I don’t know why my need to write is so strong in the shower. But there it was again, mid-lather, a single sentence of a thought, instantly recognizable to me as the title to a blog post that needed to be written: Would I Self-Publish Again?
The answer to the question isn’t nearly as important as the reasons behind it, so I’ll relieve all the unnecessary tension and say right away that the answer is no. This is definitely not a commentary on the self-publishing industry itself, just a conclusion I reached based on my experiences and unique set of circumstances.
My goal for Somewhere Over the Sun was to go the traditional route and try to get signed by an agent and eventually sell to one of the big six in New York. Self-publishing was a back-up plan that I was thankful to have and though I understood the chances were that as a debut author I would most likely go that route, it was not my ideal situation. There was essentially one major factor that would determine how long I would query agents before I decided to go with self-publishing: an expiring visa.
By the time the book was done and I was ready to query agents, I had about six or seven months before I had to leave the country or find grounds for a new visa. My focus during June and July was to query as many agents as possible and hope to pique someone’s interest before my foreign butt got kicked out of the country. It’s no excuse, but the time pressure may have led me to focus too much on how many queries I could send out and not on sending out the best query possible. I usually tweaked it, as everyone recommends, making it personalized for each particular agent and I re-wrote once or twice after each wave of non-replies or rejections. By late July, two agents had requested the manuscript and passed and I no longer had the luxury of waiting around for the typical 2-6 week response time. I had less than five months left in the country and a contract with a self-publishing press was my best bet to procure a visa and stick around to be able to promote the novel. By August, I signed with the self-publishing press that I felt would be the best fit.
I chose that specific company (nameless because I don’t want this to be seen as a personal attack) because I kept all the rights to my novel, was allowed creative input and control in all stages of the process, they offered a pretty economically-priced package that included everything I felt would be necessary to the success of my book (wide distribution was biggest factor here), their books’ average Amazon ranking was better than other companies’, they’re projected completion time was fairly shorter than other companies’ and pretty importantly, they seemed to care about me and my novel.
With a release date pegged for mid-November, I began putting in all the leg work that authors are expected to prior to their book’s release, regardless of whether they’re self-published or not. I started my website and began building a following on Twitter and Facebook while I waited for the months to pass. During that time I’ve built up a growing fan base and received plenty of positive feedback from readers regarding my writing.
Since then, among the problems I’ve run into are the following: a complete inability to work in exact dates. They always offered ranges (2-3 weeks, 4-5 days) and the next step in the process always seemed to land at the tail end or even a little bit after. It’s a reasonable explanation that they have a lot of projects to work with, but a self-imposed deadline to hold themselves accountable to would have been appreciated.
I constantly needed to nag in order to receive timely updates. My contact at the publisher was changed twice with no warning or explanation, so I was confused about who to contact with my concerns. When my book was finally ready to print and the information was sent to Barnes and Noble and Amazon, they attached the wrong cover image, delaying the time it took for me to get the copies I planned to send out to book reviewers and other contacts crucial to my book’s success. Within two days of my book being available via online retailers, it was pulled from Barnes and Noble and Amazon showed it as being out of stock as both distributors updated to the correct cover image.
I know that this isn’t everyone’s experience with self-publishing. And I also understand that this is my only experience in publishing in general, so I have nothing to compare it to. My experience may be typical to both traditional and self-publishing or it may be a nightmare to both. Perhaps it’s my fault for not doing enough research with that specific company’s past clients prior to signing on with them. Perhaps my expectations of how a publisher, regardless of whether it is traditional or a self-pubbing press, is supposed to treat its authors are too high. Perhaps I just chose the wrong company, or factors out of the publisher’s control are to blame.
My unsatisfactory experience— although unique to me and not to be taken as an exposition of the industry in general— coupled with growing confidence in the quality of my writing and the interest it can draw from literary agents and traditional publishers, as well as the lack of a government-imposed time constraint, all lead me to say with a fair amount of confidence that I will not be self-publishing again.
Adi Alsaid graduated from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas with a degree in Marketing, but spent the majority of his time there reading and writing fiction. Somewhere Over the Sun is his debut novel and is now available for sale on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com. The story follows Alan, a spirited young writer with a wandering imagination who has discovered that the stories he writes are suddenly coming to life. At the suggestion of his loving father, Alan embarks on a quixotic journey to visit friends and use his newfound gift to write them all happier lives.