I recently followed a question someone posted in an author support group. It asked why most authors chose and preferred self-publishing over traditional publishing. Although I did not even have to think about my answer, as my decision was an easy one, I was surprised that so many other authors chose to self-publish for the same reason.
For me, I love the artistic control, along with the entrepreneurial aspect. After putting my heart and soul into writing a novel, which is extremely time consuming, I don’t want someone else deciding on the title and design of the cover. I’ve heard many complaints from authors who hate their covers but had no say in the decision. My art is a complete package.
I also don’t want anyone telling me what to write, and I can honestly say all my plots come from completely unhindered creativity. Surprisingly, this is the number one reason most self-publishing authors turn down traditional publishers. I’ve spoken to several authors and heard many best-selling authors who left traditional publishing say they could not stand what the publishing companies expected from them. “This needs sex.” “This needs more sex.” “Male on male is selling, so find a way to add that.” “There’s no market for this story.” “____ is what’s in right now. This story is outdated.”
Christian publishers offer a similar problem. “This story is too gritty to be considered Christian.”
Once upon a time, writers had to have their work approved by a select group of gatekeepers if they ever wanted to share their art with the world. Like the producers in Hollywood, those gatekeepers kept up with the latest trends. They even manipulated the market, flooding the stores with what they thought would sell the most.
Thank goodness those days are gone! I had to stop reading my favorite genre–urban fantasy– years ago, as it suddenly became saturated with human sex, creature sex, and even orgies. I’ve been reading that genre since childhood, but it suddenly took on a dark side. (I’m sure the gatekeepers from the big publishing companies took it to the extreme, telling their writers to push the boundaries.) And I’m not the only person this affected. I know many urban fantasy readers who switched to young adult fantasy due to the changes in the industry. Not everyone wants that in their books, yet it took over the genre.
How has self-publishing helped readers? Authors are no longer forced to go through the gatekeepers. We write what we want. Obviously, there’s a huge market for erotica, as I’m told that’s where the money is. However, I can now find clean urban fantasy. I can even find Christian romances that don’t contain horse and buggies or sweet characters I can’t relate to. (I just can’t do “sweet.” Christians are humans. They aren’t perfect, and God can turn a dark past into great things. Give me realism, but do it in a tasteful manner. If you’re creative enough, you can tell the darkest story in a way that doesn’t put certain images into my mind.)
I know there are a lot of complaints when it comes to self-publishing. “The standards are lower.” “Did this author use an editor?” “How is this even a story?” My advice is to read some of the reviews before downloading, and when you find a great author, write your own review and check out other books he/she has written. Be aware that anything goes now. There aren’t any rules when it comes to what’s in a book. If you’re anything like me, you don’t just go along with the latest fad. Know what you love, and seek it out. Don’t settle for books that take you where you don’t want to go.
Oh, and if you do find a book you love, tell the author how much you enjoyed it! (Reviews are always the best way.) Authors put a lot of work into their writing, and they often feel insecure (just like regular people). Do them a favor and brighten their day.