Wanna know the best thing about being self-published, besides, you know, everything? Release dates that are not hard-set. I always have a goal in mind, and I try to hold myself to that goal for my fans’ sakes, but it is awesome being able to push it back a couple weeks or even better, release early. This time around, I am going to do a pre-order drive on Amazon and Smashwords, but I will only be doing that once the release date becomes more definitive. But it is so nice not having that deadline staring me in the face when I have work, grad school applications, and surrogate children to worry about, because honestly, those things are just a little more important to me. As most self-published authors can tell you, writing and self-publishing is another job, but whether it is your second job, or third job, or fourth job is up to you.
And no hard-set deadlines aren’t the absolute best thing about being self-published. The absolute best thing is not having to change anything about the story in order to mold it to a publisher’s liking. I have said it a million times on this blog, and a million more times through other channels, but I will say it for the millionth-and-first: When I write, I don’t want to be censored. When I say I want to write a book about a twenty-two year old departing the apocalypse-ravaged Earth and falling in love with a forty-five year old man while they try to reestablish life on a new planet in the midst of a really violent, really terrible, really obviously symbolic, civil war, then that is what I want to write. I don’t want James to be thirty. I don’t want Brynna to be twenty-eight or twenty-nine. I don’t want to write “caress-of-the-inner-thigh-fade-to-black” sex scenes. I don’t want to edit out any content. I don’t want to reshape everything so that the book can fit easily into any specific category, be it a specific genre or targeted towards a specific age-group. Every scene is there for a reason, and as I am the only person who knows where the story is going, it should be at my discretion what needs to be included, and what doesn’t. Say I add a lot of scenes with Brynna and her friend Rachel. Why do I do that? Well, because Rachel is going to play a very significant role in the third book, especially, but she will be ever-present in the second book, as well. I love that my readers know that I know what I’m doing, and that is not something I cannot guarantee would come with a traditional publisher. Because, in this self-publishing game, all that matters is an indie author’s readers, and no one else. If readers dig it, then I’m doing my job. As I’ve said before, this is a business, and being that I am the publisher as well as the author, it is my job to get the reader the best possible product. Sure, this is an “art form.” Sure, these books are my beautiful, wonderful, perfect, little babies whom I brought into this world with a lot of sweat and tears and pushing and screaming. But at the end of the day, my readers are giving me either their money or their time, and therefore, it is my responsibility to provide them with the best story that I can provide. Some people dig it, some people don’t. It’s fine either way. If readers dig it, I did my job. If they didn’t… Well, at least they didn’t pay any money for it; they just paid with their time, and I am sorry, I can’t refund that. But I would if I could!
So what brings this random love letter to self-publishing on? What made me want to give advice? Well, it was two years on the 1st since I published the first (pretty terrible) manuscript of The Shattered Genesis. When I started out, I knew nothing about the promotional side of self-publishing, nor did I know how to write very well. The Shattered Genesis has since been revised and re-released with additional content, and The Bargaining Path was written with the newly-honed writing skills I gathered in college. But besides celebrating the two-year anniversary of my first entry into the self-publishing world, I am writing this because it has been a pretty rough week in terms of my writing. When I get into one of my down moods, I start second-guessing myself, and though I always come through those periods of second-guessing with new epiphanies about this whole writing deal to carry me through, when I’m in the midst of those periods, it really sucks! On Monday, a short story I wrote got rejected for Tor.com, and not only did it get rejected, I received the most generic rejection letter that the magazine sends. Now, am I as emotionally invested in my short story as I am in the Eternity series? Hell. No. But still, I thought it was a pretty cool story. I still think it’s a really cool story. My reaction to this was made worse by being in a down mood, because honestly, for weeks leading up to the rejection, I was considering asking for a withdrawal from consideration because I wanted to self-publish on Amazon. So after two days of doubting my writing ability, I realized that a) everyone is going to have a different opinion about my work, and just because I think it’s damn near perfect doesn’t mean everyone will, and b) this all just comes down to people’s subjective opinions, and if Tor.com wants to send me a generic rejection letter like I just wrote the biggest heaping pile of shit ever, then fine. Amazon Short Stories, here I come. What does this reiterate to me? Well, it reiterates what I have been saying is one of the most important things for an indie author to know: I know that I believe in the product I have created, and I know I can sell it, so why am I going to rely on a foreign entity to sell it for me when I can do it myself? A lot of self-publishing can be summed up by sounding like the Little Red Hen: “I dreamed up the book. I wrote the book. I published the book. I sold the book. I promoted the book.” And now, I am going to apply that same logic to my short story.
So much of this business relies upon the opinions of others. When people ask me about being a writer, specifically when they, too, want to be a writer, I always ask if they have thick skin. Generally, the answer I get is, “I don’t know,” to which I reply, very cryptically, with a Chesire Cat-like grin, “You will find out.” But when people say yes, I generally say, “Well, keep it that way” and if people say no, I don’t say, “Well, consider a different career,” I say, “It will get stronger over time, believe me.” When I was growing up, and I would ask writers who I went to see at speaking engagements what their advice would be for young writers, nine out of ten would say (and sometimes rather arrogantly), “Choose a different career.” Well, telling me that I can’t do something or that I shouldn’t do something drives my recklessly stubborn and ruthlessly persistent need to prove that yes, I can do it. So here I am today. Those same writers would more than likely also tell you that self-publishing is for writers whose stories and/or writing ability is so shitty that they can’t get published elsewhere, but if you read a lot of self-published work, you will see that that simply is not true.
The biggest advice I tell writers who ask me about writing and self-publishing now? It’s still “you gotta have thick skin” but now, I have added this: You have to believe in your own work. Know when criticism is valid, and know when you should just get on with your bad self and keep doing what you’re doing, and also, your work cannot please everyone. No matter how hard you try to make it appealing to a myriad of ages and to readers of all different genres, there will still be people who don’t like it, and that’s okay!
As long as you honestly feel like you have put every possible iota of energy and attention into your manuscript and into creating and promoting the final book, and that you have created the best possible product for your reading audience, then you’re going to be alright. In fact, I would even say that you are going to be a success.
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I’m T. Rudacille, author of the Eternity series. The first book in the series, The Shattered Genesis and the second book, The Bargaining Path, are available for FREE in the Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords stores, and The Shattered Genesis is also available in paperback on Amazon!