Tag Archives: decisions

Manic Monday

First of all, thank you to all of you who commented, liked, or otherwise showed support last night when I mentioned my kid’s cough. It means a lot to me.

As many of you might have predicted, his cough was better this morning, because why would it stick around when the doctor needed to hear it? But we went to the ER anyway, a very nice doctor saw us, and the poor kid might have a lingering case of strep (even though he has no fever and is at this moment running around the yard yelling, “BUT SHE’S MY WIFE!”). So antibiotics it is to try to get rid of the itty-bitty pustules in his throat, and holy CRAP that’s a disgusting word. That’s going on the list, which you can still feel free to add to. Ugh.

What was I saying? Oh, right. So that took up most of the day, because the hospital is 45 minutes away, ER’s are busy, and then there was McDonald’s and the library. I was going to post something a bit more substantial today about why I don’t feel qualified to post writing advice, only personal experience and example, but my brain is too fried to do it. Basically, I’m an unqualified bum, and maybe I’ll expand on that another day. 🙂

Oh, speaking of the library, which should I read first?

20130429-163601.jpg


To Self-Publish, or Not To Self-Publish?

It’s a serious question. Increasingly so, in fact. A few years ago you heard of the odd success story (and even that one was discovered “by chance” and then traditionally published), but that’s just what they were: odd. Self-publishing was the road you took when your book wasn’t good enough to be accepted by a traditional publisher– at least, that was the perception. Still is for most people I know.

And now? Well, now there are people publishing their own work to e-readers and/or print-on-demand companies like CreateSpace and selling hundreds of thousands of copies. Hardly what you’d expect from a book that’s “not good enough,” is it? People are turning down offers from “real” publishers because the benefits of going it alone are very real.

For some people.

This is a tough topic, and I’m working out the questions for myself in this post. Please offer advice in the comments, thoughts, anecdotes, whatever. And to make it all easier to stomach, I’m gonna throw in some pictures of cats. Because I’m nice like that.

I can't work under these conditions.

I can’t work under these conditions.

I always assumed that I’d do things the traditional way. Agent, publisher, edits, publication, see my book on the shelf in Chapters, cry, party. Obviously that’s greatly simplified; I understand the obstacles and the potential (even unavoidable) frustrations.

But as I sit here attempting to polish my quivering blob of a query letter into something more closely resembling a diamond (a feat of alchemy that I’m quite aware may be impossible)**, I wonder whether this is really the way I want to go. Not only is self-publishing becoming a more attractive deal in many ways, but traditional publishing is pulling back, offering less to unproven writers (and even to established writers), and screwing them over, sometimes in epic and permanent ways. So many questions…

  • Do I want to spend the next X number of months begging agents to take a few minutes of their time to look over my work, then waiting for them to attempt to find an editor who likes it, then waiting two frigging years to see my story in print? Because that’s how it goes these days.
  • Do I want to give up control of everything? Am I willing to risk my book going to a publisher who probably won’t put much effort into cover design or promotion, thereby dooming my book to the dreaded midlist for all eternity? It happens.
  • Do I want to face the possibility of being forced to change my book to be a “stand-alone with series potential?” Because that’s all you hear when you read about pitching a book: series potential=awesome, but don’t get ahead of yourself, honey. Nobody wants to hear about a three or 4 book series from an unpublished author when you can’t prove the first one will make good.

You know what? I’m telling a long story. Yes, each book has its own story and character arcs, its own themes, its own beginning, middle, climax and resolution, but they’re all tied together, and the story only gets bigger as it grows. Think more “Hunger Games” than “Nancy Drew.” Do I want to let go of that vision?

Not particularly.

Stop blabbing and pet me. Right meow.

“Stop blabbing and pet me. Right meow.”

