Why I Chose Self-Publishing

There has never been a better time to be a do-it-yourselfer. Technology is more plentiful and accessible to the general public than ever. Social media makes it easier than ever to connect with a worldwide audience (while vegging on the couch in your pajamas, no less!). But there’s a ton of work that goes into it as well. Here are 5 reasons why I chose to self-publish my music.

1. Two words: John Mackey. I mean, seriously, the guy is just killing it in the band world right now. Colleges and universities (including my two alma maters) are clamoring to perform and record his music – and for good reason! After coming into contact with his music so often in college, I was amazed to find that he was self-published. You mean that self-publishing isn’t just something you have to do before you get “real-published?” And that you don’t need a traditional publishing company to get your music out to the world? Who knew?!? John Mackey, that’s who.

2. Control. I tend to be somewhat of a control freak. This is mostly because I’m ridiculously perfectionistic, and no one else knows my definition of perfect better than I do. Self-publishing gives me the freedom to write the music I want to write without worrying about what a publisher wants, and to engage in every step of the publishing process, from naming the piece to editing the sheet music to designing the cover. Plus, getting published by a traditional publishing company means you transfer your copyright over to them. [Insert shudder here.]

3. Hands-on. I enjoy the process of physically creating something with my own two hands. Not that I don’t enjoy creating things on a computer screen, because I definitely do. But after months of a composition existing only on my computer’s hard drive, few things give me a greater sense of accomplishment than holding a physical copy of the sheet music that I put together myself. (More about the equipment I use in future blog posts…)

4. Money. You had to know this one was coming. Clearly, there are pros and cons to both sides of the argument. Self-published composers see a much larger percentage of the profits and royalties their music earns, but they also have to shell out for fancy printers, binding materials, paper, etc. If you want to crunch numbers, John Mackey has written an excellent blog post about the subject (which was instrumental in my decision to self-publish). But the truth is, however you publish, no one should ever go into composition for the money. Not that you can’t make money doing it, but you better love it and have something to say with your music before you even think about dollar signs.

5. Marketing. One of the things I thought I would like about being published is that it would give instant credibility to my music and help me to promote and distribute it. What I’ve learned is that you’re going to have to promote yourself no matter what. Publishers are looking out for their own interests AND the interests of a gazillion other composers. You are looking out for you. No one’s going to believe in your creation more than you do, and no one else is going to take responsibility for getting it out to the world if you don’t.

There are, of course, many compelling reasons to go with a traditional publisher. I know many wonderful composers who flourish this way. But my journey thus far has led me a different way, and I’m super excited about the possibilities!

[August 16, 2012]

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