Self-publishing your novel is a little like buying a lottery ticket. If you understand statistics and probability theory you know that you are very, very unlikely to win the jackpot. Still, when you put your dollar on the counter in the convenience store or left-click on publish, some tiny part of you can’t help but hope. It’s that tiny grain of optimism deep down inside all of us that has us buying imaginary yachts and taking round-the-world cruises before the door at the corner store has even hit our backside. The weekly draw for most lotteries cuts this mental spending spree short soon enough. The dreams of would-be writers generally take longer to crush.
I’ve talked to a few people about this whole self-publishing deal. A surprising number of people (at least surprising to me) have secret literary aspirations. They range in size from The Cat in the Hat to War and Peace. If you are such a person, I’m not writing this to discourage you. Not one bit. I’m just going to give you my take on modern publishing /self-publishing.
Anybody can write a book and publish it. That’s a fact. It can be a wonderful story or typed by your dog with a complex mechanical apparatus attached to his tail. Writing a good book… that’s the thing. It always has been, but new accessibility to cheap/free publishing means that the frequently inept gatekeepers of traditional publishing can be easily bypassed. If you look at the statistics, publishers have been about as good at picking best sellers as stockbrokers are at picking winning investments. Again statistically speaking, if you put a list of either on a wall and set loose a team of chimpanzees with a bucket full of darts you can achieve a similar success rate. The reason for this is simple, picking a winner is difficult.
The single best reason for a person to write is because they enjoy it. You’ll be hard pressed to find a less expensive hobby (I’ve had a lot of hobbies). If you genuinely love writing, then even if you’re the only person in the world who reads your work, you’ve already won. Nobody likes editing. At least, nobody I know. It’s just a lot less fun. If you take it further and float what you write out on the internet (or wherever) and you don’t get a great response to it, remember that you’ve already gotten back a lot in the enjoyment of the writing itself. When people knock your work/art it can hurt. You should ask yourself a question at that point. If you wouldn’t put any stock in the opinion of Bob Smith the miserable guy you work with (or maybe go to school with), why hang so much weight on the unsolicited opinion of BS_6969 on some random webpage. (Same deal with reviews, but that’s at least a whole blog for itself)
If you’re asking for opinions online and every single person says that there is some fatal flaw with your story, you should probably take a step back a look at it again objectively. Secretly all writers want someone else to like what they write. That’s human nature at work. If you’re going to try your hand at self-publishing, start out with small aspirations. For me, I was hoping that at least five people would enjoy reading The Spiders of Halros. I’ve already reached that goal. BOOM, I’m a winner. If I’d hoped for a yacht out of the deal, well…