I have a reputation for being a goof-off. It’s a reputation I’ve earned honestly. I do spend a lot of time goofing off. Especially at work (back when I worked in an office). But when it comes to writing, and particularly with The Anomaly Problem, I’m all business. Writing is just about the only thing in life I take seriously.
So keep that in mind when you hear that I’ve self-published my novel. This isn’t just some goof-off move. I’m not indulging a hobby. This is the real deal, folks.
See, there seems to be an attitude toward self-publishing, a notion that a “serious” author wouldn’t settle for anything less than a book deal from one of the big publishing houses. There’s even a belief that self-publishers shouldn’t call themselves “authors” (Google that one, I’m not linking to that bullshit here), that calling myself an author “devalues the word.”
I have no patience for that sort of gatekeeper mentality. Fuck that. I’m an author. And a writer. And a novelist. Don’t like it? Don’t want me in your club? You know where to find me.
If you’ve been following my blog or Twitter feed, you’ll remember that I spent a good bit of time trying to get my manuscript into the hands of a publisher by way of a literary agent. And then, a few months ago, I decided to go the self-published route.
So what happened? Did I give up?
I spent ten years gathering ideas for this novel, more than a year writing it, another year editing. I traveled around the country, meeting people in the publishing industry, talking with successful and well-regarded authors. I lost sleep. I burned myself out, then recovered, then burned myself out again. I struggled. I obsessed.
You think I’d give up after all that?
Which brings me to the “why” of my self-publishing odyssey. I talked about what I was doing to self-publish my book in a previous post. As to why I’m self-publishing, I’ll put it bluntly, I suck at selling myself.
Here is the procedure I used while trying to go the traditionally-published route. I started with a completed, edited manuscript. I wrote a series of letters (called “queries”) explaining why my book is worthy of publishing. I sent these letters to literary agents who, on the basis of my letters, determined whether or not they want to shop my book to the big publishers. And they all said “no.” Or they said nothing, which is the same thing.
Big deal, right? Everyone gets rejected. I wasn’t worried. But I knew I needed to take a look at what I was sending to those agents. And I realized something: my query letters were terrible. They were professional and probably technically correct in terms of content. I was always polite and straightforward. But they were bland, boring. An agent gets so many letters, and here I am, an unpublished author, hoping to get their attention. I really needed to make myself stand out, and I couldn’t figure out how to do that.
Part of it was lack of confidence. I know my book is good, but I couldn’t convey that in my query letters. Not that the book was good, but that I knew it was good. I’m certain they could see that.
But most of it was that I am a terrible salesman. Someone may ask me “why should I buy your book?” and I would answer “I don’t know.” And that, dear readers, is the wrong answer.
The Anomaly Problem is a good book. It’s the sort of book I’d buy and read. I’ve had people tell me it’s good (and not just people who know me personally). And I wanted it out there. I wanted people to read it. Rather than wait for my confidence to build and my salesmanship to improve, I went for the self-published route. In the end, it was my impatience that made me pull the trigger.
And I don’t regret the decision.
Will I try to traditionally-publish in the future? Absolutely. Not with The Anomaly Problem, obviously. For now, my book is out there, and I’m writing the next one. So everything’s great, as far as I’m concerned.
And if calling myself an author pisses anyone off, good. Fuck ’em.