Last Monday I attended a creative writing meeting and was just sitting down with my cup of blackberry chamomile tea when a conversation sparked up that piqued my interest. Big time publishing companies. The writers sitting around my table were ranting about big time publishing companies, and not even the polite ranting you hear around the office, this is the venomous bile you hurl at your worst enemy (and then some). Big companies want cookie-cutter material. They want certain specifics that only a few authors pen. They leave great authors high and dry in the slush pile or sitting on their desks for months, maybe years. The conversation was so heated you could warm your hands by it, yet when it all cooled down, the main issue was this – big publishing companies are hard to get into, we’ve all heard this before, it’s a tough nut to crack and few even make a sliver.
Because of this qualm, many of the members are resorting to self-publishing. As soon as those two words were uttered the crowd went silent… like my fellow writer said something taboo. Self-publishing? The conversation shifted. Altered. There was a wide range of reactions to those words, some merely shook their head, some said send it out to more agents, but most of them nodded, saying that’s what they’re doing as well. Publishing the book themselves. There was even one writer who is going straight for self-publishing, not even sending her novel out to any “big time” publishing companies or agents. Yet what struck me most is that, for this particular gaggle of writers, it was seen as a “last resort.”
But really should it be a last resort at all? Why can’t it be the first resort?
I’ve heard the qualms of self-publishing before in my college classes and beyond – how it’s not really that reputable, or how it’s not going to have the same feel that a ‘real’ publishing company can give you, or how it’s not really worthwhile if you want to make it big.
But, honestly, I don’t think those are very good reasons. For one, you can check if a site is reputable or not by researching – there are good sites out there (smashwords is the one that comes to my mind). For another, if you want the same feel as a ‘real’ publishing company, you can do that yourself! Get an editor to go over the work, become your own agent, market yourself, you can even get hard-copies of your work published and sell it at your local bookstore if you wanted. If you’re worried about “making it big” then, I’m sorry to say, you’re worried about the wrong thing. Writer’s shouldn’t write to make it big, we should write because we have something to say, and if you do happen to make some money in the process then good for you! But don’t count on it. Write because you love writing. Plus, there’s always a chance that you will make it big anyway, I’ve heard of authors starting out online, self-publishing some things and getting a following, and then being picked up by a bigger publishing company.
Personally, I see nothing wrong with self-publishing, it’s a good way to get noticed and shouldn’t be seen as a “last resort.” I mean, come on, if you have a story to tell and feel like the world should read it then get it out there any way you possibly can. That’s not to say I’m against the usual way of publishing – agents, editors, publishing companies and the like – but I think it’s important to realize there are other ways of circulating your work.