I’d like to say that this topic has been largely discussed, but as with many other topics related to mental illness and mental health, it hasn’t been.
Imagine someone with critical anxiety or paranoia trying to get their manuscript published. I’ve seen someone in such a state try, and believe you me it wasn’t pretty. They did not approach the right publisher, did not know which ones to approach, and ended up giving up after one refusal.
Here’s my point: it really sucks trying to get traditionally published when you’re not in a state of pristine mental health. Heck, even if you are in pristine mental health, I’m sure it’s nerve-wracking.
A lot of the discussion I’ve seen about traditional publishing vs. Indie publishing wails on and on about the poor quality of indie publishing versus the flexibility it allows. Is it worth to self publish, these people ask.
But I’d like to take a step back and point out that – > it’s disabled person friendly. For those of us with mental health issues, it’s not only just so much easier, it’s the only realistic and safe option for us to use.
I’d like to say that I don’t give a rat’s ass about traditional publishing, but that’s not true. It’s seen as a badge of credibility, of being a ‘true’ author, to be traditionally published. It’s seen as a marker of quality.
So why did I decide to indie publish? Simple. I couldn’t stand the other option.
Being someone with anxiety, depression, mood swings and the occasional hallucination, I didn’t need extra stress. But that’s all I got when I tried to query. My stress shot through the roof as I began obsessively checking my email for that fated answer that would give me that badge. But oh! What if they make me sign a bad contract? What if they market me wrong?
There’s a lot for traditionally published authors to worry about. I know, I know someone who was traditionally published and was screwed over. Their books were badly marketed, they made no money, an they lost the rights to their series. An author’s nightmare.
Now here’s another thing. Suppose you do get into the process where you start actually talking to the editor (or whomever you talk to first in that company)? Well, I got to that stage with one company. It was a shitshow for my nerves. My mental health plummeted, I was so anxious, waiting on every sacrosanct phone call and misinterpreting everything they said. Because here’s the kicker -> people with mental illness and mental health problems are (quite often) not good or comfortable at interacting with other people. I certainly am not. That made what was arguably a very good situation go terribly bad. I quit the entire process and curled up into a ball and cried.
Because people with mental illness can’t stand the extra anxiety and anticipation of waiting for their manuscript to be reviewed. Then add having to navigate the personnel of the publishing company (who can be very brusque and impatient) and then worry about all the very real pitfalls of the contract and manage all the editorial changes that the publisher wants to bring to the novel.
It’s just not feasible to expect someone with a mental illness to go through all that. It’s detrimental to their health.
Furthermore, I’d like to throw in an element that is highly personal to me. Simply, the fact that I’m very attached to my novels in a particular way. They’re my babies, yes, but it goes beyond that. Anyone who follows my blog knows that I regularly base my novels on my dreams and hallucinations and mental health experiences. They’re so close to my heart and, perhaps in a hallucinatory way, I believe in them. To me, to deal with someone wanting to edit them is akin to editing the Bible. I believe in these stories. Some of them feel as if they are practically channeled to me. I believe that I have a duty to the spirits that are sending me these stories. To have someone come in and tell me how to ‘fix’ them and potentially wanting to change the fabric of the story could be an affront to the spirits, a breaking of my special contract with them.
Now, I’m not expecting anyone else to believe in this. I am merely stating it to make my final point. For someone in the throes of a mental illness, chances are that their stories will mean more to them than to a non-mentally ill person. In my case, I would probably have lots of nervous breakdowns trying to cope with an editing process that didn’t take my beliefs into account.
Really, honestly, I don’t think most publishing companies are prepared to deal with someone like me. I don’t think they understand mental illness or how to treat a mentally ill person in order to reduce their anxiety. Once you throw in potential delusions or paranoia into the mix, I think it’s just highly improbable that it’ll succeed.
For me, indie publishing is probably the only way I’ll ever be published. It certainly feels like it’s the only way that I can be published. It feels like the only option that is accessible and usable for me.