But there are problems with going the other way, too. There’s still a stigma attached to self-publishing; people still think it’s second-best, that it’s what you do if you’re not good enough to make it the “real” way. Do I care what people think? If I’m being honest, yes. I do. I shouldn’t, but I do. This is huge for me, this feeling that I need to prove myself this way, but I can’t let it outweigh other considerations.

There’s the fact that I’m not an outgoing, glad-handing, look-at-me, self-promoting entrepreneur. And as anyone who has self-published or indie-published will tell you, promotion is an absolute necessity. People will not find you on their own. You’ve got to make yourself known.

…but again, I’m a new author, unproven, and these days a publisher is probably going to tell me to market my own work, anyway. So that sucks.

There’s also that little issue of me knowing nothing about formatting or cover design, the issue of me not having any friends who are professional editors to barter with for their services, and me not having money to pay for any of these things. Call it being professional, call it investing in yourself and your work… I just don’t have the cash.

It’s enough to make you want to close the computer and use it to gently bash your own brain in.

"Who cares about publishing? I'm an adorable sea otter! Yay!"

“Who cares about publishing? I’m an adorable sea otter! Yay!”

What would this look like if we laid out the benefits of each path? Please feel free to add to either column in the comments:

TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING:

*Someone else takes care of cover design and marketing; professional editing is part of the package.

*A chance to see my book on store shelves. Not as important as it once was from a sales standpoint, but it’s a dream of mine. It’s part of the validation thing, of knowing that my work is good enough to be there, playing with the big kids. Stupid? Probably. But it means something to me.

*Working with an agent means working with someone who knows the business, who knows about foreign rights, etc., who has contacts, dammit!

*E-readers are gaining ground, but most people I know still do their book shopping by browsing in stores. So maybe that point above isn’t so stupid, after all.

*Sales potential- but really only if the publisher decides that my story is the shit and promotes the hell out of it. Otherwise, as far as I can tell, I’m still mostly on my own.

*Might be more likely to get reviews… I’d have to look into that, but most book reviews I read are for traditionally published books. So there’s that.

SELF-PUBLISHING:

*I can still hold a real, paper copy of my book in my hand if I go through CreateSpace, and they’ll help with e-publishing, too… to a point. I don’t think they publish to kobo, but they do Amazon and a few others.

*Potentially being in bookstores means less and less. (But as the author of that piece points out, people aren’t likely to stumble upon you while browsing on Amazon, either)

*Creative control. I still get to tell the story I want to tell (if I can dig up the cash for a good editor), I can make sure the cover kicks ass (if I can dig up the cash for a good designer), I can make sure it’s available everywhere I want it to be (if I can dig up the… you get the picture)

*Greater percentage of profits. Instead of paying an agent 10% and getting a small fraction of every book’s sales because the rest goes to the publisher, the money that comes in would be mine (minus Amazon or whoever’s cut, which is significantly smaller).

*Control over prices. If I want to sell the e-book for $4.99, I can do that. If I want to do a 99-cent promotion, I can do that, too. If a traditional publisher wants to price an ebook at $9.99 where few people will ever consider it, that’s not my call.

*It’s faster. Call me impatient, but I’ve been working on one book for two years; I don’t know whether I want to wait two more (minimum) to see anything happen with it. I could publish on my own schedule, get the next books out when they’re ready and not when a publisher demands them, get short stories into the mix.

*Rights. I’d keep them. All of them.

Seriously?!

Seriously?!

There are people with convincing arguments who are firmly positioned on both sides of the debate. This does not help me at all.

Side A: “Self-publishing is less than the best you can aspire to, and it’s killing the publishing industry. A traditional publisher will find the best work and take care of it. If you’re not good enough to make it the real way (and why else would you resort to self-publishing, you ogre-faced noob?), best to keep your work in a drawer. If you are good enough, why wouldn’t you want to have the power, reach, and experience of a real publishing house behind you?”

