Catching Fireflies

finding magic along the way

Self-Publishing is NOT a Consolation Prize

Before I began this journey to self-publishing my first book, I thought about going the traditional route. I researched publishers and query letters and agents. I wrote a half-hearted not-so-eyecatching cover letter and emailed exactly one agent. And I got a lovely letter back within 24 hours. It thanked me for sending my query letter and first three chapters. It even said that while it was not something they were interested in at this time, I should pursue other agents. I was elated. I thought, well, at least it is an encouraging rejection.


I set about researching which agency to send to next, and spent some time on a few writing forums I belong to. A few days later, another newbie posted on a forum that she had gotten the nicest rejection letter, and posted verbatim the very same rejection letter I had received. It was a form letter. A warm and fuzzy one, but a form letter nonetheless. It was then I understood that it was unlikely anyone at the agency had even read beyond my letter, if they even read that.

I stopped researching agents and publishers and put my book back on the back burner for another six months.


Then I attended the first ever WANACON online writers’ conference. I came away from those three days exhausted, encouraged and elated. I had “met” so many people who had turned their back on traditional publishers and were pursuing a writing career on their own terms. I sat in on lectures given by people who worked on the dark side of the industry – the side where writers become entrepreneurs, the side where mere writers learn of platforms and formatting. These people had navigated the frightening path and learned how to build a team to support them in their goals.

I had found my tribe. πŸ™‚

Since then, I have not thought once about going the traditional publishing route.I have taken classes on ebook and print book formatting, building a platform,and twitter for writers. I have bought and devoured many books on self-publishing, marketing, blogging, copyright – you name it!

I have hired a fabulous artist to work on my cover. I have reached out to an accountant to pick his brain about starting my own publishing company.Β  I have researched independent editors and found a wonderful one who is helping me to polish my book. I have built a team to help support my goals.

It has been exhilarating and terrifying.

But I have found that if I take it in tiny incremental steps and hold myself accountable for reaching certain goals in set timeframes, I am getting it done. I hope the second trip down this path will be easier as I will have paved the way. πŸ™‚

It has meant stepping out of my comfort zone and admitting that I am a writer. It has also meant getting a lot of blank stares when I say I am self-publishing.

People hear that and automatically assume that it is the back up plan. They think that I must have spent years toiling away at my submissions to publishers and agents and finally just gave up and decided to self-publish. They also think that I just need to push a button somewhere to make that magically happen.

There is a magic “publish” button on Amazon, but I don’t want to push it until I know my book is as polished as it can be. There is nothing I hate worse than paying money (even $1.99) for a badly edited book. Formatting snafus and typos take me out of the story and bring me back to reality like a slap in the face. I don’t want to do that to someone who is willing to take a chance on an unknown writer and buy my book.


I also know that I can’t draw. So hiring an artist to work with me on my cover was important – especially when the cover and brief description are the only contact I have with potential customers.

I want to tell the people who think that this journey is just a fallback plan that there were no years of toiling to get a “real” publisher to notice my work. There was one letter and a very eye-opening conference. At that conference, I learned that even if I went the traditional route, the publishers were not going to back my project with big bucks for marketing. It would still be up to me to do the majority of the work and I would be taking only about 15% of any sales home. Out of that amount, I would need to pay my agent, my publicist and anyone else I had hired to get me through the door at the publishing house.

So why do all the work and have zero control and very little profit? Why not do all the work, keep total control of my project, and keep any profit? Realistically, I don’t expect to make much of one. Editors and cover designers cost money. πŸ™‚ But they are worth their weight in gold. They are helping me bring my dream to life. They are helping me create a book that I can point to and be proud of.

This self-publishing journey is NOT the consolation prize. It is the choice. For me, and many other authors like me.

For me, it was a dream. And when I follow a dream, I go all in. I want to understand every aspect of it. Thankfully, self-publishing and all the people I have met on the journey so far are helping me do just that.


What do you think? Are you a writer who wants to self-publish? Or are you trying the traditional path?


  1. Self-publishing can work really well, especially for genre fiction, but it requires that the writer be good at more than just writing, and it takes his or her attention away from writing. I’m not sure most people are equipped to be their own agents, editors, publicists, IT techs, and publishers. It seems like a lot of jobs to do if one is to do them all well…

    I don’t think there is a single answer. Self publishing might be right for some and might be a horrible mistake for others. It’s frustrating to me that most of the dialogue on the subject is so polarized.

    • I agree! Tons to learn but that is where you seek experts to assist. Freelance editors, even publicists. I have taken classes in formatting so I don’t have to farm that out. It is one big scary jump off a very high cliff.
      I know what you mean about the topic being so polarized. People are either 100% for self-publishing and against the evil gatekeepers, or they think the only path is through the Big 6 (or is it down to 4?) 😊

  2. I publish my books via small presses. I’ve got complete control of my work, even cover art. So the spectrum in publishing runs the gamut. It doesn’t cover ONLY self-publishing and ONLY mainstream New York presses. No one path is perfect, and each writer’s unique. Echoing seanvansickle, I also hate the mentality that publishing is a zero-sum game. It never was and never will be, and everyone’s welcome to publish their work however way they want.

    • Excellent! Small presses are another alternative worth looking into. The best part about publishing now is that we have so many options.

  3. I only self published short stories, but next year I’m taking a chance to self publishing 2 novellas, I want to go traditional but if these Novellas go awesome then I’ll definitely published a full novel

    • Go for it!! I have found that despite the learning curve and wearing so many different hats, I a enjoying the journey.

  4. Reblogged this on Franny Marie.

  5. I am still unsure about what to do, but I am seriously entertaining the thought of self-publishing as I don’t have any financial capabilities as of the moment. Whatever money I can save up, I use it to buy grammar books in Amazon, then I will eventually move on to other books that will help me in publishing, polishing the story, etc. I am also wishing to hire an editor, so we’ll see where the road leads me.

    • I really hesitated before hiring an editor. It was not cheap and I wonder if I will even make that much with my book! 😊 But having gone through the editing process I can say it was worth every penny. I looked at it as an advanced education and learned so much about how to edit and how I write. Cover designers run the gamut in terms of cost but there again, unless I wanted a stick figure on my cover it was an area where I had to spend something. 😊

      • That’s what I want to have with a professional editor. I am not that good when it comes to seeing loopholes in my work, and I am certain that a highly experienced editor will see the errors far more accurately than I would. I just hope that I will have enough for even just one edit.

        • There are different types of edits too. It was cheaper to just have her work on grammar etc than to do a full blown edit where she checks for story arc, dangling plot lines, character consistency and so on. I went for the whole thing as this is my first book and I wanted to make sure it was all polished. Thankfully she had an installment plan for payments. 😊 when you get to that point and want to shop a bit for editors, please feel free to message me and I can get you some names of freelancers. They will look at a couple chapters and let you know what type of edit you may want to consider.

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