Tag Archives: self-publishing

To Be or Not To Be Self-Published

So I’m sitting here thinking in circles and decided it might be more productive to get my thoughts out about this.

I’m becoming increasingly convinced that I’ll need to self-publish my Obsidian Divide series if I ever want it to be out in the world. I’ve received about 22 form rejections from agents so far, and queried over double that; I imagine I won’t hear from them because of the non-response model.

As far as I understand, because there’s no constructive feedback, this means I need to redo my query. It’s not capturing the imagination. But I’m being honest, while staying away from critical self moping at the same time, I don’t think the query is the problem.

I think my manuscript is too off and simultaneously not unique enough for traditional publishing (at least how publishing stands right now). Despite endless hours on TVTropes and having been a fantasy-romance reader for my whole life, I don’t understand the tropes enough to break them cleverly. Or at least when I wrote this I didn’t. The book is big and complicated; it’s basically got three plots that take up a lot of room, each interesting in their own right but it’s a lot of paper. There’s nothing snappy about it as a selling point… or I just don’t know how to tease out those points, either way.

I’d like to think it steadily pulls you under, weaving a spell and sinking into hearts that resonate with what I’m saying. It grows on you. Maybe like mold.

BUT ANYWAY. Further strikes against it: the manuscript is set in Galicia, Spain, and publishing wants are leaning away from Western-setting fantasy right now (which is completely legitimate), and while I think my book is cool in a post-dystopian greenpunk kind of way, I don’t think it’s a strong enough element. It’s too young/angsty to nicely fit into adult fantasy, but too long for YA and it’s not a coming of age story. And the worst strike of all: it’s not a standalone. It completes its arc, but it definitely sets up for more. If I’m being honest I’m not entirely sure how the series will actually end. It could go a bunch of ways, and conceivably for years. But publishing is a risk-averse industry, and buying a series from a debut author is definitely in the risky category.

I know my book is good. For people who like what I like. For as much as I can make it. And that’s the problem; I want a partner in this industry who will push me so I can continue to grow, and in order for that to happen, they have to care about what I’m writing. And likes are subjective. It’s possible I just haven’t found the right agent that it clicks with—but the next step is selling the book, and publishing is still risk-averse and finicky.

So. Where does this leave me.

There’s abandoning it for writing another book, but then what the hell was all this work for? Sure, yes, I learned a lot. But I already did the abandon-the-first-book-I-ever-wrote thing (did y’all know I have a YA dragon shifter series gathering dust somewhere? Anyway). Besides, I’m already working on writing another book; it’s really a question of focusing a majority of my energy on Book Two or something that’s more of a standalone.

There’s always rewrite this manuscript… again. But I’ve been working on this book for almost 10 freaking years (though the first several not seriously) and I don’t want to do it again. And anyway, I like what it is now.

Which brings me back to self-publishing. An intimidating idea that is slowly growing on me, though I need to get over the “self publishing is giving up” idea. I’m a needy person who wants feedback and to be recognized. Striking out on my own without that strains the self confidence.

I figure, there are three big real factors to this decision:

  • Getting the book conceivably as perfect as I can
  • Getting the book in front of people
  • Being consistent
  • Bonus factor: avoiding burnout

As for getting the book into its best form, hiring editors is fairly straightforward and will just mean time researching the right ones and money on my part. Do-able.

Somewhere between that and getting the book in front of people means hiring a book cover designer and, more broadly, probably a website/brand redesign to get my author brand to a strong, recognizable place because I’ve got a million stories inside of me and my career is not just one book. Again, research and money, doable.

Getting the book in front of people… well. I’ve been consuming information on book marketing for years, so I’ve got an idea on where to start. It’s something that I’d need to do for traditional publishing anyway. Contact reviewers. Build a newsletter list. Grow my social media following. Find my fans and help them do their thing.

It’s just a lot. Depression and ADHD like to pull me into a hole or the fog a lot. That doesn’t exactly work with being consistent and keeping a strong presence. I don’t want it all to live or die based on me (back to that partner thing I was talking about); I don’t want my writing career to be forced to depend on my erratic brain. Ha.

If I’m being honest, I have another hangup about shouting into the void. There’s this lingering sense of bUT I WanT To BE SpeCIAL that I cannot seem to beat into submission. But I’ll probably never quite get rid of that. If I’m clever I can redirect that energy into finding the right people who will enjoy my books.

