Why I Didn’t Want to Self-Publish and Go It Alone

I stopped submitting to literary agents in mid-2009, several months after the U.S. economy in general, and the publishing industry specifically, crashed.  After I received my fourth agent response expounding the virtues of my book, how it was well-written and offered great potential, BUT… then going on to cite industry circumstances as the reason they couldn’t represent it, I threw my hands up.

Since most literary agents have a policy that once they reject your manuscript, for whatever reason, they won’t look at it again—even a couple years later—I stopped submitting.  I didn’t want to burn all those bridges, and I assumed the market would recover at some point.

Sure.  For well over a year, I languished under the certainty that the world had ended. People said, “Just publish it yourself.”  But self-publishing was a fool’s game, an expensive exercise in self-esteem building.  Self-publishers didn’t make money, self-publishers lost money.  There was a reason people had referred to it as the “Vanity Press.”  It had always been that way.

Then, in late 2010, light shined on the world again.  A select group of self-publishers started making real money in the emerging eBook markets.  By February 2011, I thought seriously about taking that route.  By April, I’d decided to do it, but I hadn’t quite figured out how.

That is to say, I hadn’t figured out how to do it in a way that ensured at least a real possibility of success.  What were my chances if I decided to go it alone?  Not good.  Daunting.  Scary.  After all, I didn’t have a backlist, an established following, a famous, widely recognized name.  I was John Q. Nobody.

I immediately fell back on what I knew about business, having almost 30 years of experience in business management: A well-coordinated, well-motivated, mutually rewarded team always outperforms the individual.  Always.

Okay, so now I just needed to find a publisher in this new eBook environment.  I needed one who wouldn’t steal all my rights forever, or dictate everything from the title to the cover to where it would or would not be for sale.  I needed one who wouldn’t steal my money, or function under the misguided notion that I existed to support them, rather than the other way around—the right way.

Well, if such a publisher existed, I couldn’t find it.

Thus, I talked to my eventual business partner, Dan Conklin, and we formed Evolved Publishing.  It’s 1 part publisher, 1 part authors’ cooperative, and 1 part self-publishing on steroids—just the right mix.  I often wish I could have found someone else doing what we’re doing, because… frankly, it’s a heck of a lot of work for very little money.  Not to mention, it takes me away from my writing.

Still, I’m pleased with the way things are going.  We’re working with some great individuals.  Yes, we’ve had a few growing pains, and we’ll no doubt have a few more, just like any other business.  Yet I can now look down that tunnel and see a bright, expanding light.

That’s the future.  I face it now not with a sense of lonely dread, but with an eager optimism.  It will take time to make those riches, to be sure, but it now seems possible.  I mean really possible.  And that’s a great feeling.

‘Til next time, and as always, remember: To write well, you must work hard.  To succeed in this tough gig, you mustn’t be lazy (or discouraged).

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3 responses to “Why I Didn’t Want to Self-Publish and Go It Alone

  1. Love it! Love the new paradigm and what you and Dan have created and how it's supporting authors. I love being a part of this team! 🙂

  2. Great article! THIS is what I love about the times we live in; people are creating their own futures by thinking in non-traditional ways.

    • Thank you, VP. I like to think of it as the prototypical American entrepreneurial spirit: "I need a specific service, which means I need a specific kind of business, but it's not out there. FIne. Don't panic! Just do it yourself."

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