British novelist David Penny shares his story of why he chose to self-publish after an earlier career as a trade-published author.
Let me tell you a story, because that’s what we do, isn’t it?
In the dark mists of 1970 I was a young man with hair to my waist and a passion to write, but no idea how to go about it other than sit down and hammer away at the keys of an old Royal typewriter.
I wrote every day of the week until, by some miracle of persistence, I sold a story to Galaxy magazine.
Back then that was a big thing. I thought I’d died and gone to SF heaven!
A little while later I got myself an agent, the lovely Leslie Flood, and he found me a publisher. I’d gone beyond heaven. My first full manuscript was accepted by Robert Hale, after they got me to tone down the sex and violence. Damn—ahead of my time again! I got a cheque for £200. It was 1974 and I could live a long time on £200.
Early Career as a Trade-published Author
Over the next 5 years I had another three novels published. Those £200 cheques didn’t seem so big after a while. I got a job and continued to write.
Then I got married, and a little later made a discovery that shocked me – I had ambition. You could have knocked me down with a sheet of A4!
The writing faded, replaced by Open University and the joys of software coding. Time passed. A lot of time passed.
I made a second discovery: I missed writing. A lot. So I dusted down my old Royal… no, sorry, only kidding. I fired up the computer and started to write again.
It took a while to get back into the flow, but my next discovery was a bombshell. When I wrote in those antediluvian days I knew nothing of craft—whatever craft I acquired was completely by accident. But now there are websites, books, courses to go on and people I can communicate with anywhere in the world. I learned so many things I wish I’d known sooner.
I started and failed to finish a couple of books. Then I finished a book and had a decision to make. Do I pick up where I left off—agent, publisher, the world I knew—or do I embrace the brave new world of Indie? I was torn. There is sweet temptation in the validation of others that sings it’s siren song in your ear. Look: here we are, shelf space, hardbacks, prestigious offices in London and New York…
Ignoring the Siren's Call
I turned my back on all of that. And why? Don’t we all want that seal of approval an agent and big publisher can give us? Some, sure, and if that’s you then I wish you the best. Me? I want the seal of approval of readers. And I’m impatient. I don’t want to wait around to find an agent, wait around for the agent to find a publisher and then—I still can’t believe this—wait 18 months for the book to be produced. I want it all now.
So I set about the process as a professional. I used an editor—the wonderful ALLi member Roz Morris, who made the book twenty times better—hired a cover designer, hired a great proofreader. Then—and when I tell this to my traditionally-published writer friends they think I’m joking—I spent 10 minutes uploading the book to Amazon.
A few hours later it was available for purchase. And somebody bought a copy. Oh my god—somebody actually bought a copy! Now that’s the kind of validation I want.
As you can see from my pic the hair is now gone, but the passion remains.
“Why am I an indie author? @davidpenny_ explains via @IndieAuthorALLi https://selfpublishingadvice.org/why-indie #selfpub”
Why did you go indie? Please feel free to share your story via the comments section!
(A longer version of this post originally appeared on David's own website.)