Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Self-Publishing - Why?

When I was coming of age in the 90's I was constantly working at my craft. I wrote and wrote and read and read, all the while wondering exactly how I was supposed to make a living by stringing words together. The prospects were seemingly bleak - gone were the days of pulp magazines, when a 'genre' writer could make a modest half-living publishing short fiction while simultaneously honing their skills. I went to several publishing seminars in my teenage years, came away far more defeated than enlightened. The publishing industry, it seemed, had ossified - the old publishing houses were massive, bloated beasts, far more interested in cultivating their staid stable of authors than taking risks on up-and-coming writers. I found myself with an unquenchable desire to write and no apparent means of even attempting to make a living doing what I loved. So I did what every respectable wannabe writer does: I went to college. Eventually I earned a degree in Creative Writing and English Lit, but found myself no closer to actually publishing anything. In fact, the fruit had begun to wither on the vine, and for the first time since I was five years old I began conceptualizing a future for myself that did not involve writing.

I had many close friends that were aspiring writers. They spent massive amounts of effort learning how to navigate the industry, mastered the means of submission, and collected rejection letters by the score. What came to my ultimate attention was this: when you send out a manuscript it will be rejected. If you are incandescently lucky the rejection will include suggestions of modifications to the story, which, if made, might sway them to consider publishing your work. Then you enter into the indentured servitude of publishing: 5% royalties, little control over packaging and cover art, etc. To have a skill, a passion, a desire in this world that has no seeming outlet has the potentiality of driving you either insane or plunging you into crushing depression. I chose the latter course, but never stopped writing, even as I considered seeking out and finding some kind of respectable career. I couldn't stop. Woven into my genetic stratum is the need to tell stories. I worked on accepting this, even as I surrendered any thought of a book of mine seeing the light of day.

The fresh new millennium came in due course. I began working on the Magistricide in 2005. Kelrob and Jacobson came to me when I was thirteen, and I still have reams of old adventure stories starring the duo. I wanted them to have a true transformative narrative, wanted them to rattle around each other like dice in a cup. The story and worldbuilding went through numerous overarching changes - as I labored things became increasingly clear, and I read many formative works that are certainly not taught in college. I found Theodore Sturgeon, H.P. Lovecraft, and Tom Robbins, among many others. My perspective on what fantasy could achieve expanded beyond the classical post-Tolkienic norm, and I found myself writing in an entirely new and self-expressive mode. And still there seemed no outlet, no conclusion to the process that resulted in people reading my book and actually possibly paying me for it.

Enter self-publishing. It's still a new market, or at least new in its current digital incarnation. I became aware that many aspiring authors were finding ready, hungry readers via the eBook market, and that many of them were actually able to make a living through consistent output and promotion. I began investigating the possibilities, was shocked at what I found: the old, petrified, inflexible standards of the formal publishing industry were fading away, displaced by a new marketplace where absolute self-expression and artistic control were not only possible, but the norm. I started writing with renewed vigor and hope, daring to believe that there was actually a receptive platform for my efforts. The final version of The Mask of Tamrel reflects this newfound vigor: I was once again a creature with purpose, who had (for the first time in my life) a potential marketplace to engage with.

Now, the words have been written, refined, inscribed on tablets of metaphoric steel. I am a writer, have always been a writer, and hope to find a means of making a living doing the one thing I love above all else. Actually completing The Mask of Tamrel and putting it forth is the first step on my refurbished creative path: I have three other books in the wings not including the completing of the Magistricide. How successful the book will be, whether or not I've actually stumbled on a means of making money for performing my inherent function, has yet to be seen: it seems that self-publishing rewards industriousness, and that the author willing to put in the time and energy can actually find financial reward at the end of the long-flickering rainbow. I would strongly urge potential writers to consider self-publishing as not only a valid career path, but as a new paradigm which is quickly subsuming the old modes and restrictions of legacy publishing. eBooks have opened a bold new frontier which is strangely similar to the old pulp publications of the 30's-40's-50's-60's - they make up a sizable bulk of current bestsellers, and allow the author to actually receive the majority of their royalties. As for myself, I am only beginning to tread the path, but the actuality of my book being distributed, read, discussed, and enjoyed overwhelms me. I hope this is the beginning of a lifelong journey, one that I have been preparing for since I first comprehended the meaning of words.


  1. Hi, Scott. Great article! I can relate to so much of what you say here. I, too, majored in English, with a journalism minor. This 50ish as-yet-still unpublished writer (except for commercial, product-specific technical manuals) is still determined to find her niche in the publishing world. I would like to buy a copy of your book. Please let me know how to purchase. Thank you.

    1. Greetings Jenny! The book will be emerging in the late March or early April, with an option to buy on this site. I'll also be giving away a slew of digital copies, which is apparently one of the best marketing tools in the eBook realm. Thanks for your comment, and if you have any projects that you are willing to share with the wider world - do it!