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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Why I self publish

A commonly held belief seems to be that a self-published author is self-publishing because he/she isn't a strong enough writer to "make it" in the traditional publishing world. The writer has worn out all his/her options through traditional channels and just can't get that novel published--so he/she self-publishes as a last resort.

That's not true in my case. I'm only self-publishing because I don't like the idea of some editor standing between me and the reading public. I don't like the idea that one person, or a handful, wants to decide whether my book is worthy to be read by the world-at-large. I don't think we need gatekeepers. In addition to writing, I read a lot. And I'm perfectly capable of deciding whether or not I want to read something, or whether or not something is well written. I don't need an editor to pre-screen stuff for me. That's why I self-publish. I do it out of rebellion. Much like Pee Wee Herman, I am a rebel.

In the past, I have made the attempt to be published through traditional publishers. But it was a half hearted attempt, and I only submitted a small portion of my writing.

For example, most of the short stories in my collection Phantoms of the Mind were submitted to magazines such as Asimov's, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, etc. And they were rejected.

And I submitted my novels The Last Legend, Demonspawn, and Billy Barnaby's Twisted Christmas to a grand total of about one or two publishers each. I queried a few agents regarding A Hijacked Life, with no interest from any. By no means did I exhaust the list of agents and publishers that are out there.

So out of the seven novels I've written, only four of them were ever submitted, and to only few publishers. The other three, I never bothered submitting. And I've written other short stories that I haven't submitted anywhere. Why? Because I decided I didn't like the "game" of traditional publishing, i.e. you send out a manuscript, or a query letter, and wait for months before hearing any response and then, on the off chance that they buy your manuscript, you wait another few years before the thing is actually published. And on top of that is my dislike of "gatekeepers" deciding whether my writing ever sees the light of day.

I don't know whether my writing is actually good enough to be published traditionally. And I don't care. What I care about is whether my writing is good enough to interest a reader to buy my books. I'm going to continue writing regardless, because it's in my blood and I can't stop. In the past, I've tried to stop myself from writing, but I always come back to it. What I like about the new digital revolution that's sweeping the publishing world is that the reader gets to decide whether they like my writing. Not the editors of the big publishing houses. That's the way it should be. Editors, in my mind, should only do one thing: edit a writer's writing. Check the grammar and spelling, perhaps suggest a few plot improvements and the like. To me, an editor should just be a glorified version of MS Word's spelling and grammar check. They shouldn't be empowered to withhold writing from the public if they don't deem it worthy. We don't need gatekeepers.

That's why I self-publish, and that's why I'm celebrating the earthquake that's shaking the foundations of the traditional publishing world.

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