Thoughts

So…self publishing

This week, I self-published four books: Songs from the UndergroundEver Unknown, Ever MisunderstoodUneven Lanes; and Wabi-Sabi World: An Artist’s Search.

The first three are available as eBooks on Smashwords, and the last is available on Blurb in softcover and hardback.

But that’s not what this post is about (really).

I hadn’t intended to self publish. I admit to being one of those people who turned up their nose at such an endeavor — not because I knock the process, exactly, but because I’ve seen too many self-published books that weren’t really ready for publication. They needed more editing or a better cover artist or just a lot more time to stew in their juices, as it were, to become the best they could be.

I almost went that route once before, with my first novel. I was riding that NaNoWriMo high of achievement, and I thought I was ready. Halfway through — after I’d spent about $30 and was about to spend $300 more — I realized I was wrong. I wasn’t ready. God Only Knows wasn’t ready. The Blame Game wasn’t ready. And I wasn’t about to “blow my career” on a “bad” first novel.

Now, maybe this is somewhat errant thinking. Maybe you can come back from a poor debut. I don’t know. But you can guess what I think based on the fact that I haven’t actually published a novel yet…

My philosophy on self-published poetry, however, is different. To me, poetry doesn’t need much sitting time. You write it in the moment, and usually it’s done (there’s a famous poet who agrees with me, but I can’t recall who…very inconvenient, I know). This makes the most sense when you’re writing in free verse, I think; for form poetry you might want to do some actual revision, unless you’re super familiar with the form, to the point where it comes naturally. I am not that kind of poet.

That said, Songs from the Underground DOES include some form poetry, since I wrote most of the poems for my undergraduate poetry class (under former Poet Laureate of Minnesota Joyce Sutphen — she’s amazing). I’m proud of those poems, and many of them did see much more editing than I usually engage in — but I still prefer to write poems when inspiration strikes, and leave them preserved.

So it’s not that I care about my poetry less (although for some reason I do feel more pressure to produce a great novel than a perfect book of poetry), but that I’m more confident — or at least comfortable — in letting it simply “be.” I also like to keep covers simple, using my own photography and a simple text overlay. I think that’s all a collection of personal poetry needs.

I harbor similar sentiments about nonfiction writing, possibly because I wrote and photographed so many news stories on such a short timeline that I simply had to write, proofread, publish and move on. Wabi-Sabi, like Songs from the Underground, was composed for a college class, and I’d really been meaning to publish it for years now, so its venture into the world this week doesn’t seem sudden.

I should also note that, technically, I’d already published each of the abovementioned books through Photobook America — I just only printed one copy, and didn’t have an ISBN for any of them. So I guess you could call that a kind of revision.

In any case, I can now call myself a published author in a way that people can see and (hopefully) understand. And that doesn’t suck 🙂

***

What do you think? To self publish, or not to self publish? What are your conditions?

7 thoughts on “So…self publishing”

  1. I decided to go the self-publishing route for my books. I met with someone who I’m going to have do cover design for me and he asked me why. To be honest, I’m not sure 100% anymore. I think it boils down to control. For a first time actually published novel by an unknown name, I know I won’t get much real assistance in the way of advertising and when sales prove to be lack-luster, the thing I worked so hard to finish will be removed from the world and the rights to re-release won’t be mine, so it’ll die. I’m not super okay with that.

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  2. I was thinking along those lines too. But I have to temper my objections and weigh them against my age…which is 70…does this beg the question…is there time? Is it even important that my words reach the ears and minds of others. Money and accolades are unimportant…but appreciation…well now…quite agreeable.

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    1. YES — your words matter! If you want people to see them, share them! If you’re not looking to monetize, though, and you don’t have a specific audience in mind, I would recommend blogging more than book publishing. I think it’s easier to get your work seen and shared that way, and it’s easier to edit after posting.

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  3. I’m going to self-publish because it gives me 100% control. If readers want to buy printed versions, then I’ll work with local POD outlets, because I don’t want my books printed in China.

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