I can’t wait to send my short stories out into the world because I’ve poured my heart and soul into them, and I’ve revised them to the best of my ability. So what’s a young woman to do now that she’s ready to share her project with the world? A young woman cannot make demands on the world nor can she expect the world to be ready when she is.
I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on entry fees for writing contests and countless hours perfecting my pitch letter to show to big-city literary agents. Most of 2012 was devoted to sending my writing everywhere. As a result, I have received enough rejection letters to paper a wall of my apartment. A wall of rejections would probably discourage most people. However, I’m not discouraged because writing is my life’s work, and I’m pretty sure that the rule about life’s work is: as long as you’re alive, you should probably keep doing it.
I have just one problem though: waiting for someone to tell me that I’m good enough is, in my opinion, one of the most demoralizing experiences. I don’t seek approval in any other aspect of my life. I wouldn’t subjugate myself to that in my personal relationships, and I wouldn’t put up with it very long in a professional environment. However, the book publishing industry, as it stands today, demoralizes both talented and untalented writers on an hourly basis. And writers are meant to feel like the constant demoralization is a rite of passage.
My creative writing background is very much academic and literary, and, within the academy and the close-knit community of literary writers, self publishing is almost completely dismissed as a form of vanity and a sign of mediocrity. Though I’ve toyed with the idea of self-publishing for a while, a little voice in my head – that combined voice of my peers and role models – is telling me that to self publish is to admit defeat. I’ve spent many sleepless nights torn between two thoughts: 1) I no longer want to wait for someone to tell me I’m good enough and 2) I wonder if deciding to self publish means I’ve thrown in the towel.
I decided to read more about self publishing, and I talked to some authors who have self published their work. My friend Mark Mariano is a great example of a thriving self publisher. I started to realize that self publishing is a bold move that empowers the well-informed, business-minded writer who knows what he or she is doing. I have some experience in almost all the aspects of the publishing process: editing, design, marketing, and production. In fact, I started to think it would be fun to get my feet wet and put all my undergraduate summers toiling at publishing internships to some good use.
Deciding to self publish The Prescribed Burn required a paradigm shift, one that I decided I was ready to make with the arrival of my 27th birthday. I’ve always been rebellious (isn’t self publishing rather rebellious?) and nontraditional, and my former blog Comma ‘n Sentence was named after one of the most influential self-published texts in the history of our country: Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense.” I admire audacity.
I wish more of my peers would stop looking at literary agents and publishing houses as if they were gold-crusted deities because I see all around me many talented voices just sitting back and hoping to be discovered. Making myself vulnerable to criticism and judgement is frightening, yes, but sitting around and waiting for something to happen erodes my confidence and stifles my ability to dream.
(Photo by orcmid)