Why I Self-Publish

You may wonder why I chose to become an independent publisher, especially if you know how much I resisted the idea of self-publishing for years. My first children’s book The Haunted Igloo, was published in 1991 by a traditional publisher, Houghton Mifflin. But authors know that getting the second or third book published doesn’t always happen. Even if you have a toe in the door, that door is often slammed on it. Hard. The sequel to that book (Spirit Lights) was rejected, as was another one. But the fact is, after my husband became ill and went on the hospice program, I was needed at home to care for him. I no longer had time to query, and could not make the author visits to schools. In order to get those books “out of my hair” so I could work on my adult novels, I decided to self-publish. But I’m not sorry. It was a wonderful learning experience for someone who loves working with graphics and computers.

If there’s one thing you should know about the publishing business, it’s that these are difficult times for both publishers and authors, especially new authors. Finding an agent to represent your work is a crazy circus; trust me, it’s not even funny. Frankly, I just got tired of spending weeks, months, and years of my time on the slow-motion query-go-round only to have my work rejected. Rejection doesn’t mean the writing isn’t good (sometimes that’s true); in many cases it means that while editors and agents like your writing and the premise of the story, they simply have no idea how to market it. I’ve been told I’m a good writer and that my grammar is above par, and that makes me feel great. But I’ve given up on finding an agent who appreciates my work enough to take it on, who sees potential in my book even if it isn’t a blockbuster. And these days, it’s all about money for the publishers, money to keep their businesses operating in an uncertain economy; money to keep their doors open so they can acquire more blockbusters. It’s discouraging for serious writers to see shelf after bookstore shelf featuring the same authors every week. There are many good writers out there who deserve a chance. Many are still young enough to play games with publishers.

But not me. At my age, I don’t have time for all that, especially when it’s so easy to publish my own books, and it’s becoming easier than ever with the emergence of new ebook publishers and digital readers. But I’m not satisfied to make just digital copies of my work, books that are nothing but air and a few blips on a screen: I want paper copies available for those who want to hold real books in their hands. I have work to do. More books to write. More books to publish. I’m a passionate writer, a dreamer, a creator, and it’s time to let the rest of the world know I exist.

I wish I’d known all this forty years ago.


I have self-published ebooks at Smashwords.com and would like you to see what I’ve done. Four books are for middle-grade readers, and one an adult historical novel. I would appreciate some reviews for the Great Depression novel, Face the Winter Naked. I’m most proud of this book!

Face the Winter Naked: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/10791

My Smashwords Page: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/BonnieTurner

My Web Page: http://my.athenet.net/~aurorawolf


  • >>I wish I’d known all this forty years ago.<<

    My first book was published by Doubleday in 1976. After that I got involved with two smaller traditional publishers, but I was never satisfied with the book quality or my income.

    In 2008 I formed Silver Sands Books with the intention of publishing one book. I am now working on books nine and ten.

    I suppose I would not turn down a million-dollar advance from one of the big-six publishers, but for anything less, I'll do it myself.

    Michael N. Marcus
    — Independent Self-Publishers Alliance, http://www.independentselfpublishers.org
    — "Become a Real Self-Publisher: Don’t be a Victim of a Vanity Press," http://www.amazon.com/dp/0981661742
    — "Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults)," http://www.amazon.com/dp/0981661750

  • Thanks for your comments, Michael. I’m going to check out your links. I wouldn’t turn down the big advances from traditional publishers, either. But I’m just sick of messing with them. (There’s also so much arrogance among some traditionally published authors.)

    Last year, a well-published author gave me what I considered a great referral to her own editor at an old, established house. This is for a YA historical novel I consider one of my best. It’s been nearly a year, and that editor has yet to even acknowledge my manuscript. She did receive it, because my writer friend asked about it. But she has not contacted me directly. Last month, I sent a “status query” email, and received her auto-responder saying she was out of town. Other than that, nothing. It’s no way to treat an author.

    I will probably go ahead and publish this one myself, but I can’t until I hear from a couple other publishers.

  • RE: The cover image for The Haunted Igloo that’s on my original post here.

    I’m not sure how it got there, since clicking it takes you to my web page. This is not the original cover from the Houghton Mifflin hardcover book published in 1991. It’s my Lulu paperback cover. However, after revising the book recently, the cover somehow got corrupted.

    I would prefer a different image on that post, but, oh well . . . I’m still learning the ropes here. 🙂

    • Hey Bonnie, I actually did a search for the Houghton Mifflin cover but only came up with this one. If you’ve got another please send it to me @ editor@selfpublishingreview.com.

