I've recently mentioned that I'm self-publishing a chapbook of previously-published short stories and poems and that some months ago, I turned down a problematic contract for it. Unfortunately, that contract was likely the only one the chapbook will ever be offered for various reasons; it's specifically Pagan, it's a mix of fiction and poetry, it's short and I'm not a well-known writer who can sell on her name alone. Still, the pieces in it have passed through independent editorial processes, the collection is well-blurbed and a Pagan colleague introduces it.
Even so, I wouldn't have chosen to self-publish the collection at all if I weren't in a position to sell it at convention tables where I'm appearing as a guest. At Hal-Con, I brought anthologies and magazines to my table, and that was perfectly all-right, but I wanted something of my own to share that didn't cost readers much and offered a decent introduction to my work. Collecting my Pagan stories and poems seemed a good way to accomplish this goal, especially since that particular chapter in my writing career has closed to some degree. Let's face it, there are painfully few markets for Pagan fiction and poetry, so there isn't much motivation for me to write it.
However, I've had to get past significant internal and external biases to make this choice. I'm not a 'self-published writer', and I believe the editorial process ensures quality manuscripts find their way into readers' hands. I'm also aware of the perception that as a relative unknown, my self-publishing endeavor might be viewed as a substitute for actual success. Conversely, the editorial process isn't a fair one for many reasons; some social, some commercial, and the publishing industry is changing in unpredictable ways. So the stigma of self-publishing is still rather prominent, but the traditional publishing climate is harsh for new writers.
Makes me wish writers and readers approached independent writing the way I approach independent folk music. I love a fresh, new sound the way I love a fresh, new book. And maybe that day is coming, but it's not here yet.
The point is that every writer who takes the craft seriously has to confront these vagaries of the profession and decide upon a strategy for dealing with them. Until recently, mine has been to write, improve my craft and compete in the traditional marketplace, but I never expected to be a convention guest this early in my career. So I've decided to adopt the same strategy I've seen my betters employ. I'm saving my new work and any commercially-viable reprints for the traditional marketplace. But in the case of my little Pagan chapbook, which couldn't find a traditional home and might be a useful addition to my convention table, I think self-publishing is the way to go. My career has never been a straight road, and I'm finding that as the path curves for me, it's best to be flexible.