Self-publishing and the avoidance of cooties

As many of you already know, I’ve recently finished my final draft of Chosen, the first volume of an LGBT fantasy series I’ve been working on since I was a wee gel of fifteen. And while considering agents and publishers as of late, I’ve found myself rather seriously thinking about…

Self-publishing.

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I know, I know. But hear me out.

Now, I know that self-publishing sometimes (read: often) gets a bad rap, and it certainly does carry a “so you couldn’t get any REAL publisher to publish your book, then, eh?” stigma. But I think it’s important to remember that authors and publishers are generally working from vastly different motivations, the author’s motivation being I poured my heart and soul into this novel and I want to share it with other people, while the publisher’s motivation is more along the lines of sell books sell books sell books.

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Which isn’t a bad motivation, of course, when your livelihood (and ability to build that money shower you’ve been longing for) depends entirely on being able to turn authors’ sweat and tears into profit. But when it comes to preserving the author’s vision for the book and keeping the story in line with what the author’s always dreamed it would be, it’s much easier to push these things aside in favor of following well-established formulas for book-selling success.

Example: Both of my previously published novels have love stories in them, and as such, were categorized as “romances.” My second book in particular is not what I would categorize as a straight-up romance, as it’s more about family relationships, self-acceptance, and dealing with all manner of issues – but it does happen to have a nice squishy gay romance at the center of it.

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D’aww, squishy.

Because that “romance” tag was slapped onto it, I was suddenly expected to put in a bunch of additional sexual content, because that’s what fits in with the established idea of a “romance.” There is sex in the book, but it’s sparse and tasteful, there only when it advances the plot (wacky though that may sound). The main focus of the story just isn’t on sex.

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(Wonderful though sex of course is.)

In the end, I was able to hold true to my vision of the story and not put my characters through a pointless series of Olympics-level sexual encounters that did nothing to further the plot, but it wasn’t easy. I had to fight for the right to keep the book as I wanted it, because my vision of it didn’t match the cookie cutter formula for selling and marketing books.

And with Chosen, which is probably the single most important thing I’ve ever written, I guess I’m somewhat wary of putting it into any hands other than my own.

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I mean, other people’s hands could have cooties or something, amirite?

My reason for writing and publishing this book has nothing to do with money or fame (awesome though those things would be); it’s more about getting out a message I feel is important, and sharing these characters with people who might feel that same spark of connection towards them that I feel.

So that, my friends, is why I’m currently considering self-publishing. It involves a hell of a lot more work on my end, but if the end result is getting this book exactly as I want it, then I think it might just be worth it.

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For more on Chosen, head over to the brand new Chosen page, complete with a fancy new blurb and OOH, FIRE.

4 thoughts on “Self-publishing and the avoidance of cooties

  1. Hayden says:

    Your publishing paths are uniquely yours, so go for it. :) I tried to self-pub some of my work before, but as of late (for a number of rather complicated reasons), I decided not to pursue it and stick to small presses. There’s always room for everyone and every book, no matter how that book gets into a reader’s hands. Good luck!

    Like

    • T.J. Baer says:

      Thanks so much for commenting, and for the words of encouragement. :D I definitely don’t blame you for not going the self-pub route – it’s a ridiculous amount of work for an uncertain pay-off, and small presses can be pretty awesome. Best of luck to you, too!

      Like

  2. kaymerchant says:

    personally, i am one of those writers that has a story they want to share, but the work fails to meet my expectations in the end so it is trashed. the episode of Grey’s Anatomy where the writer eats his entire manuscript? that’s me. i become unhappy with my writing and hide it away in the dark corners of my favorite thumb drive that i then proceed to lose for six months while i start a new story.

    nonetheless, i understand your hesitation to put your art in the hands of another. working with publishers and agents seems to take all of your control, leaving you to bend and twist at their direction. on the other hand, self-publishing is so insanely intimidating for most people because of all those ‘what-if’ scenarios. what if no one likes it? what if the ebook presentation looks like garbage? more importantly, what if people miss the message?

    self publishing does not hold as much of a stigma anymore, i think. your LGBT fantasy series could easily set a precedent and pave the way for a genre that is severely lacking. we need more LGBT heroes and heroines. best of luck!

    Like

    • T.J. Baer says:

      Thanks so much for your comment! And yeah, I definitely know what you mean re: writing not meeting your expectations. That’s a big part of why the book in question has taken me so long to finish – I’ve written literally dozens of versions of it over the years, but they never seemed quite right and I ended up scrapping them and starting over. Rinse and repeat, and now more than fifteen years later, I’ve finally finished the damn thing.

      Honestly, one of the big things that helped me overcome my negative feelings towards my own stuff was reading some of the big-name bestsellers out there – and realizing that a lot of them (or, perhaps, most of them) really aren’t all that good. :P Seeing that it’s entirely possible to hit it big without every word of your book being perfect took a lot of the pressure off, and while I still strive for OCD-levels of perfection in my writing (and fail, of course, because perfection is impossible), I have a lot more confidence in myself after seeing what else is out there. :P

      Anyway, best of luck to you, too! In the end, I think the most important thing is just to write a story you want to read, so as long as you’re doing that, all is well. <3

      Liked by 1 person

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