After answering the question, “Why did you choose to self-publish?” numerous times, I thought writing down my thoughts would be easier than explaining this decision verbally. I discussed it a little with Hubert O’Hearn during our podcast interview and I wanted to expand on the topic a bit.
After months of extensive research and contemplation, I decided to pursue self-publishing for three main reasons, which I will outline below: 1) there is a plethora of self-publishing tools to make the process relatively straightforward, 2) I had the time, interest, and capacity to become my own publisher, and 3) I wanted to maintain absolute editorial control, including the timeline. Without these primary reasons, perhaps I might have pursued a traditional publisher. Here’s why:
1) Self-publishing tools are available and relatively user-friendly
One may think this is a blessing, but really, it is a curse. While there may be numerous tools available, it still requires a lot of time to decide which publishing route is most appropriate for your needs. Conducting exhaustive research on this topic is like trying to shoot at a moving target. The technologies available for design, editing, formatting grow daily. Self-publishing companies change their procedures, tools, and services provided so frequently that any discussion older than a year is probably no longer valid. You need to decide ebook, printed book, or both. Illustrations? Color or black and white? Cover design in hardcover or paperback? Cream or white pages, etc. Each decision requires a thorough investigation and informed decision.
2) Resources, resources, resources
Perhaps one of the most underestimated resources required to self-publish is time. Time is valuable because it is finite and already limited. Every waking moment was consumed with the decisions of the day as they pertained to the book. There was always a new challenge to tackle as the book moved from concept, to draft, to subsequent drafts, to final draft, to the finished product. Two streams formed: One for the ebook and one for the paperback. They each required a different set of files, approaches, and decision-making processes. Clearly, time is a necessary resource, but then there is also the question of funding this pet project. Anyone can put out a book, and it would still involve a lot of work. If you want to put out a high-quality book, one that makes people say, “Wow!” then that requires real financial resources. You need to hire a professional designer for the cover and at the very least, a professional proofreader or consulting editor. They are worth every penny and will elevate you out of the noise produced by the error-filled, hastily created self-published books.
3) Traditional publishers still want you to do a ton of work
There may be a popular misconception that if you land a big publisher, they will set to work polishing your stone into a gem. Not so! Of course, their editorial team will revise your book, and it will go through numerous rounds of revisions. These rounds may span months to years depending on the topic of your book. Unless you are JK Rowling, first-time authors are expected to bring a solid marketing plan to the table and then execute that plan to promote the book. Also, any advance you receive from the publisher must be paid back over time. (There is no free lunch, folks!) My thought was, “since I’m the one who will be doing all of the work, why would I place my book in the hands of strangers to do exactly what I can do, only at a much slower pace beyond my control?”
4) Creative control
I would never say that I am a “control freak” but I will say that I do appreciate being somewhat in control of the end-product of a project that has consumed my every waking thought over the past year. I mean, who wouldn’t? The content of this book was finalized in October 2015. A traditional publisher would not publish until 12 months after the final draft is received. I could not imagine sitting on my finished product for an entire year waiting for it to hit the publication date set by the publisher. What else would I do with my life? Overseeing the book’s life cycle from concept to finished book was something I wanted to do personally. By self-publishing, I could control the layout, editing process, and timeline. If the book were full of only my writing, then I could handle an editor tearing it apart. However, I had built relationships with these other women around the world who contributed their stories to create the book, and I wanted some control over how their chapters were edited. I didn’t think that a traditional publisher would afford me that level of creative control. Prove me wrong, Big Publisher!
5) Entrepreneurial spirit
My inner public health nerd understands the value of the traditional publication route, but the entrepreneurial consultant knows that a) this topic is inherently interesting, b) the stories are well-written, and c) I can figure this out! I love and adore the peer-review process for my scientific work, but I’m not trying to shape public health policy, I’m sharing stories of pregnancy and childbirth around the world. Having been through a traditional publisher with two textbooks and now the self-publishing model with this book, I would argue that the amount of time spent on both was equivalent. The main difference was that this project was a lot more fun because I was working for myself. The feeling of accomplishment of working for yourself is something that isn’t easily described or understood unless you’ve done it yourself.
It was an absolute joy to pour my heart into this. I neglected my own children for this project and I didn’t mind (sorry, kids). Do I necessarily want to publish another book? I’m not so sure just yet. This book is hot off-the-presses (isn’t it always? It’s print-on-demand, hah!) and I need some time to execute that marketing plan I discussed earlier before opening up a new project. Am I interested in working for myself again? Absolutely.