Anyway, this has been cathartic. I know what I need to do, I’m just grumbling my way through the rest of my reservations. I told myself I would “Tolkein-goal” myself before I switched gears (Tolkein-goal: he had 86 rejections before publishing, so I’ll wait until I get 86 before I move on), but it’s beginning to feel tiresome and a waste to send queries when it’s unlikely I’ll get specific feedback and I’m pretty sure I know the real issue.

Plus, I was willing to give up control in a lot of things (as you do for traditional publishing) as far as cover design, marketing, trajectory of the books, etc—but I have so many ideas, it would amazing to have control over it all.

I’ve just got to gather the courage and confidence to do this on my own and weather the bad times.

Wish me luck?

NOTE: I’m actually about to leave on a three-week trip hiking through Spain with my mom. It’s apparently quite the soul searching adventure for people who have been on the Camino de Santiago before. (Additionally, I will end up where my fantasy city in The Obsidian Divide series is located which I am so stoked about.) I’ll write a post about it when I get back, and hey, maybe it’ll be the thing I need to trust myself enough to get all this off the ground!

Two Great Articles About Writers on Social Media

In my research on developing a kick-ass author platform, as dictated by one of my New Year Goals (https://awakedragon.wordpress.com/2016/01/07/beginning-the-new-year-with-sand/), I have been reading about this subject lot. Now, these two articles are not necessarily a “how to” of being an author on social media and developing a platform, but are geared more towards etiquette and how not to annoy everyone in the universe.

Mostly, it struck a cord in me how much I related. I thought I would direct your attention towards them for our shared ruminations – tell me what you think!

Please Shut Up: Why Self-Promotion as an Author Doesn’t Work

And her rebuttal to her own self:

Wait, Keep Talking: Author Self Promotion that Actually Works

I love these articles mostly because of how well they fit into my experiences on social media as of yet. But she’s also making a lot of sense.

What do you think? Have you been noticing something like this?

Thoughts from a Meeting Today

I met with a published author today, who I came in contact with through my doctor, of all things. She was pretty awesome, and I got some insights into the publishing world and what I should expect. The gist of the conversation was that ALL publishing methods have pros and cons, you MUST be an aggressive advocate for yourself, and you have to be patient. (Yeah, those last two seem to contradict each other. You really have to be both.)

I was worried about meeting her at first, because her novels are based on real-life events of her adventures in Burma. As mine are fantasy based, there seemed to be a difference gap there. But we both found ground in the fact that we both wanted to teach through our literature – to expose people to ideas that they wouldn’t normally be exposed to.

I was delighted to learn that she was pretty impressed with my views on what publishing really means, so I feel a little more confident that I might have a inkling on what to expect in getting myself out there. She told me I had a good set up for being smart about the business aspect of writing, due to what I was writing about, the practical and realistic head on my shoulders, and the time I had available due to my situation in life (aka, no kids and/or working an exhausting amount of hours yet).

I’m nervous about self-publishing due to my inexperience, so I’m taking the longer route that I hope will provide more of a foundation and learning experience. She had a bunch to say about that too, including the fact I should be sending book proposals to editors, not just agents and publishers. She’s not a fan of huge publishing houses (as they are bogged down with inefficiency and overloaded with submissions) nor agents (also overloaded with submissions), but that all methods are going to have pros and cons. You just have to choose the ones you can live with.

She didn’t have a lot of good to say about self-publishing, which was fascinating because all I tend to hear from people is the chant about how self-publishing is the best option. She’s not impressed with the distribution ability of self-publishing, how Amazon takes advantage of self-published authors, and how all promoting rests on the author’s abilities. As most first-time authors don’t have a clue how to promote effectively (myself included), it results in the crash-and-burn scenario which I see happening around me quite often. Readers don’t just “find” your book, especially considering the saturation of the market.

That being said, total control and the speed of getting books out there is nothing to scoff at: it all depends on what your strengths are as an author. That being said, skills are going to change and grow over time – maybe your publishing method will too.

Anyway, the point of this long ramble for all of you, is that you should dissect the pros and cons of each publishing method and choose the one that’s right for you. People will talk, everyone had a bias, and only you know what your abilities are and what vision you have for your writing. And it seems to me that “the Traditional Route” and “the Self-Publishing Route” are not as cut and dry as it seems – there are variations in how individuals can creatively engage their readership.

As a final note, I was recommended a book that details all the pros and cons of each publishing method and what it entails. I haven’t gone through it yet, but it’s called “How To Get Happily Published,” and it’s website is here.