I remember walking into my local indie children’s book store and asking if I could talk to their book buyer. “My debut novel comes out next year,” I told her, eyes wild with joy. “How nice,” she cautiously replied, and I could immediately see weariness and wariness in the woman’s eyes. I thought I’m not the first mom to walk in here and say I’ve written a book, am I? I wondered how many folks came in with books printed through Amazon’s CreateSpace, certain every bookstore has plenty of room to stock them and time to hand-sell their self-published creations.
Telling my I-just-signed-a-book-contract celebration news to acquaintances often elicited this reply: “How nice! My daughter/aunt/ neighbor/child’s teacher/lawyer/candlestick maker published a book too!” 99% of these books were self-published. I can’t guess what percentage of non-writer folks assume that self-published books and traditionally published books are pretty much identical in terms of quality and the time invested to achieve that quality, but it felt high. High enough that I felt compelled to introduce my impending authorship by cramming in somewhat pompous-sounding details before running out of breath: “My first book is coming out next year with a traditional publishing house that’s been in the children’s book business for over eighty years and it’s going to sold in bookstores all over the country just like Harry Potter and yes, you’ll be able to order it not only from Amazon but anywhere fine books are sold.”
When I began my journey to publication, self-publishing was not part of my equation. I never questioned that I was going to seek out an agent and go the standard
glacially-paced rejection-rife but-oh-so-worth-it-all route. However, after years of work and only six months away from my book’s birthday, self-publishing persistently lurks in the background when I talk about my upcoming debut. It doesn’t lurk maliciously; more like a confused, well-meaning elephant who doesn’t know why its presence near my dining room table (carefully set for a book debut celebration party) is making me uncomfortable.
I learned to accept this sense of a misplaced pachyderm wandering in my writer’s soul until I took over leadership of an informal local writers’ group. One member of my group nearly shelled out big bucks for a “publishing contract” from some vanity press pretending to be doing him a favor. And another elected to print his memoir through Amazon and was amazed to find that my publishing experience bore no resemblance to his. I’m now worried about pre-published writers who genuinely want to become professionals getting sucked into thinking there’s no appreciable difference between self-publishing and traditional.
There are certainly valid reasons to self-publish, like avoiding rejection and having control over your book’s design and timing of release. I would hope that anyone choosing self-publication does so with their eyes wide open, knowing the price they pay for personal control is giving up the giddy fun of receiving advances, the power to reach readers through extensive publicity and distribution networks, and the warm, supportive hammock of confidence in the quality of your book’s professional editing and production.
What about your own journey, fellow pre-published and published writers? Let’s talk about any elephants that lurk at your own dining room tables. Have you considered going (or even satisfactorily navigated) the self-publishing route? Have you ever struggled to convince folks that traditionally publishing a book is one heck of an accomplishment? You have? How nice! Please share a comment below.
CHRISTINA USS is proud that it’s taken years of persistence to say her debut novel THE ADVENTURES OF A GIRL CALLED BICYCLE comes out June 5, 2018 from Margaret Ferguson Books/ Holiday House. See the cover reveal on KidLit TV here. Tweet to her about your own publishing experience @christinauss or drop by http://www.christinauss.com.