“And without much ado
we can all muddle through
– My Fair Lady
‘Tis the season of literary shenanigans, it seems. So soon in the wake of the Writing Festival in York came the London Book Fair this week. It was right in my neighborhood (practically “On the Street Where [I] Live,” so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to pop in, although I didn’t find the lengthy list of sessions to really offer much to writers themselves—more of an industry thing that didn’t leave me feeling “I Could Have Danced All Night” riding a book-high. What I definitely took away from it, though, is that traditional publishers are shakin’ in their boots a bit at the digital revolution occurring, that growing options for self-publishing are eliminating the gatekeepers of the industry, and that marketing your book requires the same amount of legwork on your end whether you’re traditionally or self-published. Contrary to popular belief, traditional publishers don’t guarantee you “discoverability” and may not allocate much money toward your marketing. So establishing your own fan-base via social media well in advance of your book’s submission/publication is key, as is making the effort to put yourself out in the community for book signings, speaking events, etc. afterwards.
The quotation yesterday that made me *gulp* at what I surely already knew:
“Writing is a passion. Publishing is a business.”
Meh. Nothing new, but it in a nutshell reminded me of the aspect I’ve disliked so much about this process so far. The best part was when I was just writing. But researching for submissions and revising in light of rejections and being overall totally lame where networking and self-promotion are concerned do kill the spirit a little… And yet it’s also rather exciting, isn’t it? I’ve always needed a challenge, and facing one that seems practically insurmountable is quite the motivator and defeater all at the same time.
The talk of self-publishing and e-books, though, I find heartening, and here’s my thoughts on it these days. It’s by no means a last resort—it’s getting your work out there for others to read, which is the point of wanting to get published, isn’t it? Yeah, it costs upfront for printing, cover design, and editorial services (money will always be a damn gatekeeper). But, barring that factor and looking at it just conceptually for a moment, if you have to market the crap out of yourself anyway, why not get a faster start at that to grow readers sooner? It’s not like you still can’t query an agent or publisher with that same manuscript afterwards. You still own the rights to it, no matter what, and you’ll have a nicer format and (hopefully) readers/reviewers by then to vouch for its content. I don’t know… What was sad and somehow so cute at once was that an older gentleman I’d met yesterday explained that he wants to self-publish because he doesn’t think he has enough time left to wait out the years traditional publishing could take. Aw 😦
It leaves me thinking that after I finish my current round of revision, I’ll do a massive query blast (my December/January queries were just dipping my toe into the waters), and if I don’t hear anything in the affirmative as the months roll by, self-publishing is the attractive option from there—even despite the stigma hovering over it. There are so many ill-edited indie books being put out there (simply because any schmo can), so it’s almost an obligation for diligent writers to get theirs in that market, too, and dilute the stereotype. I’ll stop spending money on freaking workshops and allocate it toward a professional editing service, then maybe start with an e-book until I can justify the funds for a print version. And then, I query-blast again! My publisher search would remain ongoing. So that’s a game-plan I’m at the beginnings of formulating in my head, anyway… Time (and funds) will tell.
“Wouldn’t it be Loverly,” though, to go that route and say, “Just You Wait,” publishers, I can do this “Without You“!
So what are your thoughts on self-publishing (digital and/or print) versus traditional publishing? Is the former an option you’ve seriously thought about? Why or why not?
April 14th, 2011 at 17:48
Hear, hear, I say! I like your approach. Then again, it is the one that I am taking currently. B)
Working on a traditional publishing career with my second ms while experimenting with “indie” with my first (Germany is only now starting to jump on the ebook bandwagon – good for me). Just handed over my lovely to a professional editor, too. Sheeesh, the money does hurt indeed, but then again I would hate the fact that a project I put 6 years of my life in would just fuel all the prejudices that are out there. Quality will distinct itself, I am still convinced. Let’s see if my stuff will be part of that. 😉
So you go, girl! Face the gatekeepers while sneaking in through the backdoor. I am all for it. I keep hearing from people that British publishers seem to turn their noses on writers who have once self-published. Cannot tell myself, only, that in Germany it is not a problem to do both, and in the US, neither. So I think it is just another try to postpone the inevitable.
April 15th, 2011 at 10:44
“Face the gatekeepers while sneaking in through the backdoor.” – I love that, Eva! And I was absolutely thinking of you and your e-book as I was writing this. I thought it was awesome when you first mentioned you were doing it, and everything I hear about that approach validates it more. Yeah, I don’t doubt that British publishers would clutch onto their prejudices; luckily, I’m querying in the States and would go through an American self-publisher because 1) I think the story caters better to an American audience, and 2) I’ll probably be moving back there in the next year or two, so it makes more sense to market from a permanent residence.
April 15th, 2011 at 17:56
Yeah, you and I got OUT of business for a reason, right? And here we are right back in it. Bleh. But it’s a fact of this life and it’s awesome that there are so many options for writers now. I love what you say about the duty of diligent writers to get their work out there to bust up the self-published stereotype.
April 19th, 2011 at 08:15
Thanks, Nicki. It’s been beyond helpful to observe your experiences in this biz, since we’re so freakishly alike. 🙂 And I see you making great success of getting yourself out there for signings, book clubs, and your fun social media, so you continue to be an important mentor.
April 15th, 2011 at 23:00
“Traditional publishers don’t guarantee you ‘discoverability'” — I’m learning this, too, by following fellow writers. “After I finish my current round of revision, I’ll do a massive query blast” — my plans for this summer! “There are so many ill-edited indie books being put out there (simply because any schmo can), so it’s almost an obligation for diligent writers to get theirs in that market, too, and dilute the stereotype” — great way to look at it.
Personally, I plan to take the agent route first, then the small press route, and lastly the Kindle route. Why? Probably because no one has convinced me to approach things differently…yet. =]
April 19th, 2011 at 08:17
Right on, Milo! Cheers to us both querying the crap out of our manuscripts by this summer!!
As for your approach, stay the course, my friend. With all your short story publications these days, you’ll have one solid query letter that speaks to your published writing experience, which agents should find attractive indeed. 🙂
April 17th, 2011 at 14:04
Hullo! I popped by, drawn by all the Eliza Doolittle references.
Wi’ a little bit o’ luck- and a cuppa teahee- you’ll do beautifully:)
April 19th, 2011 at 08:18
‘Allo, Guvna! 🙂 Love it, pserean. I’m so glad Eliza could bring you here and really appreciate the well wishes!
June 27th, 2011 at 17:35
[…] and social media that places great responsibility on authors to self-promote. As every writing seminar I attend says time and time again, even the traditionally published must take on this burden, so it […]