Why I’ve Chosen Self-Publishing, Or As I Prefer, “Team-Publishing”
This question is constantly tossed in my direction when I tell people that I’m in the final stages of writing a book. It’s a natural question because the birth of a book, at least for most of us, is viewed more or less as a logical two-step process:
1) Write a book
2) Publish that son-of-a-gun!
Perhaps on some levels, it really is that simple. (Wait, did I say “simple” – forgive me, I’ve been drinking.) But the world is changing, and with these changes come increased complexities. While the rules for writing a good book are still locked in the deep vaults of the Gringotts Wizarding Bank, the rules for the second step of birthing a book – also known as publishing – have changed greatly over the past five years. Getting one’s story into the hands of the world doesn’t have to be routine or formulaic, and one no longer needs to pander to an authoritative figure at desk in some forlorn skyscraper.
For a while, I fumbled with the “do you have a publisher” question, often providing a longwinded response about my desire for validation from a publisher, but then stoically explaining how all the validation I ever needed was inside myself, and this realization enabled me to consider other options. But now I’m over that bullshit new-age response. Why? Because I’ve come up with a terribly effective response. I simply answer with this statement:
“Actually, yes… I am a publisher.” And then I jab a thumb into my chest.
That’s right. I’m coming out of the publishing closet.
For my upcoming travel memoir, I will be . . . drumroll . . . self-publishing.
5 REASONS FOR INDEPENDENT PUBLISHING
If you’re new to The Conversationalist, here’s a quick synopsis of you’ve missed: In 2011, I embarked upon a yearlong travel venture, visiting twelve countries over the course of twelve months. The project was self-directed and independent, and I used various social media platforms to communicate my stories.
Therefore, in that spirit of independence, when it came time to decide my publishing route, it made sense to go the self-publishing direction.
These five reasons were at the core of my decision:
Power over creative direction and structure. When it came time to write, I had a specific book in mind, and part of that concept was to ensure that it did not become a guidebook or a how-to manual or sales gimmick. Instead, I simply wanted to tell the stories from the twelve different countries that I visited. The structure of the journey translated perfectly into twelve chapters, and ultimately I didn’t want anyone to tinker with that vision.
Opportunity for project management. Some authors are able to extract stories from their minds, however, I am not yet one of those people. The basis of most of my writing is experiential, and by that I mean I go into the world, have experiences and then reflect on them. For fresh writing fodder, it’s important to tackle activities beyond writing. With that in mind, I’m happy to manage the myriad of peripheral tasks, the deluge of administration that come with self-publishing. Which brings me to my next point…
Good old-fashioned learning. Travelling around the world for a year was chock-full of learning: how to milk a goat in Israel, make a killer ceviche in Peru, and navigate race issues in South Africa. In layman’s terms, I got schooled. I approach the indie publishing world with a similar inquisitive mindset. I’m learning about the nuances of typography, the finer points of cover design, the cost of printing, and strategies for leveraging capital through crowdfunding. When I am holding the final product, it won’t simply be a book – it will also be a diploma in 21st century publishing.
Jurisdiction over branding and marketing. After spending a few years working with advertising agencies (such as N/A Inc.), I’ve learned the importance of strong branding and visual identity. I’m excited to author not only a story, but also a communications campaign, and to see how far I can take my “product.” Savvy independent writers realize that they’re in the sales business, and I intend to fall into the “savvy” category.
Control over profits and rights. My primary career goal is to sustain myself financially through self-directed creative projects. To do this, I need to determine a sustainable income model, and this means keeping revenue close to home. If things go well, then my secondary goal is to be in a position to offer work and opportunities to those closest to me. I plan to keep it in the family!
IT’S A FAMILY AFFAIR
Writing is generally an extremely solitary process. Independent publishing, however, doesn’t have to be. In fact, it’s probably better not to attempt it alone.
A few weeks after returning from my big trip, I sat down with a friend and colleague, Monique James, to talk about an editorial partnership. To my great fortune, she has been my navigator through the entire process, encouraging me to dig deeper in my literary descriptions, to be more strategic in my themes and to employ writing techniques that would have otherwise escaped my attention. She has also limited my usage of the adjective “quixotic” to a maximum of two times in the entire book, so as not to elicit eye-rolling from my readers. Without her, I don’t believe I would have come this far.
But there are far more people on this book’s roster of players. In fact, the process has become a sort of trans-national fiesta. Over the next few months, I’ll be collaborating with an editor in Montreal, a proofreader in Winnipeg, a cover designer in Toronto, a typesetter in Victoria and a printer in rural Quebec. And this is why the term “self-publishing” is a bit comical. It’s so much more than me sitting alone at home. This is team-publishing.
And finally, there is you, my faithful reader. Last week I asked my Facebook and Twitter communities to suggest an illustrator for my cover. I spent two hours sorting through approximately fifty portfolios because of the overwhelming outpouring of recommendations. This is the type of engagement that I’ve always dreamed of, and the direction of the book is most definitely influenced by your participation.
So whether you’ve been with me from day one or are just reading The Conversationalist for the first time, I tip my hat to you.
Thanks for being a member of the team, for being part of the family.
PS: Pre-orders for the book start in September when I launch an Indiegogo campaign! To make sure you don’t miss any updates, subscribe to my terribly delightful monthly letter or follow me on the twitter!