Shelby Says: Self-publishing 101: an adventure in writing

This week I had the opportunity to speak to local aspiring authors about self-publishing.
A few months ago, fellow self-published author Jordan Schwarz approached me about combining our efforts for a self-publishing 101 workshop at the Brandon Township Public Library, and I thought it was a great idea. I write for a living, I love sharing my experience with others.
Despite the small hiccup of not having much of a voice, I thought it went well. We surprisingly had around 20 participants, which was very exciting. Most of my library programs are usually aimed at teens, and they’re a bit more difficult to recruit for these kinds of programs.
Also, I’m over being sick, but I lose my voice very easily and it takes a long time to come back. After the library talk, I saw our friends were in a voice chat, so I jumped in and talked to them as I drove home. I had no voice by the time I got home. But it was worth it.
One of the great things about the program was connecting with other people. Writing can be a very isolating process since, usually, you’re writing something by yourself. Having a room full of people asking questions about our experiences was really fun. It opened my eyes to just how many people in the community are interested in self-publishing and writing.
For anyone who doesn’t know, I’ve written and self-published four books. I had several reasons for wanting to self-publish.
One was that through self-publishing, I maintain full creative control of my work. This is something we hear a lot about in the music industry (It’s the whole reason Taylor Swift started re-recording her old music, so that she had full creative control and owned the rights to her own songs), but not something that’s talked about as much in the publishing industry. When you go the route of traditional publishing, your story will change. The job of traditional publishers and traditional agents is to market and sell books, and with that comes the possibility that your creative work can change to make it more marketable or appealing to more people.
Now, editing and change isn’t always a bad thing. All books need editing, but I loved my stories the way they were. I had no desire to have someone else come in and change something I had worked hard to craft.
I said this to everyone at the workshop, but writing can be a very personal experience. Fiction or non-fiction, whatever it is you’re writing, it’s part of you and your story. Even just sharing your story for others to read can be nerve-wracking, so to have publishers or agents want to change it, or to have them reject your work entirely can be very difficult to handle.
If you’re looking to make a living as an author, generally traditional publishing is the way to go. But if it’s a hobby, or something that you just want to do like I did, self-publishing is a much easier and less discouraging route.
Another reason I decided to go the self-publishing route was speed. It can take years to publish a book traditionally after you go through the process of finding an agent, getting a publishing company, edits and edits and more edits and the marketing period prior to your book being published.
I’m on a mailing list for someone that wrote a book I was interested in reading who was trying to get it published, and I just got an email this week that her book had been acquired by a publishing company. She had finished her book in June of 2022, and didn’t have a literary agent for over a year following that. That means her book probably won’t hit shelves until maybe late 2024 or early 2025. That’s a few years worth of work to get her story out. I didn’t want to wait years.
My series of four books encompassed my story in my 20s. Even though they’re fiction books, all fiction draws on real life. And they were my story to tell in my 20s. I’m 28 now, and I was 25 when I wrote the first book. I’ve grown and changed a lot as a person since then, and I’ve gotten to tell my story how I want to tell it in the time I felt it needed.
Everyone at the workshop had great questions about the logistics of self-publishing. Things like if you need to purchase an ISBN number, or how much printing costs, or how to go about finding an editor. I was overjoyed to share my experiences with them, as was Jordan Schwarz.
The great thing about being an author is you get to connect with other authors. And something that we all have in common is a passion for story-telling. Fiction or non-fiction, whatever you write, you’re so passionate about it that you feel the need to share that information or that story with others. I think the medium that we choose, writing a book, says a lot about us as people.
Writing is hard, but it’s also one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I hope my story helps others to have that same, rewarding experience.

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