I thought biting the bullet would be harder, taste steelier, and hurt my teeth more than it actually did. In reality, biting the bullet of self-publishing was more like eating a piece of cake . . . and then being offered another.
After two years, 130 agent queries, six "show me more" replies, and no takers, I went the route that most of us have been groomed to believe is shameful, desperate, and unsuccessful—much like my attitude toward online dating before I actually gave it a try and realized it was more fun and more successful than sitting at home, waiting for a stranger to find me. But as a self-published author, I feel proud, accomplished, and successful. I did it!
But, I had to get over a few things before taking the route that has been one of the best decisions of my life:
- Myself. I had to get over myself! Who cares if a 25-year-old agent in New York thinks I'm "not what she's looking for?" Was I really going to place all my confidence and worth as a writer in the hands of a stranger who I already know doesn't have the time or money to publish a non-celebrity memoir? I was about to, until a friend knocked some sense into me and literally said, "GET OVER YOURSELF." It was the best smack in the face I've ever received.
- Pride. Self-published ... ugh, right? Wrong. I wrote my book to tell a story, to share my experience, and to hopefully better the world. You don't need me to tell you how well that was working while my book was saved as a Word doc on my computer. Self-publishing has gotten my book out there, which is where it has to be if I want anyone to read it. And, if I don't want them to read it, I'm probably not ready to be a writer.
- Them. How could I possibly leave my books with the books of other self-published writers (who are obviously terrible writers, not good writers like me who had bad luck with agents)? Easily—by accepting that other self-published writers are good writers. They're great writers. Many of them are better writers than I'll ever be. They just took a different road, got their books out there, and got on with their lives.
So if you've exhausted your options for traditional publishing, at least consider self-publishing. At the very least, it's a good exercise in getting over yourself. And that's the first step in becoming a true and honest writer.
Dianna Calareso is a writer, editor, and teacher with WITS. Her work has been published online and in print; her most recent publications include Concisely magazine and the anthology Saying Goodbye. Her creative nonfiction essays can be found at http://www.dcalareso.blogspot.com/. Dianna specializes in developmental editing and proofreading at the final stage of the manuscript. She has a keen eye for small details that can overturn a manuscript, including shifts in POV and spelling/grammar inconsistencies; she also works to guide clients with questions about plot, characters, and tone. As a writer, she can empathize with whatever your struggle is; as an editor she is eager to help you make your writing better.