I began self-publishing with Cat Tales, in 2010, originally Kindle only, as an experiment, just to see if I could do it. I found that I could, at no cost, and was quite pleased. (I did an Ogden House paper edition in 2016, to give to people at conventions.) I did nothing more until A Closet for a Dragon, in 2014. Technicaly it’s an Ogden House book, though it doesn’t bear the imprint. I didn’t know much about book design back then.
In many ways, I would rather have a traditional publisher, and I tried to find one for several of my books, using Ralan [Ralan.com] and Duotrope [duotrope.com] for my research. I read through publisher’s guidelines, looking for someone who was interested books like mine, but I was extremely frustrated. The first problem was that my books were either too short, or too long, and they wouldn’t even look at them.
Sturgis is only 80,000 words, too short for anybody except certain kinds of romance publishers. A writer, who I otherwise respect, asked me why I didn’t just add 10,000 words to it. I thought about that, having already published it myself, but the story was complete as written. Adding more would have been adding puff. I refuse to do that. Readers recognize puff and fluff when they see it.
Stroad’s Cross was originally, after several revisions and development, about 225,000 words. I tightened it down to 137,000. The upper limit for those publishers whom I thought might want it was 125,000. But the only way I could reduce the story further would have been to cut scenes, or dialogue, or description, or characters. This version of the story was complete as written, and I didn’t want to cut off it feet to make it fit the bed.
The second problem was that in both cases, it was impossible to determin a single genre. Both had horrific elements. Both had supernatural elements. Both had something like magic/fantasy elements. Both had mysteries. Both were character studies. One had a bit of strong romance. And publishers insisted that I classify my stories, but it didn’t fit any of their categories, so they wouldn’t even look at them.
My other books had different problems, which made it difficult to submit for traditional publishing, Closet for a Dragon is a collection of early tales, and collections by unknown authors (despite Pursuit of Diana) don’t sell. Freefoot was another collection, of previously published Elfquest stories, for which I had gotten permission only to publish myself. Dead Hand is long at 161,000 words, is 92 scenes with 52 viewpoint characters, and again unclassifiable as to genre, containing horror, romance/erotica, mystery, adventure, crime, supernatural, spiritual, and other elements.
So I more or less had three choices. I could butcher my books to fit a publisher’s guidelines. I could put them on the shelf so they could gather dust. Or I could publish them myself, which is what I decided to do.