What's an Unpublished Writer to Do?

In spite of self-publishing gaining more respectability, there are still those who feel it is a waste of money for authors to go that route. Just this week alone I have come across a couple of cynics who believe that struggling writers are foolish and being taken advantage of by this type of publishing. I've stated in past articles that I was once one of these critics, but times have changed and so has my opinion.

The thing is, I wonder why there isn't much protest for the musician who pays to record his or her music because they cannot get a record deal. They, too, have to compromise in order to try to make it in the business and spend their own money to try to get any sort of recognition. Not every musician, though, takes the risk that Montreal's Bernard Lachance did when he spent thousands of dollars, which was his life savings, and rented out the Chicago Theater and then made a You Tube video inviting Oprah to come see him. Risky, indeed, and Oprah was unable to attend his concert. But don't feel too sad for this dreamer because instead Oprah hosted this young man on her show where he sang The Impossible Dream. What if Lachance listened to reason, though, and decided to use his money for something more sensible? Well, he'd probably be like so many others who die without trying and that, in my opinion, is tragic.

Author Jason A. Spencer Edwards did not want to die without trying. In today's New York Times there is an article about how he self-published his novels and is reaching his audience using viral marketing. Edwards has been so successful that he was able to quit his job as a paralegal and is publishing other authors--this after he and a fellow paralegal invested $25,000 of their own money to found JASP Publishing in order to publish his first novel, Jiggy. This is one person who didn't let traditional publishing keep him from realizing his dream. Of course, not everyone has $25,000 to invest, but not every writer needs that kind of money to get their book in print.

Granted, there are some shady printing companies that take advantage of the unsuspecting writer while making promises of fame and fortune, which makes it bad for self-publishers. But it's the writer who educates him or herself and has realistic expectations who can actually accomplish what they set out to do, thanks to this relatively new publishing paradigm that is gaining speed and respectability.

As I stated earlier, I had been one of those who initially thought self-publishers took advantage of those desperate to see their writing in print, but iUniverse gave me an opportunity that would have been lost otherwise. Originally, I was fortunate enough to acquire a literary agent, a high-profile literary agent, for my novel Without Grace, but unfortunate that this agent turned out to be less than aggressive in shopping it around. When another high-profile agent stepped in and wanted a chance with it, this first agent suddenly came up with a long list of publishers where she'd ostensibly sent it, even though there were no letters of rejection as proof. The second agent then couldn't take the chance professionally of resubmitting the same novel; therefore, Without Grace was left to sit on a shelf unread...until Susan Driscoll, former iUniverse CEO, had her editor read it and asked if they could publish it gratis. Due to the novel's success, she then hired me to write The Author's Guide to Planning Book Events. True, money didn't come out of my pocket for this venture, but I see what self-publishing can do and I'm now one of its biggest advocates. Yet, there are still those who don't realize that without this opportunity, writers would not have the joy of seeing their book in print. Without a doubt, some of these books are in sad shape and do compromise self-publishing's reputation. Yet, we must remember that many authors started out self-published, authors like Henry David Thoreau, Ernest Hemingway and Deepak Chopra, and that's pretty good company to be in. So if an author who cannot acquire a traditional publishing deal decides to invest in their writing career by self-publishing instead of giving up, let's celebrate their passion and entrepreneurial spirit and appreciate that self-publishing has allowed them to realize their dream before it's too late.