Here’s another post that’s new to this blog. I wrote it for Morgan Mandel’s site as part of my blog book tour last November. I’ve talked about self-publishing here, but not for ages, so some of my newer readers may be unaware of what I’m about to confess.
IN PRAISE OF SELF-PUBLISHING
True confession time: I’m a self-published author, I’m out and I’m proud! There’s still a certain stigma associated with self-publishing, but the publishing industry is undergoing seismic changes, and I believe those of us who’ve bypassed the traditional system are taking back our power and gaining greater credibility with every passing day.
When I began blogging seriously back in May, I posted about my bipolar diagnosis, saying I’m out and I’m proud. At that time I wrote that self-publishing with a print-on-demand publisher rather a traditional publisher had even more stigma attached than revealing that I’m bipolar. But in the six months since then, I’ve changed my mind. Here are some reasons why.
I was recently honored as 2009 Author of the Year by the Friends of the Albany Public Library for my suspense novel Eldercide. They had a wonderful luncheon in my honor, and when their President Gene Damm introduced me, he pointed out that although they’ve been giving the award for decades, this is the first time they’ve ever chosen a self-published author. The fact that I was self-published didn’t weigh into their decision either positively or negatively; they simply thought my book was the best of the many they considered, and they liked the way I dealt with important social issues regarding aging and death.
In October, I moderated two panels for the Poisoned Pen Web Con, sponsored by Poisoned Pen Press and billed as the first-ever virtual worldwide mystery conference. When I volunteered to serve as moderator, the organizers didn’t ask who had published my books. Rather, they gave me free rein in organizing my panels on social issues and point-of-view. Most of the authors on the panels, which I put together by e-mailing back and forth, had far more impressive publishing track records than mine, but it didn’t matter. (By the way, you can visit the Web Con at the link above to read my panels and access the rest of the conference proceedings free of charge.)
Putting together those two panels made me even more grateful that I took the self-publishing route. Especially in the social issues panel, authors related stories of agents and editors who dictated what they should and shouldn’t write. Child abuse was taboo, for example. Appealing to the broadest possible audience without offending anyone seemed to be the dominant concern, and for the most part, the authors acceded to the restrictions. Those of us who self-publish have no such limitations – we’re free to write about whatever we want, however we want, and to build our own readership without having to appeal to the lowest common denominator.
I tried the traditional route to publication for both my mystery novels. While attempting unsuccessfully to find an agent for Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders, which deals with mysterious deaths at a social club for the mentally ill on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, I wrote Eldercide.. Perhaps mental illness was too specialized a topic, I thought, and I hoped for more success with the novel that drew on my experience running a home health care agency. No such luck: the rejections continued. Approximately 15 rejections for each book – not many at all, but enough to throw me into a profound clinical depression. I nearly gave up, until some writer friends convinced me to try print-on-demand publishing. I did due-diligence online research on POD companies and settled on Virtual Bookworm, a company in Texas that received consistently good reviews. Within two months of my decision, I had a published book in my hands. I had a major say in the design and layout, and I did my own cover illustration. Lo and behold, my depression lifted, and it hasn’t come back since.
Do I still want a big-time agent and publisher? Yes, that would be great, but my life no longer depends on it. And I plan to acquire them on my terms, when and if I choose. In the meantime, the people buying my books don’t care who the publisher is. Bookstores and libraries carry them when I do the necessary outreach, and they’re available worldwide through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. At my high school reunion last June in Milwaukee, I learned the school had purchased both books for their collection of alumni writers. And a fellow alumna from Norway, an exchange student back in the day, had bought them online as well.
Do I recommend POD self-publishing to other aspiring authors? Absolutely, and even more so since I’ve met Morgan Mandel and so many other successfully self-published writers on line. I firmly believe we’re just beginning to come into our power.
Are you a self-published author? If so, what sort of stigma have you experienced? If you had it all to do over, would you take a different route? Or are you out and proud like me?
Want to order one or both of my books direct from the source and personally inscribed to you? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll tell you how it can be arranged. One of these days I’ll have PayPal up and running on this site, but why wait? I’d love to hear from you.