The Killian Manifesto: Why I Decided to Self-Publish
I’ve had a steady stream of readers and aspiring authors ask me why I decided to self-publish. What I’m going to attempt to do here is explain what led to this decision, in part reflecting on the state of the industry and my rationals. While the following is not intended to be a persuasive piece telling others why they should self-publish, it is my hope that it helps inform those considering it.
Firstly, let’s acknowledge that big elephant standing in the room and get him a folding chair and an adult beverage. There is a contingent, shrinking more by the day but still fervent and feverish, that believe any author who self-publishes does so because they are unsuccessful in snagging an agent or publisher. Again, I’m only speaking of my own experience here, and in my career, this actually is a qualified truth. When I started writing novels in earnest in 2009, I had hoped to find an agent and/or publisher who would believe in my books as much as I did. In fact, my first book was originally picked up by a small house. While I have casually queried all but two of my books, I learned enough from that ultimately unsatisfactory experience to know that publishers have little interest in the type of books I’m writing. What I’ve also seen from recent trends in the indie field is that most publishers are also uninterested in publishing what the readers want as well.
See, traditional publishing needs books that can appeal to a lowest common denominator. This isn’t a jab at popular books’ content nor at the intelligence of its readers. Rather, what I mean to say is, it needs to have a mainstream voice that works in their marketing models and can be read by a mass audience. Honestly, we need books like that. As a content-based culture, we need those normalized subjects that let us communicate and have common cultural capital. Love them or hate them, read them or don’t, books like Harry Potter, the Di Vinci Code, or something in the vein of Stephen King, add to a socially-constructed commonality by which other facets of our life are referenced.
But mainstream isn’t what I write, and therefore, the traditional market is unlikely to embrace works such as mine which tend towards an audience with a particular spectrum of interests and tastes. My plot lines are rarely of the A+B=C variety. I don’t hesitate to challenge a reader’s perception of reality, and I do often write with the assumption the those who find my books enjoyable will have a certain pre-exposure to history (and allow me to twist those truths when I want to play). I also refuse to make challenges easy to overcome for my characters, and always demand a sacrifice from them. I don’t hesitate to kill off characters who are good people and undeserving of such fates. I don’t squirm at the at idea of a villain winning on occasion. I don’t believe in HEA’s, or happily ever afters, but I do embrace FFN, forever for now.
So, no, my books aren’t ever likely to be best sellers. I’m not trying to be the Coca-Cola of the fiction world. But I do have stories to tell, and characters to share, regardless of the fact that they don’t fit into a traditional marketing model.
That’s why I self-publish. Because at the end of the day, it isn’t about whose imprint is on the spine, it’s about the imprint that’s left on the reader.