A lot has changed in publishing in the last six years.
This dream had a distinguishing look and feel and smell, as the most vivid dreams often do:
It looked like a hardcover book on a bookstore shelf.
It felt like thick, fibrous paper with ragged-cut edges.
It had that new-book smell; it sounded like my mother bragging to all her friends that her daughter’s book new book was destined to be a bestseller.
It tasted of sweet success.
The steps I had to follow to realize this dream constantly knocked around in my head like the chorus of a song: query, agent, revision, submission, contract, revision, revision, revision, release.
This, of course, was assuming I’d actually made it past steps one and four. It was an assumption I was all too happy to make, for if I didn’t, the dream would be dead before it even fully began. This was the only path to publication.
Then, everything changed….
A new road opened up.
With the increased ease of production, access to, and legitimacy of self-published books, I’ve been granted an unprecedented opportunity to change the shape of a dream I’ve carried with me since I was about eight years old.
Initially, I resisted doing so. I clung to the vision of traditional publication, for it was familiar, and conventional, and just seemed to make good sense.
It was comfortable.
But a couple weeks ago, while closing in on my WIP’s most recent milestone of page 250, for the first time ever, I actually entertained the thought of self-publishing. Of doing so right off the bat, rather than as Plan B if I couldn’t get and agent or publisher interested in my work.
I’m still entertaining the thought.
This, even though, aside from the time-honoured prestige associated with traditional publishing (which I’d be lying if I said wasn’t at least a partial motivator), I consider the sluggish pace of traditional publishing a better match for the speed at which I write.
There’s something inherently exciting about to prospect of producing exactly the type of book I want via self-publishing. I’m not necessarily referring to plot-related creative differences with agents and publishers, here – I’m firmly of the opinion that any form of collaboration with truly committed parties would only make my book stronger.
Rather, I’m talking things like…
- The format of the book (e.g. cover art, inline illustrations or associated multimedia if I happen to want it),
- The price of the book (maybe I want to give it away for free. I recently learned about the profitable history of “loss leaders”, and I can’t say I totally disagree with point #2 of writer Ksenia Anske’s argument in favour of free),
- The book’s genre (there’s definitely something to be said about not having to force a story into a categorical straightjacket), and
- The length of the book (because a big part of why I write slowly is because I write long).
Not to mention, as a slow writer, the thought of being bound to a traditional publishing contract to produce X more books on any type of schedule (even a sluggish one), fills me with unholy dread.
Knowledge is power
But it’s worth noting that the industry blogs I used to read six years ago were (by necessity) exclusively on subjects like perfecting one’s query letter, making pitches, adhering to the conventions of one’s genre, and formatting one’s manuscript.
Now I also read about the all the different types of editors and what each can do for one’s manuscript, the elements of effective cover design, and especially about marketing/promotion.
This latter consideration – regardless of which patch I ultimately choose to pursue – will be indispensible to me in getting the word out about me and my writing. Once upon a time, traditionally-published authors didn’t have to concern themselves quite so much with doing their own marketing.
Times have changed.
The days of writers being able to “just write” seem to be a thing of the past. Whatever path I choose to follow, the amount of marketing I’ll have to do will not be a deciding factor.
Question: Published writers: Why did you choose the publication path you did? Unpublished writers: What path do you envision yourself pursuing, and why?