The Merits of Self-Publishing
What is the primary goal of any writer trying to make it? To get published. Being published indeed is the ultimate dream of any writer. This because being published entails growing your audience as a writer and also it entails getting paid doing what you love.
Some believe that you should simply stick to the pursuit of getting published. I disagree. There are some profound merits of self-publishing that are very difficult and in some cases, impossible, to attain through publishing.
Freedom of Thought and Expression
As someone who has been published, the most frustrating aspect of working with publications is the thwarting of my thought and expression. This is not to say that such thwarting is always unmerited: indeed, you should be open to criticism and revision based upon criticism. But in some cases, this criticism is to such an extent that you cannot accurately say that what you have written is yours anymore. In some cases, publications will make you write falsehoods when in every sense you know that what you are writing is untrue. Some get lucky; maybe you have a connection with the Op-Ed column in a high profile newspaper like the New York Times and can get your genuine thoughts published. Most of us, however, will deal with the burdens of thwarting for which publications are notorious. And these burdens are not to be understated by any means: attempting to adhere to the restrictions and guidelines of publications can be a profound disruption to the flow of one's own writing process. For instance, I like to write like Virginia Woolf — which is to say, I enjoy writing via emulating the flow of consciousness. Such a process gets interrupted when I need to ensure that I am adhering to the guidelines of a publication, which at times, has had a detrimental effect on the quality of my writing.
Self-publishing is the easiest way to maintain intellectual integrity. The only person you need to go through in your self-published article is you. If I were to publish this article on my own, I can truly say whatever I want. The only guidelines I need to adhere to when self-publishing is my own. I would argue that my best works have been self-published and I doubt that this is uncommon. Once you begin caring too much about what somebody else thinks about the way you write, your writing will suffer and self-publishing is the antidote to such suffering.
You Can Still Generate an Audience
An instinctive rebuttal to the merit of self-publishing is the merit of publishing on generating an audience. However, the merit of the latter is a non-sequitur with respect to generating an audience through self-publishing. If you are self-publishing your work on a platform like Medium, you can generate huge audiences with your work. This can mainly be done through the Medium’s curation of your articles. Indeed, my most viewed articles on Medium are ones that I have self-published, not the ones I have opted to publish in a publication. Furthermore, the SEOs on Medium are quite amazing. Many of my self-published articles pop up first on some pretty astonishing google searches — if you google “Plato’s Theory of Forms” my article will come up on the first page.
Another route to generating an audience through self-publishing is by running a personal blog. This can be done through a service like Squarespace, which gives you the ability to write SEO into your website and with some memberships, even gives you free Google ad credit.
It is how you get started
In almost any book, ebook, or “definitive guide” to freelancing, the first thing almost all of them insist upon is gathering writing samples. What better way to do this than self-publishing? You do not need any internships or unpaid positions to begin as a writer. You simply need your mind and a keyboard. If you can compile many self-published articles onto a portfolio, that is truly enough experience to being as a freelance writer. Most places that need freelance writers simply care about the fact that you can write well and self-published works are the easiest way to display your skills to potential clients.
If you want to be a writer as a profession, you need to get published. But in order to get published, you need to self-publish. And if you want to ensure that your writing still enables you to speak your mind freely and without the interruption of external forces, self-publishing should be part of your regular writing routine. Think about what got you started writing: pouring your soul into the words you were putting onto the paper. This option is always available to you, even if you are being published. For the sake of your self, do not give up on self-publishing just because you are now making money as a writer in a publication. Writing should not just be about the money. Rather, you should utilize writing as an extension of yourself — which is to say, as a writer, you owe it to yourself to maintain your integrity in the face of the perils of editorial madness. The best way to do this is by self-publishing.