In my FAQ for this site, I've made some mention of why I've chosen to self-publish my material rather than go to a professional publisher. I've probably picked the right time to do this sort of thing, since self-publishing (especially if you do it with as much professionalism as can be spared on the project) is no longer seen as an instant door-closer or kiss of death.
I get asked "why?" a lot, so here's a more detailed rundown of the key reasons I do this.
- I can write what I want, when I want, and how I want. Very few people with a professional publishing contract have the freedom to call their own shots. If they aren't slaving under terrible deadlines (something I know all about myself, believe me), they're subjected to editorial scrutiny. And while having a good editor is a blessing, not everyone is that lucky; many "editors" out there seem barely fit to carry anyone's pencil cases. I don't believe for a second that "freedom" is an excuse to put out an inferior product, of course — so I do my best to make sure that what goes out under my name is proofed and edited and released as scrutinously as possible.
- It's not my day job. I have a day job, and it makes me more than decent money. I don't want to turn something I love (and want to do on my own terms) into something that is my livelihood. If I do that and then become yesterday's news despite my best efforts, then I'm back to where I started. Nobody I have met in this field, save for a handful of people, in the very literal sense that I could count them on one hand, believes they are immune from such things. What's more, I've seen how much I make compared to the rank-and-file folks in that field, and I'm already a lot better off. I am not trying to sound smug here, only that I have been where they have been myself and now that I'm on much stabler turf I don't plan on leaving anytime soon.
- It's fun.
With all this in mind, I have to add something that comes at the possible expense of sounding like I'm going back on myself. I haven't ruled out the possibility that a day might come along when I get offered a publishing contract with really amazingly good terms — and who knows, I might even take it. But I'm not doing that without taking a good, long look at what I'd stand to lose in the process.
One other thing I have been asked is: By doing this, aren't you tacitly admitting that you don't have enough confidence in your work to have it professionally produced? That was a toughie the first time I encountered it, and I've since come to think of it this way: By trying to adopt the best possible standards of production, editing, and storytelling, am I not a "professional" myself? Yes, I take on the responsibility, and thereby make it that much more difficult — I don't have the marketing muscle of a whole company behind me, to be sure — but is it any less professional if one person does it as opposed to a whole company?
I think what people really mean by this is "Don't you want to see your work reach the widest possible audience?" Well, sure — but again, I'd rather that not happen in a way where I have no control over what happens later.