To Self-Publish, or Not to Self-Publish

I recently completed a fifth draft of my work in progress, Hemingway’s Girl, and I’m preparing my assignments for the Breakout Novel Intensive Workshop in September. After preparing the synopsis, my goals, and scene breakdowns, I’m finally at a place where I know just about every word of my manuscript just in time to have it critiqued, torn apart, and reassembled.

I actually relish this process, and can’t wait to see the direction the workshop takes my manuscript. I wonder if there will be a major plot or character adjustment that snaps all the other pieces into place. I’m eager to see which scenes will make the final cut, and which will be sacrificed to the *meh* file, aka, the shredder.

But I have to confess that I’m even more interested in the way I’ll publish the book.

It was my intention when I started this blog to be as transparent as possible about every step of my personal writing process and journey, so I’m continuing in that tradition when I tell you I’m seriously considering self-publishing my second book.

In case you don’t know, I self-published my first book, Receive Me Falling. I’ve more than earned back my initial investment, visited 30 book clubs, and peddled the book at countless art festivals.  My readers are eager to read the Hemingway book, and the sequel to the first book I haven’t even begun write.  If I go the traditional publishing route, will they have to wait years before they see it?  They may have forgotten about me by then.

All along, I thought my ultimate goal was to get picked up by a “traditional” publisher, but the more I read, I don’t know what that is, anymore. When I sit down and ask myself why I write–really, why I write–it’s because I love it. I love to read, tell, and write stories, and I’ll always do it. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want the external validation of an agent and traditional publisher, but then I look at my Amazon reviews, my book blogger reviews, and sales figures, and that may just be all the validation I need.

I have many traditionally published writer friends, and I have to say, many are dealing with more frustrations and stresses than I am. When I hear things like a writer got an advance for less than $10,000 for a book that won’t be published for two more years, or sales numbers aren’t hitting publishers’ goals, or unresponsive editors are driving them up the wall, I think self-publishing might be the best avenue.

When I consider how long I’ve been waiting to just to hear back from an agent on a set of revisions I submitted months ago, and then, if she signs me, how long I’ll have to wait to hear from a publisher, and then, how long I’ll have to wait if the book is picked up to be published, and then, the worry that I’ll lose my editor or the house will close, it almost seems like madness to go the traditional publishing route.

And yet…

I still feel like I need to try. I am, after all, a traditional girl. I want the expertise of an agent and publishing house editor to help make me a better writer. I love the industry and want to support not only the indie side, but also, the agents, publishing house editors, and chains that have fed me the all those delicious books for so many years, that have inspired me to write in the first place.

So I think I’ll give myself a time limit. It may be foolish, but after the workshop, if I don’t have an agent by late winter/early spring, I’ll self-publish Hemingway’s Girl. After all, I can still query agents after I’ve published Hemingway’s Girl, especially if I have super sales numbers and reviews.

So that’s where I am, in all honesty.

What do you think? Especially if you’re a writer–traditional, self-published, or aspiring–please weigh in.  Feel free to post anonymously if it will make you more comfortable.

*photo credit: jackispiboi at*


10 thoughts on “To Self-Publish, or Not to Self-Publish

  1. JaneGS says:

    I’m self-published because I wanted my stories read and I knew what an uphill battle it was for a traditional genre, let alone short stories.

    I have been pleased with the results but my collection of stories hasn’t even caused a ripple, and it’s almost impossible to do so if you don’t go the traditional route. That said, I applaud your timeline idea. There are still new writers who are breaking through the barriers, and I honestly believe that good writers who produce good stories eventually do get published.

  2. Erika Robuck says:

    Thanks for your comment, Jane. I think you’re right.

    Best of luck with your short story collection!

  3. Sharon Bially says:

    Erika, I have asked myself the same question and opted for self-publishing. Once that option was confirmed in my mind, I had an idea that I am really excited about executing and could never do if I tried publishing traditionally: I’m going to serialize my book as a blog. Stay tuned for more info coming soon about the September 13 launch. I can’t wait to do this — feels like so much more fun than sitting around biting my nails wondering if anybody’s reading, if anybody cares. If enough readers express interest in a paper copy, I’ll create one. Meanwhile, there are revenue possibilities with a blog, too, and above all, I feel enthusiastic, empowered, energized and — oh — did I mention? — excited to do this!

    BTW, if you send me your e-mail (which I couldn’t find here on your blog), I’ll send you the link when it’s time.

  4. The only downside to self publishing that i have seen is that many books really need a good editor. My mom published her memoirs (stretching it, I think, almost to the point of being historical fiction) — but she never did edit it properly. It was fascinating to read about how she walked through half of China to evade the Japanese during WWII, but the bad editing – typos, wording, etc. really distracted me. On the other hand, i have a friend who is getting a book published and is going through many of the editor publisher agonies that you described!

    • erikarobuck says:

      You’re absolutely right, Jonathan. My first set of printed books had several mistakes–even after hiring a professional editor, 15 early readers, and, of course, the million times I proofread it. I’ll never self-publish again without paying an editor specifically for spelling/grammar/etc.

      I find many errors in traditionally published books, but it really isn’t a consolation. If anything, self-published books should be cleaner than traditionally published books.

  5. kelly says:

    What I think, and I need not remind you that of course it comes down finally and only, as all else does, to my personal poetics, thus my lifebelief–is that this change of direction or at least consideration is most importantly a nod to your own maturation. It is refinement of self that counts, and what is most important is what matters most: “it’s because I love it. I love to read, tell, and write stories, and I’ll always do it.” This is the free-est, the most essential place you’ll ever be. Live in this and the rest will take care of itself…the moment we surrender the tension of controlling the outcome too is the moment the miracle finally unfolds.

    (ha! if only so easy, in the meantime we each will be here for the email rejections, the bitching moaning and also ecstasies of the glorious tension, of the glory of the Nous~)


  6. kelly says:


    I shall be telling this with a sigh…
    I took the one less travelled by,
    And that has made all the difference.

  7. Erika Robuck says:

    Ooh, Kelly, you know me to the core, and can sense both my fear and my need for control. Thank you for your balance and perspective. I’ve been turning it over in my head all day.

  8. […] think it was this comment on my recent blog post “To Self Publish, or Not to Self Publish” from my dear, writing critique partner, Kelly, that made the little bells go […]

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