I started my authorly life as a ghostwriter, penning thrillers that soared up the bestseller lists. When I went to agents and editors with My Memories of a Future Life, they said they liked my writing and my ideas, but asked if I would please make it more like a thriller because the market wouldn’t take a chance on someone who didn’t fit the mould.
With my writing books, I was told that I needed to make them twice as long to be economically viable. But I abhor padding. And if I could communicate in 40,000 words what many books spread over 80,000, this surely serves the reader better.
Still, why self-publish? After all, I have agents. Bless them for believing in me; in a ruthless market that means a lot. But they’ve never found an editor brave enough to stake their job on my peculiar fiction or my considerately condensed writing books. So self-publishing it is.
Fortunately, I’m qualified to do so. While I was learning my fictioneering skills, I was running an editorial department in a small publisher. I’ve spent my life making books – editing, proofing, handling layout and liaising with designers.
But there’s another fantastic reason to self-publish. No, it’s not just that I get higher royalties. The chief reason is creative control. I can decide what to write about, follow my instincts, read my readers’ tastes or go out on a limb. If I make mistakes they will be honest and mine, not an attempt to chase a market or emulate a fashion. (Reality check? Am I writing self-indulgent drivel? Here are some responses.)
When I write for someone else I’ll do whatever they want. And I don’t disagree with those who compromise to secure publication. We all are aiming for different things.
But publishing my own novel has reminded me how our stories become a reader’s most private moments. My prose becomes the voice whispering beside their own thoughts in their alone-time on the train, or the drowsy pre-dream period before sleep. With that in mind, how could I not be true to my material? Obviously I’ll take advice on what isn’t working, but I won’t change anything for markets and fashions. Our books outlast those anyway.
This is how my favourite writers developed their art. Invention and innovation never came from publishers; it came from writers. And we can do this when we self-publish.