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May 16

Because Who Wants To Create A NEW Market? (Self-Published By Choice)

Yesterday evening, I received an email from my friend and fellow indie author Terri Giuliano Long. She asked in support helping spread the word of her new Huffington Post piece entitled “Sticks and Stones: The Changing Politics of the Self-Publishing Stigma” (link TBA when post is up). It is cross-posted to IndieReader.com, though, so can be read here.

In her post, she discusses some of the harsh words that have been thrown back and forth in this changing landscape of the publishing industry. Some of them have not been so nice, on both sides of the aisle. I am not one to start or participate in verbal wars and try to remain a neutral party. As I posted on Terri’s blog a month ago, I believe that the joy in the new way of doing thing’s is that we now have more options. And by we, I mean both readers and authors. How can this be a bad thing?

As I don’t want to rehash Terri’s amazingly well-researched and cited article, I will simply share my own personal experience as to why I decided to self-publish and am extremely happy that I did.

When I first completed the manuscript of Toonopolis: Gemini in 2010 (the ‘final’ draft prior to professional editing), I started the process of querying agents and publishing houses. At the time, I knew the self-publishing market was opening quickly but I told myself I would try to go through the traditional route. After all, I had a very unique idea (a novel set in a cartoon universe) that, still to my knowledge, is the only story of its kind. Why wouldn’t someone want to jump on this concept?

I got a response from nearly every agent I queried. This, to me, was a good sign that the initial concept at least intrigued people to read my queries. However, every response came back with the same responses: “I don’t see a market for it”, “I don’t think I’m the agent for you”, and various speak which I have come to learn is very common in responses. I had an exchange with one New York agent that was promising but ultimately led to a polite rejection.

While I waited for this process to happen, I began researching self-publishing options. After reading JA Konrath’s blog, A Newbie’s Guide for Publishing, I knew that self-publishing would be my path. At this point, I had spent 3 months querying (not long at all by most standards). I decided to wait 3 more months for my last “if we don’t reply in 90 days” queries to expire and I started the process.  By now, it was March of 2011.

Toonopolis: Gemini did not publish until May 30th, 2011. Why? Because I wasn’t going to let my debut novel be another greasy patch hurting the reputation of self-published authors. I paid for a professional editor (http://www.alphaediting.com/). I hired an illustrator to do custom cover art and internal chapter header illustrations. I researched like mad to understand formatting, printing, distribution, social marketing, and anything else I needed to understand. I formed a publishing company (http://portmanteaupress.com/). Then I published.

I understand that many people get leery of self-published books. I mean, any yahoo can upload a .doc file to Amazon now-a-days, but I didn’t want to be that yahoo. I have met a very large number of fellow indie/self-published authors who have put in just as much energy, if not more, than I have to being as professional as possible throughout this process.

It frustrates me and pains me that people lump all indie authors together based on a few bad experiences. I understand why, especially when traditional authors like Jodi Picault are going out of their way to badmouth us lowly upstarts, but it still pains me nonetheless.

Almost a year after Gemini first published, I have a much better understanding as to why it wouldn’t get picked up by an agent or a traditional publisher. It is far too unique of a concept. It can’t be pigeonholed into a marketing platform that already exists in traditional houses. I have had to create a platform for the Toonopolis books over the last year, including trying to create viral images to explain my world. It has been a lot of work. I have spent a lot of time creating this market, but it is very rewarding.

But in the end, I’ve sold over 300 copies of the book so far (not to mention about 5000 free downloads through KDP Select free days). Am I breaking records and making the NYT bestseller list? Absolutely not. But have hundreds and thousands of readers been exposed to a genuinely original concept thanks to the doors opened by self-publishers? Yeah.

And I’m proud to be one of them.