Monday, 18 July 2016

Why choose self-publishing? My writing journey, part one

'Why did you choose to become a self-published author?' You may think the answers are obvious, and many of them are, but I've never explored this topic here on my blog. After reading yet another great post from author friend, Danielle K girl, I think it's time.

My writing journey has been a winding path
Turns out the answers are like my first drafts – in a knotty mess. Let me try to unravel them by taking you back a few years...

My writing journey has always been a sporadic one. As a kid I wrote a lot of poetry. It was silly and fun, and I earned a reputation for penning a comic verse for relatives on their birthday. My aunts and uncles were my first audience. Those poetry readings were an easy gig, I can tell you.

At some point in my teens I was sucked into reading all the works of David Eddings. Remember those heady days? It was after reading one series (the one with Sparhawk – anyone remember it?) that I first wondered about the mysteries of writing a novel. A fantasy novel of course. I had the first chapter of my masterpiece planned and wrote three paragraphs which I gave to my brother to read. It was an anxious wait for his feedback, which in the end entailed his laughter, and not much more.

Remember this?
Not to be deterred, I read the bio on David Eddings at the back of the book and instantly grew intimidated by his scholarly credentials. Something about him being an expert in military history was particularly intimidating. I was an average student, prone to too much daydreaming at school. At that point in my life I couldn't imagine attending university. And according to Edding's bio, to be a writer you had to attend university. I folded the dream neatly away.

Much later, I did go to university, studying a course I had no enthusiasm for. Later I got one of those dreaded 'real jobs' that, thankfully, enabled me to travel. But writing still called to me. I enrolled in a creative writing course at a TAFE (community college) and learned a few things about writing and faced my first ever 'real' feedback. As I matured into early adulthood, I continued to write my poems as well as the odd short story which I would enter into competitions. None of them came close to winning. But writing kept calling.

In my late twenties I went back to university and completed an arts degree majoring in Literature and History. It allowed me to enroll in two creative writing subjects – my love of writing wasn't going away.

I met the love of my life, got whizzed away to live in another state, did more study, and in my thirties started a new career in teaching. The writing was put on hold again, but I kept reading about the careers of my favourite authors and how they'd 'made it'. Rather than being inspired I was always rather discouraged to bother even trying to write a novel. Teaching was a hard gig – time-consuming and energy-sapping. I couldn't see how I'd have the energy to face millions of rejection letters from agents and publishing houses in the hope of one day getting published. It seemed as likely as winning the lottery.

But the dream of 'one day' writing a book stuck with me, and it was a comment from a close friend that gave me the wake up call I needed. "Well, you're getting close to forty. If you're going to write a book, you better start doing it!" This moment kickstarted me, and I got back into short story writing. It wasn't long after my friend's words of wisdom that I learned of self-publishing. I was getting close to forty. My job was all-consuming. I simply didn't have the time or energy for the traditional publishing path, not to mention, the confidence.

The devil's advocate might suggest the real reason I didn't want to try the traditional route to publishing was laziness. And, I don't disagree. After work I could barely write for an hour, let alone face another query letter. Yes, I was too lazy to undertake all that was required for traditional publishing. I had to use my energy for writing alone.

One might suggest another 'real reason' was perhaps I just didn't want to face rejection. Again, this is true. I didn't want to pour hours of my precious time and energy into a book that agents would ultimately reject. I'd come to a bit of a crisis in my life, actually. I lost confidence in my teaching skills (being a sensitive introvert didn't help) and fell into an acute depression. Writing helped me a lot during that time. But, I couldn't face negativity that likely rejections would most assuredly bring.  So, I decided to put my writing out there and see what readers would think of it. In 2011 I embarked on my journey to write and self-publish – to be an Indie author. I started with this blog, and in 2013 I published my debut novelette, The Viscount's Son.

The Viscount's Son my debut publication

Now, I'm writing full-time and I love it (not exactly earning a 'full-time' wage yet, but that will come). Amazingly, many readers have told me they love my books – the best validation in my opinion. Now, I wonder whether my 'late start' to writing has had a positive, rather than negative effect. I've read a lot of books, I've studied, I've travelled, I've lived. When I got serious about writing and participated in critique groups and read books on writing, I learned lessons quickly. I've still got much more to learn, but at this stage in my life, I'm more than ready to learn them. Perhaps, as a young twenty-something, my youthful arrogance or impatience would have prevented me from developing my skills as an author. Who knows?

And just because I haven't faced the rejection of an agent, doesn't mean I've not faced negativity. I've had my share in the form of robust critique (which I welcome) and those nasty one star reviews (which I don't welcome). But, it's balanced with fair critique, reader feedback and five star reviews.

Being a late starter also means I've learned a thing or two about the world, and what I've heard about traditional publishing houses makes the cynic in me cringe. I'd rather spend my time honing my craft or learning more about marketing than networking at conventions or writing query after query in the vain hope an agent sees potential in my work. I'm just not cut out for that kind of world – the world established by traditional publishing.

So, that's my journey into writing and ultimately self-publishing. But, there are other questions to consider. What are the benefits of self-publishing? What are the disadvantages? Is reader validation enough? And what about the perceived stigma of self-publishing? Good questions which I'll give more attention to in part two of this post (at some point in the near future).

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