Let’s get something out of the way: self-publishing is not better than traditional publishing. Traditional publishing is not better than self-publishing. Deciding what works for you and your novel is an incredibly personal choice that should be backed with a lot of research and consideration.
I see a lot of people pitting these two platforms against each other, but I find that to be counter-productive. Each person’s path to choosing a publishing method is different, and there is no “one-size-fits-all” litmus test that you can use to decide which is right for you.
I plan on self-publishing my novel, The Songbird’s Refrain, and I plan on continuing a self-publishing career after that. And I came to this decision after a lot of consideration and research.
The first thing I looked at was genre, which, to be honest, was sort of a toss-up. It’s Young Adult, which doesn’t always do great in the self-publishing market. But it’s also a genre piece with a lesbian protagonist, a bi love interest, and a whole lot of ladies loving ladies in a way that isn’t a coming out story, which doesn’t always do great in the traditional publishing world. Either way, I was taking a risk on this story, and as I wasn’t willing to either age up the story or make it more heterosexual, I just had to pick one and deal with the risks associated with either side of things.
So, when it came down to picking self-publishing over traditional publishing, I had to look at myself as a person.
And here’s the thing—I’m used to wearing “all the hats,” as it stands. I’ve made a pretty successful career for myself in public relations and content marketing, and I’ve done a lot of that freelance. Even in my less-freelance role, I’ve still been pretty self-sufficient and have even taken on a more “project manager” type of a role.
At the end of the day, I already had a “head start” on the skills that make a good self-published author.
Another thing that took precedence was creative control, specifically in regards to how The Songbird’s Refrain is marketed. You might notice that I’m not shy about the gay elements of this book—but at the same time, that’s not what I want most of the marketing to focus on. Because ultimately it’s a story of finding strength and power even when the world tries to strip you of it, coming into your own, learning how to trust yourself. The gay elements inform and enhance the narrative, not the other way around.
It’s also important to me that closeted gay kids feel comfortable having this book on their shelves. That meant that I wanted some say on the cover design and the back cover blurb.
There is also the matter of my other career. Unlike a lot of writers, I have no intention of giving up my “day job,” even if my novels succeed beyond my wildest dreams. I would love to be in a position where I don’t have to take on new clients, but that’s about as far as things go. And I never wanted there to be a situation where a publisher’s deadline came in between me and a client. I have more or less complete control over my schedule in my day job—but I needed complete control in my writing career as well, for this to work.
Now, there are plenty of cons to going the self-publishing route. I’m not really looking forward to shelling out all that money up front, and I know for a fact that a traditional publishing house could do more for me, marketing-wise, than what I can do on my own.But for me, personally, I was willing to sacrifice those things for the pros that self-publishing would bring.
This is not a decision I made lightly, or hastily, and neither should you. Even if your situation is exactly the same as mine, do not read this and go, “Oh, so I should self-publish!” Do your research! Talk to people who have self-published and traditionally published, and get the pros and cons of each. And no matter which path you decide on taking, do not put down the other. We’re all in this together.