co-authors and I decided to go that route with our first book, THE SOWING.

Y’all may have noticed that there’s a lot of hullabaloo out there these days about the advantages of self-publishing versus traditional. Seems like once a week Slate publishes another post damning self-published authors and arguing that we’ll never succeed – and on the other side of the line there are the indie authors who have had their fifteen minutes of fame on the New York Times Bestseller List. There’s a wealth of material and information on both sides of the issue out there, and because I like to talk a lot, I decided it was finally time to put in my own two cents. Though my two cents might not be worth a whole bunch (seeing as I’ve yet to self-publish even a single book), I refuse to be deterred by such trivialities as “experience” and “knowledge”. Instead, I’ll just share a little bit of information about the process my co-authors and I went through that eventually led to the decision to self-publish. Here’s how it happened.

First.

We believed in our story. That was key and crucial in all parts. We believed that we had a story worthy of New York Times bestseller lists, and that if we could just work hard enough and edit enough and get enough beta readers, we could get there. We believe we have a story worthy of the best of the best. Does that sound egotistical? I don’t know. I think you have to believe in yourself and your story if you ever want to go anywhere.

Second.

Given that belief, we knew that all we needed to do was bring our book to the public in the most spectacular, glamorous, most extravagant way possible. All we needed to do was figure out how to do that.

On the little flow-chart of our decision-making process, this led to two options. The first option was traditional publishing. We knew from the outset that if we wanted to publish traditionally, we would settle for no less than the best. Nothing short of Penguin or Random House or Simon and Schuster would do. We believed in our book and we believed that only by working with people who could really bring out the big guns could we realize our dream in the fashion we wanted.

The second option was to self-publish. At first, this idea was an anathema to me, in particular. “It’s got such a stigma about it,” I said in protest, when my mom suggested we self-publish. “It’s just like vanity presses,” I said. “We’d be killing our chances at ever succeeding.”

But then I started to read a lot more about the publishing industry, and I learned four key facts about traditional publishing that turned me off to that idea.

1. Traditional publishing takes a really long time. You have to query agents. Sometimes loads of them. Then one has to select you. That process can take years. Then your agent has to sell your book. That process can take more years. Then someone buys your book and you’re still at least eighteen months out from publication, bare minimum. It takes a really, really long-ass time.

2. You don’t have control over your work. Starting with your agent, then your associate editor, then your editor, then your grandma, then your dog, people will tell you how and why you should change things in your book. And you won’t have a choice. Either you do it or they don’t publish it. Then there’s the cover, and the art, and the genre, and the marketing – you don’t get to do that stuff. Your publisher makes those choices for you. You lose control over your book and everything in it the instant a publisher snaps you up and pops that advance check into your bank account.

3. You still have do to almost all your own promotional work. Unless you are actually the very cream of the crop, even if you are published with a large publishing house, you have to do your promotional work yourself.

4. The idea that you will get prime-time real estate at all the major booksellers if you are published by a big house is a myth. Not only is it a myth, but it’s becoming more and more irrelevant. Who cares about shelf space in a physical bookstore when there is infinite shelf space on the internet? Visibility is what matters when it comes to marketing – and whether you’re visible online or visible in a bookstore doesn’t really matter. So why worry about Barnes and Noble when you can sell online (or through small, local booksellers and support local businesses at the same time)? And besides, unless your book becomes a classic, it’s not going to be in Barnes and Noble forever anyway. So what’s the point?

None of those things sounded great to me. I wanted to get our book out in the world ASAP, I wanted to maintain full editorial and artistic control over all of the contents, I frankly didn’t care about having my book on the front shelves at Barnes and Noble, and I figured, if we’re going to have to promote our work anyway, why not maintain full rights and royalties while we’re at it?

And after that, the decision was easy.

We decided to self-publish. It helped that one of my co-authors, my mom, Kristy Blank Makansi, has owned and operated a small publishing house in St. Louis for the last three years, so we had a piece or two of knowledge going in. We knew we couldn’t settle for anything less than the best, though, so we’ve taken steps to ensure that our book will be every bit as good as a new release coming from a Big Six publishing house. We recruited an army of beta-readers to serve as our editorial board and to give us as much feedback as we needed (or wanted). We got an illustrator (in addition to my very talented sister and co-author) and two graphic designers on board. We found a professional web designer and have hired a proofreader with years of experience. Everything must be perfect.

But the best part is, ladies and gentlemen: it’s a whole lot of fun. Maintaining complete creative control over your work means that you have a lot more work to do, for sure, but it also means you get to be involved every step of the way – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So, what’s your rationale? Why did you decide to self-publish – or not? What’s your take on the rise of self-publishing and where do you fit in, as an author or a reader?

And FINALLY, for the fun – and important – part of this post: THE GIVEAWAY WINNER! We had seven entrants for the giveaway contest for THE SILENT STARS GO BY, so we put all the names into a hat and pulled out a winner. I am proud to announce that the winner is …

EMILY WITT! Congratulations! Emily, I’ll be in touch to get your contact info so that we can get you your victorious copy of Dan Abnett’s fantastic story featuring Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor, Amy, and Rory. Thanks to all who participated!