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Why become an independent/self-published writer?

» Posted by on Oct 7, 2011 in Blog | 8 comments

Firstly, this has been done to death in many a blog. I’m aware of that and I’m not going to cover the same ground. If you want details, how-to guides and pros and cons, do a search and you’ll find plenty of material. But at the same time this is my personal blog so I figure I should probably write about why I, personally, am going down that route.

What makes a writer? I’ve said this before. If you write, if you love it, if it’s your passion, you’re a writer. You might not be any good, you might struggle to find the time, you might only be able to manage one hundred words on a really productive day, you might have ten bestsellers under your belt and a learjet in your garage; whatever, you’re still a writer. Congratulations. (Especially if you’re the one with the learjet.)

But for the rest of us normal people having a contract and a fat advance from a big publishing house is great, of course it is, but that isn’t why we write. At least that’s not why I write and I suspect it’s true of many. I write because I love to craft stories, to create compelling narrative, dialogue, characters and, hopefully, to sculpt lush, eloquent and poetic prose that might be considered “literary” (that most arbitrary of labels).  But most of all, I write to be read. I love the idea of creating something that someone else might enjoy. I do it with music, I do it with art, I even used to spend hours constructing elaborate scenarios for Role Playing Games (yes, I am a geek and proud of it).

Except, in the current environment it’s monumentally difficult to get published by a mainstream house. Except, each submission takes months before you get any reply at all. Except, years can go by without anyone ever getting to read what you’ve made.

So, why have I gone down the indie route? I haven’t. Nothing’s ever set in stone. I know I’ll keep writing, stuff will still get sent to publishers, I know I’ll get lots more “positive” rejections (there’s a dichotomy), and maybe at some point something more. But in the meantime I couldn’t justify sitting on manuscripts that have been lying in my harddrive collecting cyber-dust when they could be read and, I hope, enjoyed by people. They’ve been edited to death, read and re-read by people who aren’t friends or family but who still think they’re great. So why not?

I am also very aware that if you become a successful writer published by a mainstream house you get pigeon-holed. Well-known conspiracy writers write conspiracy thrillers, well-known historical fiction writers write historical fiction, well-known sci-fi writers write… yes, you guessed it. And that’s fine, maybe they do write other things and publish under other names, maybe all they want to write is what they’re known for. I couldn’t stick to one thing. I love to read and write romances, plays, screenplays, sci-fi, contemporary  literature, historical thrillers… the list goes on. So why shouldn’t I? If I ever get a publishing contract I’d probably be contracted to write in a particular style and setting. That’s fine, but it won’t ever stop me from writing anything else I might want to write… and self-publishing will always be there for me to make sure at least some people read what I’ve written.

And having said all that, the publishing world is changing, and changing fast. Now that Amazon is effectively becoming a publisher, now that self-published authors have the ebook readers and access to large audiences, who knows what the future will bring.

In the meantime I’m keeping my love of writing and momentum going by getting something I’ve written out into the world… it’s very early days, but I’m loving every minute of it, so whatever happens it can’t be a bad thing.


  1. Having found a fair amount of success in the self-publishing world, I can give another reason. It can open doors to traditional publishing. I did indeed get a six-figure advance for my 3-book fantasy series (The Riyria Revelations)but I wouldn’t have if I did not self-publish first.

    As to getting pigeon-holed…I doubt this will happen with me. As I write what I want to read so if the publishers aren’t buying – I’ll just self publish as I have in the past. Bottom line…there are more opportunities then there have been before so it is a great time to be a writer.

    Michael J. Sullivan

    • It’s great to hear that coming from someone like you Michael, and thanks for reading my blog. Your novels sound really interesting, especially since you managed to write all six of them before publishing them… that’s some feat, but a great way to tie them all together.

  2. Dear Simon, Hi. I have added your blog to my google reader. I look forward to your future posts. I wish you best of luck with your book sales.

    • Thanks Sabine, ditto!

  3. Well said! We wasted (or spent, depending on how you look at it) a year going for traditional publishing. We decided after much thought to self-publish, and we are so glad we did. Sales are steady, and we are in control of our content. Back when we were trying for trad. pub., we had to modify our plots and temper our scenes. Now, we are our own censors.

  4. It seems that so many talented, hard-working writers are being overlooked by publishing houses for the people who have a “built-in audience.” I understand publishing is a business, but it shouldn’t be so hard for the newbies to get a foot in the door! That said, your post and Michael Sullivan’s comment give good reasons to give self-pubbing a try.

    • Thanks all for your comments and encouragement. I’m learning that one of the great things about self-publishing is meeting the other great people on the same road as you!

  5. Hi!
    I found you because you started following me in twitter this week! For that, thanks. The second about your post, is very accurate. I would add that for us in countries without the advantage of self ebook publishing, certain digital editorials are emerging to close the gap. I say this because I live in the caribbean and places like Amazon, make very difficult to self publish if you´re not from the USA, CANADA, or Europe. Digital Editorials (At least the one I have contract with), only charge you a 50% of the full price for comission of sale in those e-markets like Amazon, ITunes, among others and a 1.5% for editing and spelling check. I dont complain for their fee because without them, I still would be unknown and also Latinamerican editorials only like two things: reprinting american and european best sellers and publishing authors like Isabel Allende, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Paulho Coelho. :) Happy Thursday and be happy :D

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