This picture of me smiling from ear to ear could be a testimony for self-publication: I’m holding the first printing of my first novel, Timber Howligan—Secret Agent Cat.
But it’s not.
What it is instead is a 40th birthday present to myself: After months of writing and revision, I wanted to see my novel on the printed page, and the Internet (via CreateSpace) and $3.41+shipping gave me that gift. With a few hours (and choice curse words) spent on formatting, voila, I had a book.
A real book! Just like that.
But, publishing industry, take heed. When I inevitably find myself in a conversation that begins, “So, what do you do?” and my answer, somewhere in the middle, includes, “I wrote a novel,” the end is almost always, “Are you going to self-publish?”
Self-publishing has become so common-place, so accepted, that it is the first thing people ask me. When I explain that I would prefer to find a publishing company and an editor to guide me through this process in which I am a total novice, people accept that, but grudgingly. They are impatient—they want to see my book in print, they say. Just like I do.
I became a writer because, like most writers, I had a story I simply had to tell. Timber had Adventures, and they deserved to be shared. Once I started writing, I owed it to that story to tell it properly, and so I took it upon myself to learn a new trade. Compared to medical school, learning to write was the most isolating, challenging, frightening job I’ve ever tackled. (I’m including motherhood in this list.)
I’ve been doing this full-time for less than a year, and I’m not as good, as fast, as agile as I’d like to be. The more I write, the more I learn, but it’s a lonely process. External rewards are hard-won and few. But one of the reasons I’m adamant about trying to find a “real” publisher for my book is that I’m a product of the academic world: I believe in peer review. I’m willing to pay an editor to make my book better, and that’s likely the next step. But having my manuscript vetted by an editor I’m not paying would be an emotionally satisfying milestone.
So I admit, the temptation to print my book was irresistible. Instant gratification, if you don’t count the hours I spent getting the right page number on page one, or formatting the font in the header correctly.
For now, I’ll resist the urge to cross that line and self-publish. I believe in the publishing industry, because where would I be without my bookshelves full of books? I don’t just want my book to be “out there”, I want it to reach people: I want to share Timber’s story. But the on-line independent publishing companies make it exquisitely easy, and tempting, to take the easy way out.
You can see it by the size of that smile on my face.