Side B: “Side A is full of shit. Traditional publishers don’t care about new authors unless they prove themselves through their own efforts, anyway; all others can fall by the wayside. These days they’re just throwing (insert substance here) at the wall and seeing what sticks. Self-publishing lets you avoid those assholes and reap so many nifty benefits… if you do it right. Oh, and they find the best work? Please. They ‘take care of’ poorly-written-but-popular crap like 50 Shades of Grey, and publish knock-offs of whatever else is selling. They’re not going to take a chance on something different.”

Side C: “Um… hi, what about smaller publishers? Sure, with many of us you might never see your book in print, but we’ll take care of the editing and cover and stuff, and for an e-book-only edition, turnaround time is about a gazillion times quicker than going with a big publisher. Just watch out for anyone trying to give you the worst of both worlds.***”

Thanks, guys.

That helped a lot.

*bashes head in with computer*

** Someone recently said that an author writing a query letter to an agent/editor is like a ballerina being asked to prove her skills with a lap dance. Whole different skill set, and that’s not the only reason the comparison works.

***Footnote to that: Yes, those guys are fixing it. That doesn’t mean someone else won’t try it.


Back to the Drawing Board?

Not quite. But I’m doing something I said I was done with.

Revisions on Bound.

Not editing. Not perking up scenes that aren’t quite there yet. I mean actually ignoring everything that’s already there, going back to square one and figuring out the best way to tell this story, and THEN seeing whether anything can be salvaged from the original.

This is terrifying. I thought I was done with that. I thought I had my story, that it was just clean-up from this point on. After all, people have liked it, right? Some have even loved it. So it’s good enough.

The thing is, good enough isn’t good enough. I can do better. No matter how it hurts, I’m going to make this thing the best it can be. If that means “killing my darlings,” ripping out scenes that I’ve spent so much time and effort on but that don’t contribute to the best work I can do, then so be it. If it means that I don’t feel ready for this thing to see the light of day for another 6 months… well, that will hurt a lot, too. But I’m not doing this to get published (even though, hello, that’s a huge dream of mine). I’m doing it to tell a story, and what’s the point of putting it out there if it’s only good enough?

It can be tighter. It can be sharper. The stakes can be higher. Everything can mean more to my characters, and therefore to my readers.

I’ve complained before about my perfectionist tendencies, but I think that right now my old frenemy Perfectionism is doing me a favour. As long as she’s not making me feel terrible for not getting it “right” the first time (which she totally will, but I’m used to that), she might actually help me do something better. If she’s telling me that I can do more, that to not at least try would be settling for less than what I can achieve, I can accept that. I still want to punch her in her smug, stupid face, but for once, I don’t think she’s wrong.

Am I rambling yet? Because I just decided this, and I’m still a bit freaked out.

So here’s what I’m going to do, for those of you who are interested in that sort of thing: I know my story inside and out (and inside-out, for that matter). I know my characters better than I know most of my friends. I’m going to print out the full current manuscript and lock it away for a while, and I’m going to start over. I’m going to find a stronger starting point, I’m going to raise the stakes, I’m going to make things harder on everyone involved. I’m probably going to cut characters. I’m going to keep the story tighter, and I hope get down to the 90,000 word range. When all of that planning is done I’ll see what I can salvage from before, but this isn’t a conservation project. Much as it will hurt to lose the lovely dialogue I worked so hard on, the scenes I’ve set that mean so much to me, it’ll be worth the sacrifice if it makes a stronger story.

It’s all a learning experience, right?

EDIT: I wrote this last Thursday. I’ve thought about it, I’ve planned it out. A lot can change, but I’m actually surprised how much of the original structure really works, with some changes needed to accomplish the aforementioned tightening, sharpening, and general shitting on characters’ heads to make things more interesting. I’m re-doing the first few chapters.

Aren’s my biggest problem, as expected. Asshole.

Still doing a complete rewrite, but I’m really happy to say that the last version really just needs plastic surgery, not a transplant into some kind of android body… or whatever. Science Fiction’s not my thing, I don’t know how that works.


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