To be published has been my dream for a long time, but I realized early on it’d be difficult to succeed because of two reasons. Not only was my writing unpolished back then.
I also wrote in the wrong genre.
WRITING FANTASY AND ROMANCE DURING THE ’90S
I’ve written my whole life, and as a teenager, I used to write fantasy, with a pinch of romance. I don’t think I’ve ever written a story that didn’t have some kind of supernatural element in it. It was all about wizards, magic, medieval worlds, and so on, but in little Sweden, fantasy and romance were two genres that barely existed.
You’d find the traditional authors, like J.R.R Tolkien, Robin Hobb, Robert Jordan, and so on, on the bookshelves but none of them were Swedish authors. I can only recall two Swedish authors whose books were available back then, and that was Niklas Krog, and Saga Borg.
Back then, there was no Internet, and traditional publishing was the only way to go. It was also difficult to be published as a fantasy/romance author because the big publishing houses received thousands of scripts each year, but only published a handful. It’s still like this today.
I did send my scripts to a few publishing houses but I did it half-heartedly. Deep down, I felt that path was not for me, but there was no other option available.
SELF-PUBLISHING BECOMES A THING
Honestly, I don’t really remember how it all started for me. I don’t remember how I discovered Amazon or how I stumbled upon self-publishing, but I do remember not wanting to read books in English and definitely not write books in English. I was against it, maybe because reading English books wasn’t the easiest back then, but things started to change when I saw my chance in self-publishing.
It’s fascinating how things can turn around and how your opinions can change when you stumble upon something that appeals to you. For me, it most likely began around 2010, but I didn’t start my company until 2013, and my first book in English wasn’t published until 2014 so it was a long process. Today, there’s no doubt in my mind self-publishing is my way to go, but would I publish traditionally if I got the chance? I honestly don’t know.
THE LONG WAIT
One reason why traditional publishing doesn’t appeal to me is the long wait. My head is filled with books, and I literally mean it. Coming up with a story is the easiest thing, and they just keep piling up. I haven’t counted, but when I think about it, I must have around 50 books in my head, just waiting for me to write them.
My goal is to publish about 5-7 books each year, and I don’t know if that is even possible as a traditionally published author. Just finding a publishing house that is willing to publish your book can take years. It’s not unusual with 3-6 months of waiting before you get an answer from them, and if they accept your book, it will take another 1-2 years before the book reaches the market. To me, that is a big no. It’s way too slow even if I understand why it takes so long. A lot of work goes into publishing a book, but at the same time, the frustration is real.
Another reason I prefer self-publishing over traditional publishing is lack of control. I admit it, I’m a control freak. It’s important to me how my books are presented. It’s my name on the cover after all.
I’ve heard horror stories where authors had to remove chapters, even characters from their scripts because their publisher said so.
One author was told to re-write half of her book to change its genre. Of course, I doubt it’s like that everywhere, but why did the publishing houses accept those scripts in the first place, and then forced the authors to make such huge changes?
I completely understand re-writes to improve a story or thorough editing, but deleting several chapters or characters? No, thank you.
THE INTERIOR AND THE COVER
With traditional publishing houses, you don’t have much say when it comes to the cover and interior, and those are two things I’m picky about.
The wrong cover can ruin a book, and I rarely see any good covers here in Sweden. Most look as if they were put together in five minutes, which is bad since that’s what readers see first. I’m one of those who will not pick up a book if the cover doesn’t appeal to me.
The same thing goes with the interior. It must have a professional look. The font is important and the words must be readable. The text can’t be too packed together. If it is difficult to read many people won’t read the book, doesn’t matter how good it is.
One such book was one of Diana Gabaldon’s books that I had bought. Her books are usually very thick, and when Swedish translation came out it was almost impossible to read because the text was too dense. It took away the joy of reading when I had to focus on the text itself all the time.
I decided to take this matter into my own hands and started learning graphic design. It was hard and time-consuming, but in the end, it’s all worth it because it taught me to create my own covers and interiors.
I CAN WRITE WHATEVER I WANT
The last thing that made me choose self-publishing over traditional publishing is I can write and publish whatever story I want. No one can force me to make changes I don’t like because they have another opinion, but that doesn’t mean I don’t listen to my editor and readers.
I read all the reviews my readers write and all the comments my editor leaves in my scripts. Constructive criticism is important, and that I’m 100% for.