No More Spinning My Wheels: The Decision to Self-Publish

When I started my author page on facebook, I promised to keep updating folks on my path to publication. I shared when I landed an agent, finaled in contests, submitted manuscripts, and received rejections (of which there’ve been many). Lately, I’ve been fielding a lot of questions about the status of my manuscript submissions—which means it’s time to do a serious update. Picture flashing signs, exit looming, blinker on… ready?

©karenroach via BigStock

©karenroach via BigStock

In August I asked my agent to pull the submission of my second book from the last two editors who had it. I also told her that she and I should part ways. She was incredibly gracious, said she’d do the same in my position, and wished me well. A bold move from a newbie author who’s been trying hard to get published for years, right? Yes and no.

Let me preface by saying that I still believe in the traditional path. There are benefits, and I’m not ruling it out in future. (Heck, I spent twenty years working for or with traditional publishers as a designer. In truth, I feel quite a bit of loyalty in that direction.) But as time dragged on, I realized that path had me rather stuck in the road. I was hitting the accelerator, but my wheels kept spinning in the mud. Worse, I started to suspect that even if a tow truck came along, I wouldn’t like the driver’s plan to get me rolling, let alone his price. I began to fret: what if I did get an offer—something I’ve waited so long for—and I felt I had to decline? And while I waited, I daydreamed: What if I could make this happen myself—without paying into his big tow-truck conglomerate or signing his long-term contract?

Because I’ve been watching, carefully, ever since self-publishing got rolling. I’ve been noting the signposts. Do’s and don’ts. Possibilities. Warnings. Failures. And most of all success stories—especially the quiet ones…

I began submitting to editors via the agent in mid-April of 2012. In that time, my skills as a writer have grown. So has my confidence. The rejections I received are positive. The agent and I have exhausted the houses I was really gung ho about. The others, I feel, are not worth pursuing as they are unlikely to take a chance on my cross-genre books. The self-publishing world has grown and soared. Not just in scope, but in quality. And, as some surprise standouts have shown, the internet is often the perfect place for unusual books or new trends to find an audience.

I’m tired of waiting on a winch and a ramp and somebody else’s wheels. I’m ready to roll forward. Okay, maybe I’m not ready to drag race, but I’m certainly ready to leave the safety of the neighborhood. Because let’s face it. I’ve got to actually make money off this gig. I need to make a living, or I can’t keep spending my time writing. I don’t count on being some zillionaire. I just want steady income from my writing. I want my stories out in the world, touching somebody. And more and more, I find I want to be in control of how they get there. It’s bound to be a steep hill, especially at the beginning. I don’t have a built-in audience. I’ve got a helluva lot to do and to learn.
I will have to scrape and scrounge to afford to hire out those pieces I can’t do myself, like editing. I will have to keep writing even as I run a business. I fully expect to work harder than I ever have before.

But you know what? I only need to do better than the small newbie advance and set royalty percentage I might have eventually gotten from a traditional house. I only, at first, need to cover the costs of self-publishing. And then, to make a better income than what I’m making design-wise. Those are the baselines. If I hit them, I will consider myself successful. If I reach those marks sooner rather than later, I’ll be thrilled. I’m incredibly excited about the possibilities and, regardless of the level of success I achieve, I don’t doubt for a second that this is the right course for me. But it’s going to take time. And the road is long.

Am I terrified? Hell, yes. I could totally eat these words. I could be a dismal failure. I could end up hanging my head in shame—mortified because I shared all this and then blew it.

But then again, maybe not.

~JB

© JB Schroeder LLC

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