Why self-publish?

The short answer to that question is probably “because I’m impatient,” which doesn’t seem to go with “started this in 2002,” but… when I finally decide to do something I like to get it done and over with (my husband and I got married eight weeks after we got engaged, case in point). And I know that even when you have the rare Cinderella experience in professional publishing it takes years to go from submission to print (and sometimes you have to cut your toes off). Also, despite what my Master Gardener friends may think, I’m not getting any younger.

When I started writing Time for Tea, self-publishing was often the kiss of death, the mark of an amateur who’d been rejected multiple times and had to turn to bad deals from vanity publishers to get a book out into the light of day (a rather cloudy light, at that). I didn’t want to go that way. But things have changed in eleven years: print-on-demand is now a thing, e-books are a thing, experienced writers are turning to self-publishing, and the occasional newbie makes it big that way. Getting published by the traditional method is harder than ever; publishing is ever-more-blatantly a business where sure sales are the only goal. And it’s particularly hard to sell 400-page books that span several genres.

People tell me my work is “good enough” to be traditionally published, and yeah, I agree. I suspect I’d find a buyer if I tried long and hard enough. But self-publishing I could manage mostly on my own, in six months from deciding to make the leap. Even if traditionally published I’d still have to do my own marketing, and I’d net less of each book sale. So why not give it a try? I still don’t know how well this is going to work, but I’m curious to find out.

And yes, I do want to sell my work; I want to make at least some money from it. But what I really want are readers. I’ve loved writing these books and I want to share them with other people who may love them too. Some of my friends know me as a “book pusher”; I’m good at getting others hooked on authors and series that I enjoy. In some ways this is just another step in that direction, if a very large one taken in the dark with no guarantee of not breaking a leg on landing. (Okay, that was a painful metaphor. Feel the vulnerability: shattered bone and blood and whimpering. But I do know not everyone will like what I write.)

Self-publishing definitely isn’t for all writers, and I don’t know for sure that it’s for me yet. I applaud those who struggle through the long submission-and-rejection process and finally reach their goal. Possibly I’m not brave enough for that; perhaps I’m just bad at waiting. But here I am, anyway.


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