Years of consideration went into my response to this question, and I finally have my answer.
One important thing to understand about me is that I never intended to call myself a poet or writer.
Although I enjoyed writing poems and short stories as a teen, I stopped writing creatively when I entered college and never gave it another thought until a story fell into my head when I was 40 years old.
It was a snowy afternoon, and I was playing with my children on the floor of my living room when it happened—two characters started conversing in my head. I told my kids that I needed to get to a computer because a story was telling itself in my imagination. We stopped playing and I wrote for 5 hours that night.
That story unfolded over the course of a year. As a busy professional, wife, and mother, I had little time to write, so I often wrote at night—sometimes unable to sleep because the story kept coming even when I wanted it to give me a break. I didn’t even know what type of story I was writing. All I knew was that it wanted to be written down.
When the story decided it was finished, I looked it over, realized it was a novel, smiled, and decided that I wanted to make it shine. At that point, I threw myself into self-study. I read countless blog articles and books about how to write fiction. I entered writing challenges in order to develop my voice, which reacquainted me with my love for poetry. And I edited my story over a hundred times—literally.
After a few years, I found my voice, decided my novel was ready to test the waters, and started querying literary agents.
But my novel still wasn’t ready.
My first query letter did result in some requests for my manuscript, but I realized this letter was not strong enough. I revised and tried again. Revised and tried again. At the end of my query journey, my query and sample pages were quite strong, frequently resulting in requests for my manuscript. And you know what? The agents consistently said something to this effect: Love your premise. It’s not a craft issue. It’s just not right for my list. I’m confident another agent will pick this up.
It felt like the industry didn’t want my story—the one that insisted on telling itself even though I’d never asked for it. Rejection hurt. But, over time, I came to realize that I preferred it this way, and here’s why: I already have a full-time career as a psychologist, and I live a very busy life with intermittent (stolen) moments for writing. I do not have time to crank out novel after novel for a publisher, and the pressure of that prospect had always frightened me.
My truth is that I simply want to have fun creating.
So, why self-publish?
After years of learning about the publishing industry and engaging with the world of literary agents and pitch contests, I realized something important:
I don’t need a publisher to validate what I create.
The big publishing industry is focused on sales. Many beautiful, well-crafted stories will never be picked up because they aren’t expected to sell. If a story or poetry collection has potential to make a publisher a lot of money, they will snatch it up regardless of its true quality.
As I noted in my last blog post, River Blossoms Press is a creative playground where I spend time to reward myself and escape the stresses of life. If anyone besides my closest friends happen to buy my books, I’ll be thrilled. What a bonus that would be!
To fellow poets and writers who are thinking about publishing: remember to be true to you. As for me, I’m a busy working mother who simply wants to create and share words, and this is why self-publishing is the right path for me.
Many “true writers” scoff at self-publishing, but I think it’s important to respect creatives for making decisions that result in happiness. I’m happier now than I ever was on the path toward traditional publication.
So now I wonder…what are your thoughts about self-publishing? Please comment below!
If you’d like to watch this blossom unfold, please follow the RB Press Blog and me, Ann Garcia (@solaceinraindrops), on Instagram.