Why My Next Novel Will Be Self-Published

31 Jul

With one small press book to my name, I now have a taste for publishing. And the part of publishing I love isn’t the wheelbarrow full of money that my assistant brings back from the bank every evening.  I like having readers. Finding that people read my work and think about it and notice how much craft I put into it, that breaks my heart. That’s the part of publishing I L-U-V. More than the wheelbarrows full of money. But I’m also a father now, which I wasn’t when I was sending out Solomon the Peacemaker to every small publisher still accepting submissions. At present, my time to write and publish is more limited.

So before the summer began, I decided that my next project would be a self-published serial story.

My four reasons:

1. The particular story I wanted to work on was one that begged to be serialized. So much so that about a decade ago I wrote the first draft as a comic book script. I have a world of characters I want to include in the story, so an open-ended format suits it best.

2. The five-part self-published serial novel seems to be a rising literary form. (Note that neither Homer nor Dickens fought against the ascendant literary form of the time.)

3. I liked the idea of having something completed at the end of the summer. I work an academic schedule now, so serialization seems ideal. I’m hoping to finish the first two parts this summer and then others as time allows.

4. I enjoy writing fiction more than I like reading submission guidelines, gathering documents, and hanging out at the post office.

But there was also a big, more monstrous reason lingering—in truth, photobombing—the background of this whole scene: I’d been thinking about quitting writing. Because of the exorbitant opportunity costs. Because of my own shifting priorities. Because I know more about publishing now than I once did and it makes me less excited about my own prospects.

Yet before I could ever quit writing, there are a few stories I know have to write. These are stories that I’ve thought about so much that they now seem independent from me. So much so that I feel an obligation to tell them.

I’m aware that feeling obligated to a fictional story probably sounds like mumbo-jumbo, but please trust me. These are stories that would eat at me if I didn’t explore them. They buzz with their own potential.

This spring, I figured out that at the rate I write, I would need about a decade to finish these stories: the serial story, the logging camp story, the immortality story. So self-publication is for me, in part, a way to finish the writing that I feel I must do a little bit sooner. Without spending any more time at the post office.

Then maybe I can shake this curse and get on with my life.

Of course, in ten years, I’ll probably have three more story ideas keeping me awake at night.


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