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To Self-Publish or Not: An Interview with Claire Cain

Here at Military Moms Blog, we LOVE to write. Whether it is sharing our own experiences; finding resources for fellow moms; or researching new assignments and locations; writing is something we are passionate about. 

It is every writer’s dream to be published. A writer wants his or her words to be seen and heard, to be read by the masses. Yet the process for publication is a long, arduous one. It can take years to see a book published and distributed – if it is ever picked up by an agent and publisher. There are countless stories of famous works and authors who were rejected by editors and publishing houses time and time again. 

Did you know that J.K. Rowling was rejected by 12 publishers when pitching the first Harry Potter book? According to Self-Publishing School, an editor finally pushed it after the editor’s daughter read and loved the book. Imagine a world without the Harry Potter series!

Now, there are alternative routes to getting published. Enter self-publishing.

In self-publishing, an aspiring author can publish his or her works without the approval of a traditional publishing house. Books can be self-published in both online and book formats. The author controls more of the publishing and editing process, and he or she can decide just how much or how little to publish. It is a faster, alternative road to publication that has grown in popularity over the last decade.

But just how does one go about it? I touched on this with my interview with Stacey Reynolds, a romance author and author of one of our past book club picks. And I was fortunate enough to snag another interview with a self-published author and military spouse: Claire Cain.

Claire Cain, author and military spouse

Claire is the author of the Rambler Battalion series. She is originally from Utah, but now home is anywhere the Army sends her family. She is married to one of her oldest friends, and they have two children with one more on the way! She was originally an English and literature university teacher, but now she is a full-time author.

How and why did Claire decide to become an author?

Like many of us, Claire dreamed of writing a book for all her life. She started reading romance novels in 2017, and the genre intrigued her.

“I found a genre that left me happy, and that was rare in the wake of reading some brutal non-fiction and fiction were I was left sobbing,” she said.

Claire quickly noticed that romance novels that featured military were predominantly suspense driven and rarely depicted regular, everyday military members. She had the idea to combine her love for romance novels and military life into books that would be relatable to more people. Not everyone in the military is special forces, but nearly everyone has a love story.

Claire took a leap and started writing – and she is set to release her fourth book of the series today, August 20th!

Finding a career as an author when you are a military spouse has its perks. It is a portable career that can be fulfilling to one’s creative mind as well as the family budget.

But why self-publishing versus traditional publishing? 

Claire pointed out that there are multiple advantages to self-publishing. 

The greatest advantage to her is the level of control she can have during the entire process. Everything is through the author: writing the book; hiring outside help in the form of editors, proofreaders, beta-readers, cover designers, and photographers; choosing how and where to publish and to market. All this is dictated by the potential author. This seems like a lot of work done by the author, but Claire never liked the idea of handing over so much creative control to a potential designer or editor.

There are also financial benefits. Yes, Claire has to pay for all those services above with her own funds. Yet, she points out that after paying for the additional help and services, the royalties are all hers. There is no agent or publisher who takes a  cut of her earnings. Even though the initial expenses are on the author, that person knows that the profits are hers and hers alone!

Finally, you can be a published author without the struggle of traditional publishing. For decades, potential authors have found the publishing process lengthy and disheartening. One’s book could be pitched over and over to agents and publishing houses with no success. Also, literary agents can’t guarantee that a publishing house will buy your book.

In traditional publishing, a book can take years to reach publication. The self-publishing process is shorter and self-gratifying: if you want to be published and are willing to put in the time and effort, it will happen.

Then again, there are some disadvantages to self-publishing.

As mentioned above, the onus of work is placed on the author. Where does a person start in finding editors and cover designers? How does one know where to publish? It is definitely easier to navigate the process through online groups and forums, but it is still in the author’s hands.

While it is very hard to get traditionally published, once the publishing house buys the book, much of the work is provided by its employees. No searching for editors and cover designers; no upfront costs. Publishing houses also have a wide reach and distribution, which means more books can be sold in more places around the world. More money for the author; just keep in mind that this means more money given to the agents and publisher as well.

And lastly, there is the stigma attached to self-publishing. There are those that eschew this form of publication for its ease. You may not be seen as a “true” author if you have not suffered through countless rejections from agents and publishers; your books may be looked at differently if they are only available in digital format. You are not doing it the way it has always been done. 

Yet this view is changing. There is less stigma surrounding self-publishing with each successful author. In the interviews and chats I have experienced with these authors, they find that the stigma does not matter. Claire stated, “You have to have thick skin in publishing, period. In the end, I made peace with the indie route, and I’m thankful for it.” 

So if you have an idea burning or a book that you have shopped around to no avail, think about self-publishing. Claire’s best advice is to simply sit down and write. Show up everyday and just write. You can’t publish anything without doing the work, and there is no career – traditional or self-published – without the writing.

If you have more questions about self-publishing, comment below! Claire Cain was gracious enough to answer all my questions and more, and she loves to help indie authors in the overwhelming process. You can find her books here on Amazon, more about her here, and on Instagram at @clairecainwriter. 

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