      • Henry:

        The Haunted Igloo (Houghton Mifflin) has been out of print for a number of years, but an image of the original cover is on the way.


  • Thanks for sharing your story, Bonnie. Going unpublished can be a difficult pill to swallow, but I’m glad to see that you found self-publishing to be a positive experience. It certainly takes a lot of work, but I think the control you have (as an author) over the process makes it worth it.

    Heck, even if you were traditionally published you’d find yourself doing a lot of the work anyway! At least this way you get to keep more of the proceeds 🙂 Great post!

  • Thanks for your comment, Duolit.

    My experience with Lulu has been mostly positive, but some people would rather buy my books from BN & Amazon than pay Lulu’s shipping charges.

    And speaking of Lulu, many people still consider them a vanity press. I don’t. While they do publish anything and everything that comes along, I consider myself a quality writer, editor, and proofreader, and I use Lulu ONLY for their self-publishing software and printers. They give me the tools to do it myself.

    My main problem right now is promoting my books, and of course it’s difficult to get bookstores to stock POD books. I’ve mailed press releases, postcards, sent review copies, and just about everything else I can think of, but I’m still not satisfied with the way things are going with my last book.

  • Forty years ago, Bonnie, neither of us would have self-published. At least I wouldn’t have, not under any circumstances. It was “vanity” publishing then, and the only way it happened was to have books printed with ugly covers that said, “Vanity! Vanity! Vanity!” and then to peddle a garageful of books. I remember my writing mentor telling me not to subscribe to Writers Digest because they “accepted ads from vanity presses.”

    Those of us who write from a different vision than the popular stuff being pushed from the Big 6 thankfully have an alternative now.

    My first three (nonfiction) books were traditionally published, but I’ve done better by self-publishing since I’ve turned to fiction. Self-publishing is a genuine alternative for me, not merely something I decided to do when no big house would touch my work.

    The idea that it’s for losers is disappearing, and the more good writers get into it, the faster it will disappear entirely.

    You go, girl!

    God’s Thunderbolt: The Vigilantes of Montana
    2009 Spur Award winner for Best First Novel

  • Carol:

    I couldn’t agree more that we wouldn’t have self-published forty years ago. Not even twenty years ago for me.

    Do you find that your traditionally published nonfiction books gave you a fan base that helps sell your fiction?

  • Nope. I wrote nonfiction on horticulture, and I write literary Westerns, aka historical fiction set (so far) in Montana. A friend of mine, though, is building a fan base through nonfiction for a projected novel. At this point, she may just turn out to be a nonfiction writer.

  • Interesting.

    I made many fans with my children’s books. Even after I turned to self-publishing, those books were well received. But I’m having a hard time getting publicity from my local newspaper for my adult historical novel. Maybe the editors think it’s too much of a stretch from kids’ books to a title with the word “naked” in it. 🙁


    • So let the local newspaper be & pursue other publicity avenues. My local newspaper didn’t pay much attention until I had the Spur. Have you talked to radio stations? They need to fill up airtime.

      A newsworthy item might be to use readers’ comments in an article on how you made the successful transition from kids’ books to adult fiction.

      To me, that’s an achievement, to be successful in both. Congratulations!

      • Thanks, Carol. 🙂

        I’ve thought about contacting radio stations, but I’m very hard of hearing and don’t use a phone well. My hearing aid has Bluetooth capabilities and is paired with my cell phone, but I don’t know how it would work with a radio program.

        It occurred to me I might find an audience for my Great Depression novel in retirement and assisted living centers. Those place often feature special programs for the residents. Since I was born in the Great Depression, there are probably many kindred souls in those places with stories of their own to tell. Booking a couple of those might be good for publicity.

        In the meantime, I’m trying to decide if I want to self-publish my YA novel. I probably will, but perhaps not with Lulu. I just finished reading a new book by a friend who published with CreateSpace. It’s a beautiful book, so I may check that out.

  • When I suggested radio stations, I was thinking of going to the radio stations in your area and suggesting yourself for an interview. Not by phone, but in person.

    When I was interviewed for Montana PBS, the producer of the show “The Write Question” came to me with her tape recorder. Don’t be stymied by either your age or your hearing loss. I’m 70 and I don’t hear well any more, either.

    • Thanks again, Carol. I was recalling when I had a radio interview once before and it didn’t go so well. Never thought of going there and suggesting myself for an interview. Good idea. 🙂