Independently publishing a novel is, for some writers, a difficult decision to make. It certainly was for me. Readers, writers, industry experts, and your neighbor will likely have an opinion. And you know what they say about opinions and… well, you know what they say. Everyone has one. Several myths about self publishing persist. Click here for my post about #1.
As with any industry, publishing is all about investing in a product it already knows will sell. Therefore, originality goes out the window when a slush pile of the same old stories sits just awaiting some eager editor waiting to prove herself with a new tale about sexy vampires or a young, hot, sword-wielding vigilante. Why go out on a limb with something entirely different when more of the same is readily available and people will buy it? This mentality is what I found so very frustrating. I heard time and again that my novel was great but that it didn’t fit the mold. In fact, that’s what I loved about my book, and I wasn’t alone. Publishing companies want a perfect blend of something that’s never been done and something they know how to sell because they’ve sold so many before it. That mold is firm, and some writers will hack away at their precious pages until the book resembles the industry’s expectations but is nothing like the brilliant manuscript they wrote.
I’ll admit there is a delicate balance between being too married to one’s own work that any revision, any criticism seems like a brutal and undeserved attack and being so desperate to please any editor, agent, consultant, or remotely invested reader that one will write off characters, alter key plot points, or change settings or time periods. At some point, that writer must decide how much of the book to sacrifice to the gods of publishing.
This brings me to one of the top ten reasons to independently publish: creative control. At the risk of sounding petulant, I have to say that there are simply too many rules in publishing. Independently publishing a novel is liberating. Suddenly, I wasn’t bowing and scraping at the feet of editors and agents over word count, the name or ages of my characters, the setting, or how many books there should be in the series. It ends where I want it to- the book and the series as a whole. The characters look and speak the way I intended. I believe in knowing the audience and understanding the expectations of the genre, but I also have faith in the readers’ ability to accept and become a fan of something that fights against the old tropes spoon-fed to them by the publishing industry. I know this because I have been a reader for as long as I’ve been a writer. We, as writers, actually understand the genre and the market almost as well as the publishing companies because we’re our own target audience.
When I speak of creative control, I’m not talking about serving up an unedited, unpolished mess to the reading world. I’m talking about a writer’s ability to independently publish the best version of his or her manuscript. Before a writer self publishes a book, I recommend having at least two skilled editors comb through it. However, revisions can be wide ranging. Clarifying pronoun usage is a far cry from changing the relationship between characters or completely scrapping an ending. Handing over the red pen to someone more skilled is not tantamount to relinquishing creative control, and editing a book does not destroy the writer’s authentic voice. I feel that with the flood of self-published novels arriving on the market daily I can’t be clear enough about this point.
Creative control is the flesh and bone of a novel. Edits should be only the cosmetics. Lipstick on the teeth is one thing; however, even Uma Thurman would look a bit off if she shaved half her head. Don’t let the publishing industry give your book a nose job and cheek implants. It won’t be recognizable. But, I recommend making sure its part is straight.