This month, editor Erin Browne has a look at self-publishing. In Erin’s opinion, the prospects are not good, though I should point out there are always those few success stories (notable amongst them, Richard Paul Evans’s The Christmas Box, whose interview will air next month). Still, I fully appreciate Erin’s reticence to have anything but suspicion for self-publishing. For right or wrong, self-publishing has become synonymous with failure.

Yet one of the most influential pieces of advice I ever received regarding my writing was this: everyone must self-publish. The teacher from whom I heard this was not a writing teacher, and so I understood this advice was not meant literally—but it didn’t matter. It got my attention, and it was just contrary enough to anything I had ever thought about publishing that I knew it had to be true.

It took me years of speaking with dozens and dozens of writers, however, to understand that this teacher was correct. All writers are self-published. Which is to say, with few exceptions, the writer fully understands the value of his or her work before a magazine or a publishing house ever buys it. The writer is not looking for proof from the publishing world, only a means of distribution.

This may not sound like much of a difference, but it is in fact essential. I do not think you can publish your work until you have published it in your heart, until you have accepted its and your value as unquestionable. It is not a question of whether the work was worth doing, but only how will you find the people for whom it is most meaningful. When that is your only question, then you have self-published, and then you are truly ready to share your work with the world.

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