Self Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing – Why I chose to self-publish
I guess I’m not one of those people who will scream loud and clear against the publishing industry. I believe that if a deal is to your advantage, you should take it. I won’t lie, I sent out a lot of requests to agents and publishing houses, everything came back negative. Friends suggested that I write short stories for magazines, get my name out there etc… Writing short stories is as valid as anything else, it’s just not my thing. So I focus on novels.
I didn’t choose self-publishing because I was in a crusade against the publishing industry. Some of the arguments against self-publishing are true: a lot of books are of poor quality and it mostly work for very specific niche genres. I just had a look at the best-sellers on Amazon and most of them were cheesy romance (which is true of most of the book industry anyways, but that’s another question). So that argument is true but does not invalidate the notion that self-publishing is a valid opportunity, especially if you’re an artist that doesn’t fall into a specific, easily marketable category.
I feel i am lucky enough to be born in a time where huge corporations (Amazon, Apple, Kobo in Canada) will give anyone-anywhere-anytime the opportunity to sell their books online with no upkeep. I was still in college when the whole “kindle” wave hit (It wasn’t so long ago) and I could not dream they would allow any writer to just put their novels out there. I actually made plans with a few colleagues to start a small press in order to open a business account and hope to be approved for distribution in those networks, turned out you didn’t even need the business account.
I used to do zines when I first went to community college (that was ten years ago). I was also very much in the punk/militant scene and we would photocopy small zines at the student union and just hand them out on the street. It was cool to do and we had a lot of fun with it but the reach was incredibly limited. There were no such things as wordpress or blogger. The reach people can have today with very little resources is incredible. You could argue that there’s too much of it out there, that your voice “drowns” in the sea of blogs, but trust me, handing out political leaflets on St-Denis Street in the middle of a warm spring evening, will make you feel pretty damn isolated as well.
So I’ve decided to self-publish and make a name for myself. I guess it’s a DIY punk thing, “If the images you want to see or the stories you want to tell aren’t out there, just do them.” I could cite dozens of artists who made a similar statement and all of them were connected somehow to punk rock music. I’m think here about the kids from that “Beautiful losers” movie, Jacod Bannon from Deathwish inc or if you’re older, Greg Gurewitz who started Epitaph records. Some of these artists had been told “no” thousands of times, and did their art forms the way they wanted to do it in the first place. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, these artists have become very successful either by just doing their art or by building their companies from the ground up into successful endeavours.
After a few rounds of queries, I realized nobody was going to push my novel for me. It’s understandable: why would they risk money on something that’s not “theirs.” I wouldn’t. I couldn’t afford to. In music, even new bands have to prove themselves by playing dozens of shows and recording demos and EP’s before they are recognized. I knew I was going to have to do the same.
So I made a cover I was happy with, I hired people I knew to edited it who suggested people they knew to work with me and we pretty much went through the same process for ATS as an independent feature than if it had been picked up by a publishing house. Hell, some of the people I worked with could have been hired as freelancers by any of the Big5 and that’s the truth.
Of course, I had to pay them for the work they were doing, but as I am a new and independent artist, they have agreed to do a certain amount of work that was decent and I managed to pay them a certain amount of money that was also decent and I hope I get to pay them better next time.
There are corners you just can’t cut out there, editing’s and marketing are two of those things. The rest, I do on my own because I may not have a lot of money, but I do have some spare time on my hands (instead of playing videogames of photoshopping shitty instagram photos, for example – alright that’s a lie, I still manage to play videogames.)
Things I had to do on my own for this particular project was the artistic direction. What kind of cover did I want that fit the novel? For this, I decided to design and print apparel that looked like bands each of the main characters would listen too. If you look closely, there’s Neurosis, Terror, Anti-Flag and The Weakerthans.
Then I found a good silk-screen company through friends of friends and had them print the shirt (I tried to silk-screen in my apartment, but the results were catastrophic). Once that was done, I organized the photoshoot, contacted the models, took the pictures myself, designed the standardized version of the novels and edited the files so that you could see it was a series. That was the artistic direction.
After that, there’s the uploading and upkeep of files online through all the sales network (amazon, smashwords, kobo, lulu, createspace etc…) and while it takes a certain amount of time to do so, paying anyone else to do it for you is just plain stupid. Some companies out there sell you their services but let me tell you, if you’re smart enough to set up a facebook account, then you’re capable of putting your own e-book online.
Before the launch, I had to get beta reader copies printed so that I could get some reader feedback to tweak the novel before the final files are ready, then I send e-mails to cultural journalists in Montreal, and hired a book tour company to help with all the literary blogs I had no freaking connection too.
If you’re going to self-publish, there are things you need to learn how to do, other things you need to respect your limitations and invest a little bit of money. (But be weary of scams) Just remember that even if you don’t have a lot of resources, be fair, pay what you honestly can and people will want to keep working with you in the future.
I don’t know what to expect out of all of this beyond the fact that I will have released my fourth book (second full length novel). I do expect to go to another bunch of small press events, do a bunch of blog tours, hope for reviews. If people pick up the novel, find that it’s a valid story, then if I ever get a call from an agent or a publishing house, I’ll be in a much better position to get a deal that will be to my advantage.
Thanks for reading,
Genre - Literary, Coming of Age
Rating – PG13
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