In this guest post from Melissa Uhles of Pen and Parent, she shares her thought process on deciding to self-publish her latest book.
Not long ago, I stumbled upon the Writer Mom Life podcasts and had been enjoying them and relating to the writer moms that were interviewed. At the same time, I had my own blog for writer/parents called Pen and Parent where I connected with Daphne, WML’s co-creator. I was thrilled when she invited me to be a guest author on her podcast. It seemed like kismet because we both write YA and have blogs for writer/moms.
When we started talking, she was interested in why I chose self-publishing after having my first book traditionally published.
Here’s how it happened:
When summer rolled around I told my writing/blogging partner Amber Roshay, that I was taking a break from writing for a few months to focus on parenting. Then a week into the long hot summer, I was craving a distraction from watching my kiddo play video games.
So I read and re-read 5,000 words of a novel I’d abandoned it nine months prior. Then I started adding to it. And it was fun. I felt like maybe I’d found my true voice in YA. I loved writing in first person. I also appreciated that the stakes are naturally high because everything is world ending for a teenager.
When my book was done I had to decide if I wanted to pitch agents and or publishers or self-publish it. I’d been published by a small press and had also self-published other novels and a nonfiction book before.
For some reason, I couldn’t decide what to do with this book. Part of the indecision was worrying that it wouldn’t reach as many teens via the self-publishing route without libraries and physical bookstores stocking it. I know there are ways around this like going wide and using Ingram for paperbacks but I worried it would be harder to get this book in the right hands.
I even participated in #PitMad, the Twitter pitch party and got a few favorites, one from a promising agent. My query letter was proofed and ready to send. But for some reason, I couldn’t pull the trigger. There was another option I considered, Swoon Reads. You post your book on their site and readers vote and comment and the “best” books get offered a traditional publishing deal. They required a six month exclusive. That meant I wouldn’t be able to submit anywhere else and I’d have to try and drive people to the site to comment on my manuscript.
I’d already been through subbing and waiting and rejections with three books. Only one of them ended in getting a contract. Those weren’t bad odds but it was still an agonizing process for me.
When I thought about the year ahead, did I want it to be filled with hours of pitching and rejections? And if I found an agent, did I want to wait another year before the book was on sale? If I did that, how would I write and release my series quickly with back to back releases?
In the end, I decided to self-publish. I’ll be honest, I have beta readers and CP’s but I do everything else myself and that made me miss working with a team, like I did with my first book. This helped me realize that one of my goals is to hire help on future books. I’m super mindful of ROI so I want it to make financial sense before hiring everything out.
So now my book is out there, for better or worse. Even though the comparison that birthing a book is like birthing a baby is hogwash if you’ve pushed a baby out of your body…it does feel like a big scary accomplishment to make something and put it out to live in the world on its own. How will I protect it from bad reviews and apathy? I can’t hold its hand while I walk it to school.
That’s part of what made this a tough decision. If you publish traditionally you have a team working with you. That is an option as a self-publisher too, but can sometimes be expensive. Once the book is out, if it doesn’t do well you could blame your traditional publisher. But if you put it out yourself and it doesn’t do well, who can you blame? Just that girl staring back at you in the mirror.
If you are curious about the book that had my stomach tied in knots trying to make the right publishing decision…Falling, my new YA Contemporary romance is now available on Amazon.
Melissa Uhles (a.k.a. MJ Greenway) is the author of four novels, a children’s picture book and co-author of How to Make a Living as a Writer. She’s also a co-founder and writer at Pen and Parent.