Why I decided to self publish.

Christmas Past Book CoverThere can be no doubt that Amazon’s KDP program has changed publishing. Some would argue that it has not been a change for the better, but it has brought something undeniably new to the table. For the first time in history, people have been able to self publish for free and get their book on Amazon’s cyber shelves. This is monumental and it has completely changed how we look at self publishing. While we could debate endlessly about the lack of a gatekeeper for Amazon’s kindle story, I’d rather talk about why made my decisions. A lot of people are asking themselves, “should I self publish my book?” and I’d like to explain why self publishing your work makes real sense to me.

First, a bit of background. I have written for as long as I can remember. My early adventures online were all in writing and while I dabbled in music and art, writing was always my first love. Still, at the back of my mind, I never really expected to publish. Sure, I had the usual writer’s doubts about the quality of my work, but for me it was the feeling that getting published was more like buying a lottery ticket then making a business proposal. Even if you wrote the finest novel in the English language, you still had to find a publisher suited to it, hope they teamed you up with a decent staff and then pray that they bothered to market. Then, after all that, you had to hope they didn’t stiff you on the royalty checks.

Traditional publishing didn’t seem realistic, it didn’t seem fair, it just seemed like the only option. I just couldn’t get the motivation to write for that. Sure, I could write a book, but why spend hours writing and rewriting a manuscript nobody else would ever read. Things changed when I left University, the economy collapsed, my job sucked, I didn’t work enough hours to fill the day and I found myself writing again, only this time I was really writing. I had ideas, I wanted to tell stories even if they were just light adventures, but publishing was still a lottery. I needed another way.

First I looked into how to self publish, then how to self publish for free and finally how to self publish for free and actually make any money from it. There weren’t many options, but one that seemed to be gaining traction was the Kindle store. Some guy named Konrath was selling his books on there, though he was still telling people not to do it (at the time, ) and so I sat down and I decided to write a novel for the Kindle store.

It went well. Sort of. I never finished it, but I wrote faster and better than I ever had before. I scrapped it eventually due to personal reasons that were eating all my time, but while I was on a hiatus something happened. Amanda Hocking became a millionaire. That was when the penny dropped. I didn’t think my stories would make me a millionaire, but I decided then and there that I would sell my books on the Kindle store because I had as much chance there as anywhere else. Since then I have written everything with the intention that it will end up for sale on Amazon some day.

So, how does this apply to writing, and writers, in general?

Cover to a pulp magazine featuring a story by ayn randI think the writing industry has changed more than people realise. For the last twenty years, publishers have only been concerned with novels. Short stories, poetry and plays are much less profitable and so the industry tends to focus on only the largest, most commercial novels (most of the time.) However, breaking into writing by writing a novel is not easy. It is a huge undertaking that is, quite understandably, beyond most people. This is part of the reason that traditional publishing feels like such a lottery, there’s a whole world of wannabe writers out there writing their first novels and submitting them. You have to be exceptional to rise above a slush pile like this.

The literary world wasn’t always like this, and the big problem is the decline of the short story in magazines. Once upon a time short stories were the bread and butter of writers, but that market has completely dried up now with only a few niche literary magazines remaining. What the fiction magazine offered to writers was an entry level publishing experience, an experience that was easier to succeed in but that required a level of professionalism. How does a writer cut their teeth now, not only in storytelling but in editing and publishing? Who can write and edit a novel to a standard that will please a publisher for their first real venture into the world of writing?  It is an unrealistic standard to ask of writers and one that is seriously damaging the progression of amateurs to professionals that is necessary to keep the industry going.

Amazon and its self publishing revolution has helped rebuild the ladder from the bottom to the top. Where once a new writer could submit stories to a magazine, they can now work towards self publishing their work, gaining a lot of experience in the process of bringing a story to true completion.

So, you’re new to writing and you’re wondering if you should you publish your work? Sure, it’s the bottom rung of the ladder, but at least you’re on the ladder.