Why self publish?

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This could be a very short post: Because, Hugh Howey. Not because he hit it big on Amazon with the Wool Omnibus (a must read if you’re one of the few who haven’t already devoured it) and ended up selling 2.5 million e-books or something to that effect. But because as he blogs continuously, self-publishing has not only democratized publishing – you wrote something? you want to publish it? Done! And guess what: it will now be around forever! – it has also democratized author earnings. Check out the latest report from Howey and his anonymous partner, which crunches data from Amazon to demonstrate that most of the money being made by authors today is coming from self-published authors, or authors at smaller indie publishers. Even as small bookstores are experiencing an amazing renaissance – hooray for local bookstores!

So now I’ve made it sound like I’m only in it for the money, right? Wrong. As I just said in my response to the annualĀ Digital Book World/Writer’s Digest 2014 survey, I’m actually quite happy with my current writer’s career, and the amount of money I’m making (eg, none). I’m writing, I’m critiquing other writers, I’m reading, I’m talking to other readers and writers. Oh, and I love my day job. So publishing – and having others read my work – will be the icing on the cake.

credit IndieReader.com
credit IndieReader.com

But here’s what I’ve found when I’ve talked to (lots) of agents and editors over the past four years: It doesn’t matter how well you write. It matters what agents, and publishing houses, think will sell. This Brittle Land, the novel I plan to publish next year, is hard to categorize, and that makes it very hard to sell. Is it fantasy? Sci-fi? Magical realism? Is it YA or NA or adult? (And what the hell is “genre” anyway? This great New Yorker piece picks it apart wonderfully, and also tips a hat to multi-genre novel Station Eleven, a finalist for the National Book Award that you should definitely read. Seriously. Open another browser window and go order it, right now.)

I’ve actually had agents tell me “you write really well, but I would have no idea how to market this.” Luckily, I do.

So over the next six months, I’ll be doing the same kind of things I do in my day job: Figuring out where the audience might be for This Brittle Land, and how to reach them. Creating (with help, since I have no visual artistic ability whatsoever) a cover that draws the eye and sparks the imagination. Building on my great relationships with readers, writers and other interested voyagers so that when the book comes out, some of them may want to read it.

Oh, and writing the sequel. Stay tuned.

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