Je Ne Regrette Rien

Cartoon by Jacky Fleming

I do not regret a single damn moment of the time I’ve spent self-publishing.

I don’t regret the time I was trying to turn The Maker’s Mask into something that Smashwords’ Meatgrinder software would work with, which involved me nuking the thing back to plain text, sitting there for an afternoon with the paperback open on my lap and the document open in Notepad and putting in all the italics by hand, only to have Smashwords’ software spit it back at me again claiming that it had tabs in it. (I’ve got to say that Mark Coker of Smashwords could not have been more friendly or helpful even though in the end I decided not to go with publishing with them, and that friends of mine have published through Smashwords with great success, but the Meatgrinder just does not like me and I’ve made my peace with that)

I don’t regret the way that my sales figures sat on 7 copies for a while (I say a while, it felt like at least a decade, but was probably about two days) right after I’d first put the Requite Duology up on Lulu, and I spent some time sitting on the stairs with a calming cup of coffee thinking ‘Hey, if I only ever sell seven copies, that’s seven more than I would have sold if I had left this thing on my hard drive, and I tried something new and put my work out there and I’m proud of that’.

I don’t regret the original cover for The Hawkwood War, unreadable font and bizarre gravy-themed colour scheme and all. When you’re at the bottom of a learning curve, the only way is up.

I don’t even regret reading the piece about self-publishing that set this off, although I disagree with much of it: if you never read anything from a point of view you disagree with, you’ll end up in a one-person echo chamber. Anyway, I’m fairly certain that if I had those few minutes back I’d just spend them playing Sims or staring vaguely into space thinking about what I’m going to do with my hair tomorrow or telling one of the cats that she’s a kitty.

What do I regret?

I regret every spelling and grammar error that got through into the published books despite the sterling work of my beta readers. I don’t want to sell my readers a substandard product.

I’d say I regret not doing this sooner, but to be honest I hit self-publishing right about the point that self-publishing became accessible enough for me to do it: if I’d had to negotiate with local printers or tangle with any typesetting more complicated than Word 2010, I’d probably never have done it.

I no longer feel like my real life’s waiting to start. I no longer feel as if I have to hedge around when people ask me what to do, and make a snap choice between talking to a stranger about something that felt painful and personal, or fudging the truth and saying ‘I’m a housewife’ or ‘I’m actually not working at present’. I no longer feel as if everyone can see the failure to do the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do shining through my ribcage like a radioactive heart. (I am still kind of melodramatic with my metaphors. Sorry about that).

Have I made a huge pile of money? Nope. Did I ever expect to make a huge pile of money? Nope. These are niche books, and I’m good with that. Frankly the moment I broke even was enough of a thrill, and everything since has been gravy.

Has it been easier not to regret a damn thing since I got nominated for a Tiptree? Yup. There’s nothing like external validation to keep you going when you’re in that ‘my life is a badly managed opera’ mental state of being convinced that you’re writing the best book in the world and the worst book in the world, both at once.

If you have a book that you want to share with the world, and you’ve made it the best possible example of that book that it can be, and you’re not sure how to go about the next step, I can’t advise on what’s best for you. But I can tell you that I self-published, and I don’t regret a damn thing.

Also, watch out on Monday for news of how you can get your hands on an ebook copy of Firebrand and help an excellent Indiegogo campaign reach its goals!

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