Self-Publishing Grows Up
My friend Felix wanted to be known as an author. Even before he retired, he worked hours daily on his novel. His wife, an English teacher, served as reader and editor. Yet no agent or publisher accepted his novel. I did not read it, but knowing Felix and his wife, both intelligent, educated people, I suppose it to have been well-written and engaging, like thousands of other novels submitted to agents every year. And rejected, thus destroying the writer’s ambition and potential for growth as an author.
Agents will be the first to admit their selections are highly subjective. Were they or the minion that first reads “over the transom” manuscripts, moved, excited, or intrigued by the story? If not, they click delete. Faced with an inbox full of submissions, it must get easier and easier to reject manuscript after manuscript. For the minion or intern
who weeds the submissions, their job security lies in rejecting manuscripts. Accepting one puts their judgment on the line. For the agent, so much hinges on their mood at the time. The more submissions they read, the more jaded they become so that every submission might seem dull and pedestrian.
Publishing is a business. It costs money, and publishers as well as agents hope their selections will become blockbuster bestsellers. What exactly will that look like? No one really knows.
Amazon.com eliminated major barriers for writers by allowing the self-published author to sell directly to the consumer. The barriers in the old, established system—agents, wholesalers and distributors, bookstore policies—no longer matter. Now, marketing and promotion are what matters, as they always did.
The Independent Book Publishers Association through its Publishers’ University and other programs has done much to improve the quality of books from independent and small presses and self-publishers. As a result, the self-published book can be as well-produced and attractive as a book from Simon & Schuster. Nowadays, when I say I self-publish my books, the response is positive. Sure, they say, why not?
A few of the old barriers still exist. The main reviewing media like Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal and others, used to proudly state they did not review self-published books. Now, several of them will provide credible review3s of self-published books but for a fee. Of course, they see a lucrative revenue stream here.
My books receive excellent reviews. My cozy mystery series featuring the 90s Club has a growing list of fans. And here’s what the highly respected Kirkus Reviews says about my book, The Two-Sided Set-Up:
“A fast-paced and multilayered thriller with well-developed characters and colorful settings…An engaging tale for aficionados of psychological suspense.” Could I get an agent for it? No.
Self-publishing my first book scared me. What would the critics say? Was my book any good? My fears were groundless, and self-publishing opened the way for me to grow as a writer and a publisher. As all self-publishers should, I make every effort to make sure my books are quality products with the help of critique groups and readers and professional cover designers. Publishing is an exacting and complicated business. There’s a lot to learn.