I attempted to write this entry a week or two ago. When I say attempted, what I really mean is that I actually did write the entry in its entirety, but then decided not to hit the Publish button because I wasn’t satisfied with the feel of it. Despite making all of the points I wanted to make, I’m extremely glad that I was unhappy with it at the time. Now, I have a few new things to add. And now, I intend to leave out all of the nonsense…or most of it, anyway.
Given how close the first book in my series is to absolute completion (and what I mean by that is readiness to be published, not finished with writing), I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about publication. Don’t get me wrong, it’s something I’ve thought about a lot over the past several years – even before this second series started working itself out in my head. Of course, when you finish writing one – or even sometimes before that – it starts crossing your mind. And those thoughts begin slowly as, “Maybe I should try to get this published.” They soon transform into, “Yeah, I should definitely try to get this published.” Then, once you’ve discovered a magical gem that was hidden somewhere in the depths of your being, it is finally, “This NEEDS to be published.”
When you reach the point where you’re either serious enough, or curious enough about publication, you begin doing research. The very first thing you learn about? Agents. Agents are the heart of the publishing industry, pumping the blood – a story – through all of the appropriate avenues. Agents help you get your book completely ready. They handle the contracts you couldn’t begin to understand. They support you. They do everything. They get you published. That’s what you learn.
For a long time, I thought that was the only way. Self-publishing was only for people who COULDN’T get published otherwise, or so I believed. And I will go ahead and say that I’m more than aware that a lot of people who self-publish do it because they CAN’T get an agent, for whatever reason.
When you begin to dig deeper into everything – the way it all works, all of the options…everything – you realize that there are options. There are pros and cons to both sides. I’m not knowledgeable enough about the industry to list all of them as fact; I can only list off the big issues that are currently swirling around in my own head, where they pertain to my own work.
I will tackle the self-publishing first because, to me, it’s the easiest to tackle.
You pay for everything, right? You pay for your cover art. You pay for this, you pay for that. It ends up being quite a lot of money, unless a couple thousand dollars is pocket change to you, or unless you’re extremely gifted at formatting and design (I am not gifted at either of those things). There’s the – absolutely legitimate – concern that you won’t even make enough money back to cover the initial expense of it. To me? The money it would take is nowhere near pocket change. It’s a big investment.
At the same time, in order to get people to buy your books – because how could they even know who you were? – you have to self-promote shamelessly.
Do I like the idea of that? Uhm, yes, in a sense. I like it that people are passionate about what they do. Do I want to do it? I am bashful and backwards. You take a guess. Am I passionate about what I do? You have no idea how much.
Would I get over my bashfulness and backwardness to help my books? No, but I would do what I needed to anyway. I yam who I yam. I don’t want to change who I am; I couldn’t, and I wouldn’t. I like being introverted; I like sitting alone in a shed with as little human interaction as possible. When I don’t talk, I don’t over-analyze every word that I said. I don’t get nervous and sweat profusely. Don’t we all like being comfortable? Again, I would still do whatever I had to…it’s all just a matter of how happy I would be with it.
Alright…So NOW, the big question is…
Would my books ever reach their full potential if I chose to self-publish? I don’t know very many people to be like, “HEY! READ MY BOOKS!”
This is another one of those things that sends this horrendous sinking feeling into my stomach, worrying that something I do will be the reason my books fail. Before, it was a concern about the crappy way that I write. I’ve come to accept the fact that, while my blogging (and texting, and messaging) is horrible – my book writing? Well…it’s really not SO bad. It’s not great. It could be better.
It could be a LOT worse.
Which gets me to the gigantic flashing neon sign in my head right now, when it comes to going the traditional route. This was already the source of The Big Question Mark (and has been for the past few weeks when the realization actually struck me [and yes, it gets its own name]), but I can thank one of my friends for unintentionally solidifying it for me.
I woke up and laid there on that day a week or two ago, resisting the urge to groan about being awake – as I do every morning (or afternoon, depending on the day) – and had one of those eye-twitch-inducing revelations that woke me right up.
What if I get an agent, then they send my book off to an editor that changes things without asking me? What if they ruin everything?
That was the, “Oh fdhc,” moment that day. The solidification changed the way I thought about it.
There were no expletives running around in my head, which is a feat in and of itself, as there are almost constantly expletives floating around in my head (even when I’m in a good mood). There were no simpleminded, one-sided thoughts.
Not everyone is going to like my books (I’d realized that a LONG time ago), and that’s fine. More importantly…not everyone is going to appreciate them, understand what I was going for, the feel I want them to have, etc.
A good, solid editing is important. I’m a firm believer that you don’t have to get a ‘professional’ editor to do it. What makes them professional anyway? As long as you have someone who understands the written word – the way words are used, the way sentences flow, so on and so forth – what does it matter? You can’t do that yourself. You can do a damn good job editing your own work, but you still need other people to help in some way. They see things that you won’t. They’ll catch your too instead of who. They’ll find the places where you thought you were being descriptive as all get-out (you can see it in your head…never mind the fact that you left those little details out), and really weren’t. Editing is important. It’s key to releasing a good book.
There comes a point in time when you’re editing yourself where, if you touch it one more time, you’ll be doing more harm than good.
There also comes a point in time where anyone else touching it will absolutely destroy what you’ve done. You have to know when that point is.
I’ll compare it to a beautiful, antique cabinet. There is a difference between refinishing and slopping a bunch of paint over something. There is a BIG difference between those two things.
This is where I’m torn, you see.
I want my character’s story to be told as well as it possibly can be. Don’t we all want that for the characters that we nurture (sometimes torture), and love?
You have to know where that line is located. You have to respect that line. You have to respect yourself.
You have to know what you want out of the thing that you love so dearly and completely.
The most important thing is that I have to stay true to myself, and to my writing. I want the story told as well as it can be told, but – above that – the story has to be the one that I wrote.
I can’t – and will not – change the way that I write, or the focus of my stories to satisfy anyone. What in the world would be the point of doing this if I was that quick to say, “Of course you’re right,” without giving it a second thought and asking THE most important question you can ask yourself when another person has looked at your work. Are they right?
More often than not, yes. Yes they are.
To me, there is such a difference between adding a word, taking out a useless sentence, or moving things around and then completely twisting and distorting who I am as a writer.
I can sit there and drive myself insane all day long, worrying that I will be the cause of my book’s failure.
But the fact of the matter is…I would rather be the cause of that by staying true to myself as a person, and as a writer, than throwing every bit of myself out of the window because someone else suggested it. I can’t do it. I won’t do it. If it’s a sinking ship, I will ride that baby down to the bottom of the ocean. Do you want to know why? Because someone out there will get what I was trying to do. Someone out there will appreciate the characters that I love. Someone out there will GET IT. I would rather them get me than get some painted up, antique cabinet.
And that, my friends, is why I don’t know if I want to publish traditionally. Could I? Yes. I believe wholeheartedly that I could.
I’m not sure. But I can tell you right now that, if that happens…I will not let anyone destroy the integrity of my work. Not to make it more marketable. Not to make it easier to stomach. Not to make it easier to understand. Not for ANY reason in the entire world.
That’s just the way it is.
And now I’m hearing Bruce Hornsby in my head.
Could be worse.