Why I Decided Not To Self-Publish

One month ago I was sitting in a Carl’s Jr. in downtown Salt Lake talking about how awesome self-publishing would be.  I was so convinced of taking this route that I was surprised, weeks later, to realize it’s not the route for me at all.

I have the utmost respect for the authors who have made it at self-publishing.  The amount of work and dedication those guys put into it is nothing short of astonishing.  As a father of four and the sole income earner in the family I don’t have that luxury of time and money that so many others do, however.

I want to navigate the murky seas of traditional publishing.  I want the validation of securing an agent.  I want the deal with a publisher.  I want these things because they let me know more than any number of sales or hits on a website that I’ve done something right.  That maybe I’m pretty good at this writing thing.

I don’t want to be the self-pub guy who sells a million copies of his catalog he churned out in a year.  I want to be the guy who tells the stories that are demanding to be told.  I may never sell a million copies in a lifetime, but that’s okay as long as I know that what I’m writing means more to people than “Oh, it’s cheap, why not?”

I want to tell stories.  Not sell books.

Maybe along the way I’ll discover I’m not all that good at writing after all.  And what do I do then?  Fix what’s broken.  There’s no other option.  I’m a storyteller at heart.  I was always the Game Master when I played pen and paper RPGs.  I’m the kid who built entire universes with game creation tool kits on old computers.  I got into the video game industry because that’s what I do: I create.  I’ve been writing since I was five.  If you’re not a writer it’s difficult to understand what a burden having so many stories in your head can be.  All of them trying to get out, but only having so much time in the day to dedicate to any one of them.  I write because I have to.

And when I write, I want a team of experts behind me, people who know the business, people who know what works, guiding me along the way and helping me refine my craft.

Does that make any sense?  How about the rest of you?  Anyone have a similar thought process?  I’d love to hear from both the traditional and self-pub guys out there.

Advertisements

7 thoughts on “Why I Decided Not To Self-Publish

  1. Hi, Ben. I’ll tell you — my first “official” publication credit was one of the four best moments of my life (note: I’m mom to three kids, and giving birth is a high spot, too). It didn’t matter that it was a non-paying e-zine with limited readership — what mattered was that someone within their editorial process found my story worth posting. The morning I got the acceptance email, I did a victory dance around my room until my little dog thought I’d gone nuts.

    Maybe I’m too idealistic about the whole thing, but IMO, that kind of affirmation is priceless. Hold out for the dream if that’s what you want, and best wishes.

  2. That’s exactly what I’m looking for. It sounds silly sometimes, and some people may think I’m strange, but it really does matter to me to have the validation of Those Who Have Gone Before.

    Thanks for the comment!

  3. You want validation from an agent? Get real. An agent is some shmuck looking to dip his or her hand in your pocket for 15% of whatever your hard work garners….Here’s what validation is…PEOPLE PAY YOU M0NEY FOR WHAT YOU’VE WRITTEN! And when you self publish there isn’t someone sticking their hand in your pocket saying “gimme.”

  4. There’s nothing wrong with wanting the validation of “real” publishers. The only problem is that the model you’re looking at no longer exists: “And when I write, I want a team of experts behind me, people who know the business, people who know what works, guiding me along the way and helping me refine my craft.” You really need to be reading the blogs of experienced writers who are sharing their experiences with traditional publishing, and explaining why they’re now self-publishing.

    The helping hands that you’re looking for are busy trying to hold onto their jobs, churning out books that look as if they might sell, and mostly without the editing that they need. Instead of spending your time getting your books in front of the public, you’re going to spend much more time (maybe years) sending queries to agents and never knowing why you’ve been rejected. If you’re as young as your picture, you have plenty of time. I just hate to see someone doing it the hard way.

    Oh, that statement: “I don’t want to be the self-pub guy who sells a million copies of his catalog he churned out in a year.” You don’t have to be. That isn’t what self-publishing is all about. Believe me, you’ll have plenty of company: “I may never sell a million copies in a lifetime, but that’s okay as long as I know that what I’m writing means more to people than “Oh, it’s cheap, why not?” ”

    And a last note. Self-publishing doesn’t have to be expensive. Or cost anything at all. If you can learn new skills, you can do it all (or most of it) yourself. Using the time you’d spend writing up and sending out queries, and keeping tabs on them.

  5. I love this post! I agree with you wholeheartedly. I write to tell the story. A favorite quote from my cork-board:

    “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have always imaged.” ~Henry David Thoreau

  6. Thanks for the feedback, everyone. I’ve got a second post brewing for next week that explains the more practical, less emotional reasons for going this route. Mostly covering the chaos the industry is in right now and how I think it’s all going to shake out. I’ve been in the video game industry for over a decade, and there are a great many parallels in the shifts it’s experiencing and the shifts the publishing industry is experiencing.

  7. Pingback: Gazing Into the Doom-Eye of the Mad Oracle | Ben L. J. Brooks

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s