A couple of years ago I received two publishing offers for my fiction manuscript, Gunfire Lullabies. Can you imagine my joy? I’d slaved over this this book to get it to a high standard, and after considerable interest but no final offer with other publishers, my book and writing was finally about to be formally realised.
One offer was with a small independent publisher and the other was with a more academic publisher, but with restricted conditions. I decided to go with the first offer, even though I’d checked them out and had a few concerns.
After dilly dallying for 18 months, which included months of no communication at all, and missing the golden opportunity to publish my book on the 20th anniversary of the East Timor independence ballot during which it’s set, the publisher pulled out. This was despite a legal opinion from Australia’s top publishing barrister that my novel was good to go.
My disgust and relief were palpable. It was like escaping an abusive relationship. My gut feeling about this publisher had been spot on, which is far easier to say in hindsight.
I decided to do another line edit that took my novel to a new level and sent it to an agent who was a contact of several published writers I knew. This was a mistake as they had a commercial focus, and my book is crossover literally–commercial. Their response was, shall we say, discordant.
I could have gone back to publishers previously interested in my novel or taken it to others. But I asked myself what did I really want?
The answer was creative control. In the end, it’s simple when you work out what your one priority is.
I’m confident about my novel and don’t want to cut out a character, component or the entire literary element to reduce the word count from 113,00 down to 90,000. I couldn’t bare to receive yet another, may I say divergent opinion on one character or another, or to wait to find out whether someone finds my writing style either beautiful or too something or other. You get the idea. I’m not new to the writing game, and while editors’ and agents’ opinions may be informed by professional experience, they’re nonetheless subjective and vary wildly. And really, you could go on perfecting and altering a manuscript or painting for a lifetime.
So I came the decision to self publish. I’d considered it before, but had previously associated it with failure. These days, many formally published authors are making this same decision for some or all of their work for similar reasons as above.
In part this may be because self publishing is not what it used to be. I’ve watched it develop into a big industry featuring unlimited distribution possibilities and a multitude of support options that didn’t exist even 5 years ago. While competition is fierce and the marketing side feels daunting right now, what doesn’t in the beginning?
In the end, it’s time for me to birth my baby so that others can read my story; it’s time for me to finally hold a copy of my book with my name on the cover in my hands.