Publishing Books for Yourself

Last Tuesday, I went to a conversation between Taylor Jenkins Reid and Steven Rowley. The conversation was in celebration of Steven Rowley’s newest novel, The Editor. However, he’s known for his book Lily and the Octopus, a story that’s brought many people to tears.

However, there was something Steven Rowley said at the conversation that really stuck with me. I wanted to dig into this a little myself because it’s a concept I didn’t even consider until he brought it up. Before Lily and the Octopus was picked up by Simon and Schuster, Steven Rowley was considering self-publishing a few copies of the novel to give to friends and family. Because the novel is semi-autobiographical, he wanted to publish the book himself to give to his people as a way of knowing him even more deeply.

And it dawned on me. Why didn’t I consider publishing my own novel?

I think when it comes to writing a novel, most authors want to publish the book for as many people in the world to read. This is a career for them and the only way to make money is to really sell the book. However, I never thought people published books just for themselves.

It reminded me of The Library of Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick. The story follows a librarian who comes across an unfamiliar book. It turns out to be a book of short stories the librarian wrote as a young girl. Who could the author be? Only her grandmother who kept all her stories when she was growing up. She took those stories and self-published them. Then they would go around town reading stories from the book and leaving the book for someone to pick up.

Aside from Steven Rowley sharing books about his life and librarians finding stories they wrote when they were kids, it didn’t occur to me that I could write a novel and then I can control who actually gets a copy.

It’s not like my life is a big secret. I’m definitely not a writer, but when I think of the person I’ll be when I’m 70 years old, I imagine that I have some record of the life I’ve lived. I want to keep a photo album of my wedding photos, so it makes sense I want record of my blog posts and articles I’ve written. I could put together a portfolio book or a book of essays I’ve always wanted to write.

If I can share my life with my family and friends or write stories just for my nieces, it would be amazing to self-publish them to give to other friends and family. I mean, could it also be super pretentious? I think so, but I don’t think anyone who publishes just to share their story with the people close to them is that pretentious.

Self-publishing is way more interesting to me now knowing that it’s not just for authors. Perhaps because it’s always sold as your “big break” or the way you’ll get your book “out there.” But if you can self-publish anything, then the world is kind of endless.

What kind of story would you publish?

2 thoughts on “Publishing Books for Yourself

  1. This is such an interesting idea! As a writer myself, I’m pretty okay with the fact that some of the novels I’ve drafted are meant to stay just that, a draft. Sometimes we write things because we need to get the story out, but that doesn’t mean it needs to become the next Harry Potter or whatever. At the same time, I do hope to publish traditionally at some point…but I can certainly see how some stories (especially the more autobiographical ones) aren’t meant to be shared with anyone but those close to me.

    I also think there’s an aspect of power to self-publishing, regardless of how many people read it. I will never forget the first time I wrote a story: it was in first grade, and we were given a prompt and told to draw pictures and add to the story in some ways. Afterward, we got our stories bound at a print shop and it was SO COOL to see my story in physical form. I will also never forget when I printed and bound my very first novel draft. Seeing the physical manifestation of my years of work was absolutely exhilarating!

    I do hope you end up putting together a book of your writing at some point, even if it’s just for a few people close to you, even if it’s just for yourself.


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