I’ve talked here on the blog about how I self-published, but I haven’t yet shared with you why I chose self-publishing. Because I didn’t always intend to self-publish Mundane Magic. For a start, when I began writing it, I didn’t really intend to publish at all. Once that changed, thanks to a conversation with the incredible woman to whom the book is dedicated, I still hadn’t decided how to publish. In fact I didn’t even know how one got published. You just wrote to publishers, right?
Thanks to the wealth of information on the internet I quickly learned that this was not in fact the case.
I soon developed a mental image of the two main avenues in front of me: submitting to literary agents, which was perhaps the most terrifying four words I had ever heard, and self-publishing, which had its own vast set of options for how you did it. It seemed silly not to at least try submitting to agents, so that was what I did over the next month – whilst also continuing to learn more about self-publishing.
After some days of sitting terrified before the send button, I submitted to three very lovely agents who, in equally kind ways, universally rejected Mundane Magic. Their comments were all the same: it has promise, but it’s not what I’m looking for. This wasn’t hugely surprising to me, as outside of its explicit portrayal of mental health, I didn’t think – and still don’t think – that Mundane Magic is particularly groundbreaking. That’s not really the point of the novel.
But as those rejections came in, something unexpected happened: I became excited. People of Importance had read my novel – or parts of it, at least. They did not hate it, or at least it was good enough for them to be nice about it. Perhaps it did indeed have redeeming features, even if they weren’t the sort of features that were going to get it published.
By this point I also knew a lot more about self-publishing. I knew it was more than just posting your book up on Amazon. I knew it involved months of work, learning to do things I had never done before, and being the very definition of a polymath. This, really, was the thing that made me do it.
I will always fear showing off. I spent my entire childhood showing off, and it brought me years of abuse – to which I reacted by showing off more, and creating an infinite cycle of trauma. But I still crave being the centre of attention; part of me is still that loud, boastful actress inside me waiting for everyone to look at me.
I am also terrified of giving control to other people. When I started to recover from my mental breakdown, obsessively controlling things was one of the ways that I coped. I have spent several years addicted to personal organisation, and in the often unbreakable habit of doing everything for myself. I find it very difficult to allow other people even to do things as simple as cleaning the bathroom for me.
So naturally I decided to walk the path which would involve me doing everything myself.
This of course comes with its own set of problems. At points I have been completely overwhelmed by the responsibility inherent in being an author-publisher. By the need to break out of my habitual independence to rely on other people for editing, for designing – and most of all, for buying the book and reading it. It turns out that I cannot, in fact, do everything myself.
Perhaps this is not the reason for self-publishing that you were expecting. Certainly there are other advantages that were behind my decision: it meant that I would definitely be able to say my book was published, rather than spending years slowly begging every literary agent in the UK to consider my book. It meant that I could do it at my own pace, fitting around my health problems and number of spoons.
But if I am being totally honest, I did it for the challenge. I did it because it would be hard. I did it because it would, definitely and completely, be my work by the end of it. Out of pure, unadulterated Slytherin pride.
This is all very interesting, but why should I choose self-publishing?
Ultimately it’s your decision which option fits you better. I would always advocate attempting the traditional publishing route first simply because if you can access that, it seems silly not to – the people you would get to work with are experts who likely have a lot more experience than you and can make a huge difference to your work.
But if that falls through, or you decide that it just isn’t for you, I would start researching the ways to self-publish. I have several articles about self-publishing here on the blog, and a quick Googling will find you dozens more. If you want to find some specialist places to look for information, check out my list of resources.
Researching self-publishing will give you a better idea of whether it would work for you, and if so in what format. You might not have the time to self-publish – it takes a lot of time. If you’re working a full-time job, have three children and an active social and hobby life…well frankly, you’re probably an organised enough person to cram in a bit more. But for many people it just isn’t possible because of the time commitment. For others, time is the thing they have plenty of, and at that point self-publishing becomes a lot more attractive.
There are as many possible reasons to self-publish as there are authors, or indeed as there are ways to self-publish – because they are not all alike. That is the reason for researching it when you’re considering it. Know what you’re considering, know what it would entail, and make an informed decision as to whether it’s right for you.
And don’t be afraid, when all is said and done, to pick it just because you want the challenge.