Do, don't, do, don't. For a year I've been afflicted with severe indecision: chase down a small press who'll publish my (clearly non-commercial) collection of stories, or join the Do-It-Yourself revolution and get my book out to the public all on my own. I respect artists like my wife who take their work to the marketplace as independent creator/entrepeneurs. But at the same time, I admit my ego-based (sometimes revoltingly desperate) desire to be validated by an editorial gatekeeper of even the smallest stature.
Besides being a writer, I'm also a tiny DIY publisher of, among other things, a regional literary journal (http://blissplotpress.com/). So I know that fine literary quality is certainly to be found outside the gates of the publishing establishment, even when that establishment is defined liberally. And I know how to build a book, get it printed, even get it into the marketplace.
But still, I've been resistant to joining the ranks of self-publishers. I had hoped it would be very clear that someone other than myself thinks my work is good. We all need a little respect, right?
But "good" does not mean "commercial" and publishers have bills to pay, a bigger problem now than ever. Besides, I'm just too impatient to persevere, plodding along at the snail's-pace submission/rejection game.
And so it goes: I decide to self-publish, then I flip-flop, and flip-flop again.
The submission history of my story collection goes like this:
1. Four contests... no awards
2. A publishing contract offer from a small press who, when I suggested minimal adjustments to their terrible contract, withdrew their offer, no discussion.
3. Interest from a respectable small press, but I decided not to pursue it further because they've gone to Print-On-Demand only, which I felt I could do just as well by myself.
4. Query to an agent referred by a friend... politely declined.
5. Months wasted when one small but reputable press cashed my reading fee check, then lost my submission. No answers to several inquiries... but eventually they refunded the money.
6. Queries to five small publishers... three declined, one no answer despite follow-ups, one response still pending... but since eight months have now passed without an answer to my query, I just sent them a note withdrawing it.
So... fnally... the decision is made. I have begun the process to self-publish my collection, The Principle of Ultimate Indivisibility. I've decided that a baker's dozen submissions is enough; if 13 wasn't my lucky number, then I'm taking luck into my own hands. The final nudge came from this simple but very helpful website: http://www.selfpublishingreview.com/, whose About page says, "The aim of this site is to legitimize self-publishing – not just as a fallback plan, but as an avenue that’s increasingly necessary and useful in a competitive publishing industry. If the site has a manifesto it is to improve the culture around self-publishing."
So along with bearing the burden and reaping the rewards of total independence, I'm helping lay a foundation for a radically different future in the world of publishing. Viva la revolution!