June 18, 2012

Blog: Why I'm so glad I self published my book

It's now almost five months since I launched Semper, my YA sci-fi/dystopian book. You may know of the summer contests I'm holding. If not, check them out. Don't worry, I'll wait for you.

Back? Cool.

Writing a book is hard. It's the intellectual equivalent of walking into a forest with a box full of hand tools, clearing a spot of land, and building a house. (Extend that metaphor to its limits. Go ahead, I dare you.)

I've built five houses that way, plus a bunch of sheds. (Intellectually, of course. I would probably cut off my arm if I tried to build an actual house.) Each was better than the previous, and Semper was the first that felt really good. Like I-would-be-proud-to-have-my-name-on-it good. So, I wanted to show it to the world, right? You do all this work, you want it to be something.

So I decided to self-publish it. I say that like it was an easy decision. It wasn't. It was way harder than, say, deciding between clapboards or aluminum siding. This was a very, very difficult decision... right up until the moment I made it. Since that instant, it's been one of the best decisions of my life.*

For the record, I'm not here to take sides in the self- versus traditional-publishing debate. I'm one of those people who hopes one day to live in both places--the handcrafted cottage in the woods, and the industrial high-rise condo in the city.

I promise, I'll stop extending that metaphor now.

I don't know what would have happened if I'd really pursued "traditional" publishing. I did send out a few queries, got a few rejections. I figure that if I'd managed to get a contract, my twitter profile would say something like "debut novel due out in 2014." Instead, because I self-published, I can already say things like this:

  • Semper has been downloaded on Kindle over 5,000 times and sold over 100 print copies.
  • I've spoken on a publishing panel and held an author reading, each drawing about 30 people.
  • Someone else's kid climbed 30 feet up a redwood tree to spend the afternoon reading my book.
  • Someone I've never even heard of in another country I've never been to wrote a 5-star review of my book.
  • I was stopped at a wine and art show by a friend-of-friend I hadn't seen in years who gushed about how much she loved Semper (ok, coulda been the wine).
  • At least two adults who are very well read and have high standards have recommended Semper to their book groups.
And the most recent thing:
  • The daughter of a friend wrote her 10th grade book report for English class on my book because she liked it so much.
Is that the coolest thing or what?

* your mileage may vary


Stacy said...

Really happy for you, Pete. I hope the momentum continues.

Heidi Willis said...

That is the way coolest thing. I love kids... somehow it always means more when they are in love with your book. :)

Congrats on your success. I have a feeling the self-pub business is going to be future.