I began writing fiction in 1998/99, inspired, as so many others were, by the television show Xena: Warrior Princess. I was approached by a fellow Xenite who was starting a publishing venture, and signed with Fortitude Press in 2001.
In retrospect, one might see that running a publishing company, having a full time job and trying to write might be too much for one person, and that proved to be true. My publisher grew tired of the work, the low return on her investment, and the usual petty gripes and strife that all companies, no matter how small, seem to create. I was given back the rights to my books and tried to decide what to do next.
My experiences were not horrible, even though some of my fellow authors would disagree with my view. I got paid on time, I was satisfied with the quality of the books and I was thoroughly involved in editing and cover creation. So, I was fully expecting to sign with another publisher. But I decided to investigate self-publishing first, just to be able to compare.
After doing a good bit of homework, I decided to strike out on my own. My reasons were primarily financial and creative control. Self-publishing requires you to have some funds at your disposal, so it's not for everyone. But if you can afford to print 500 or 1,000 copies of your book and are fairly sure you can sell them, the financial return is greater than it would be if you signed with a publisher.
This makes perfect sense when you consider the money your publisher has to invest up front to get your book into your readers' hands. Someone has to invest a few bucks, and if it's your publisher, he or she is going to want to make a few bucks for fronting that money. Since I could afford to do that myself, however, it made sense to me to go for it.
My second major reason, creative control, might apply more to me than many other writers in the romance genre. My books don't follow a strict genre formula and I prefer them that way. That's just my style and I don't want to change it. Some publishers aren't interested in that kind of variation, so my options were limited. But even if they hadn't been, I'd heard too many horror stories from friends who had edits foisted on them that they didn't agree with; had sections cut from their books that they hated to lose; had strange covers created, etc. I just didn't want to deal with any of that if I didn't have to. Since I didn't have to--I didn't.
So far, self-publishing has worked out well for me. It isn't perfect. I'd like to have someone do some publicity for me. I'd like to have someone nominate my books for awards. I'd like to have people assume my book must be good if "X" publisher publishes it. Heck, I'd like to hang out with my fellow authors from "X" publisher. When you go it alone, you're really alone. But making a bit more money and being my own boss are worth the trade-offs to me. If I were just starting out--I'd probably feel different.
Since I started, POD (print-on-demand) has gotten more popular and a bit less expensive. I assume we'll see more and more people going their own way--if they can escape their contracts with their publishers, that is. Some publishers lock a writer in and make it very tough to get away--even if you've learned to hate each other. Rather like a bad marriage where neither will file for divorce.
I'm still doing full print runs of a few thousand copies since that's the only way to get the per copy price down low enough for me to make enough money to make this worthwhile. As it is, it's still hard to make even one dollar per book when you sell on Amazon. If I didn't have sales through my web site, www.briskpress.com, I doubt I'd go to the trouble of publishing my work. I love writing, but publishing is not for the lazy. But I think putting my books in print has made me strive to be better and put out the best product I can.
Most readers don't realize how little money is to be made in the publishing business. They pay $15-$18 for a book and assume someone's making a nice living off that. But if the book costs $6 to print and the distributor takes 40-60 percent off cover price--there's not much left. That's why I always try to encourage people to buy their books direct from the publisher. I realize Amazon is handy and can save a buyer some real money, but if everyone buys from them, small publishers won't be able to stay afloat. This won't hurt Amazon one bit. It also won't hurt big national best selling authors much. It will hurt people who love lesbian fiction.
I believe lesbian fiction has improved by leaps and bounds over the past ten years. I'm confident that's because everyone has stepped up their game. But we can't succeed without our readers. So, tell your friends about the books you love, and write reviews. That's the same as a love note to an author.