If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ve probably observed my recent indecision surrounding publishing options for this next book. I’ve finally made my decision, and so I’ll treat you to a chronological narrative of my thoughts, interactions, and OH MY GOSH I’M SO CONFUSED moments.
Originally, I was pretty set on self-publishing KNIGHTS OF RILCH as the sequel to COLDNESS OF MAREK. I had a good experience in the self-pub world, in spite of some definite mistakes I made in the process (more about this in my post: Can I please/has/do a remix?).
While writing RILCH and participating in NaNoWriMo for the second time, I finally joined the writing crowd on Twitter… and discovered that they are a warm, sharing bunch of people. As bad as this sounds, I was completely floored by this. Much of the arts I’ve been involved in– school-related and professionally– have been competitive to the point of being snobby and cruel. So I was not prepared AT ALL.
This opened up a new world for me. Suddenly I was excited about traditional publishing. I had assumed, from my limited reading on the publishing world (which pretty much stopped at magazine and Internet articles), that agents and publishing houses were not interested in writers succeeding. (Seriously, this is a THING. I don’t know if it’s just the media being negative or what, but somehow all those “big bad, big five” tales are everywhere, and it was all I was exposed to for a good while). When I finally found the bloggers and contests and actual agents of the writing world, I learned that this could not be further from the truth. And as I read all these success stories, soaked up all this encouragement, and perused all these agent wishlists, I realized I would love to be a part of this.
And then I started reading a lot of depressing stuff about the Indie movement. Turns out self-publishing is also a shortcut for people who haven’t worked to get their writing completely polished, and this scared me because this is what I did. I wasn’t trying to shortcut the system, but I also wasn’t trying to launch a career. I just wanted all my friends to read something I wrote, so I bought an ISBN and spent the money to get 200 copies printed locally. I didn’t plan on marketing it all over the place, or even allowing another author to read it EVER, but when I started hearing how this could sink you into the abyss of the low quality eBook crowd that grates on the nerves of authors and agents everywhere, it seemed a good reason to panic. I immediately copied my finished manuscript of COLDNESS OF MAREK into a Scrivener file and began a rewrite. I wondered if there was some way I could justify burning the remaining 40 copies of the original that haven’t been sold… and I started looking at the sequel and wondering if I could possibly market it as a stand-alone novel.
Enter the amazing world of contests. I started with Cupid’s Literary Connection’s Blind Speed Dating. At first, I figured this would be a wonderful way to test the waters, to see if there was any interest in the traditional market for what I had written, before I began querying agents individually. I really, really wanted to learn how to do this, but more than that I wanted to network with other writers and get feedback on my query and storyline. Is it comparable to what other people are writing? Would an agent even glance at it? I was hoping my fellow writers could answer these questions for me… and I was not disappointed. Especially with the Kissing Scene Competition, the feedback and advice that they were willing to share made me feel like someone had dumped a huge bucket of love all over me.
But I learned something else in the competition. As soon as my entry went up on the site, I knew this was not what I wanted to do with this particular novel. The idea of landing an agent with KNIGHTS OF RILCH was actually a little scary. I started reading all of the other entries… queries that had been polished to a high shine by writers that had been querying for months upon months; writers that had been studying this business for years, that wanted an agent so much more than I did. I wanted that validation, to be sure, but I feel that it would be very, very unfair to seek that relationship only halfheartedly, and halfhearted is how I feel about it. It is tough, because I read so many agent wishlists, agents that I admire and stand in awe of, where I felt, “that’s what I have! I just need to pitch it in a way you’ll be interested!” but I am not comfortable pitching this book. I don’t feel certain enough to tell an agent, “This is the series. This is where the story will end, this is how many books will be involved, and it will all fit into this genre and be marketable to this crowd.”
If there is anything I have learned over the past year, it’s that I am not quite ready to have anything set in stone, and any kind of publishing contract is very much a permanent thing. As much as I respect the traditional publishing route, I am grateful for the flexibility self-publishing provides. The fact that I can pull COLDNESS OF MAREK off the market and rewrite it without hurting anybody else’s long-term plans or pocketbooks is a blessing. I can fix these mistakes. I can learn and grow. I can let this series go where it will, and it doesn’t have to be read by a huge audience to pay off an advance and make it worthwhile for an agent, an editor, a design team, etc. In the end, I am responsible for the quality of my work.
I’m actually very excited about going Indie with this novel. Thankfully, by now I have my wonderful CP, Michelle, and a few beta readers (one of whom is the amazing EM Castellan) who are helping me look at my work critically and shine it far beyond what I had attained with COLDNESS OF MAREK. I’m going to be much more patient this time, and I’m going to approach this as a writer, not as a girl who wants her friends to read her work… even though that was fun while it lasted.
To everyone who has been so helpful and supportive as I’ve been making these decisions, thank you for your advice and encouragement! And to everyone who has been following me since I started writing novels, thank you for hanging in there with me! You mean the world to me.
8 thoughts on “So this is what I’ve decided.”
Yay! Glad you finally decided. :) I’m sure you know I’m going for traditional publishing first, but I’m not ruling anything out.
Rachel thanks for sharing so candidly. I’m a bit the same way when it comes to the trilogy I’m writing now. I totally understand the standing on the sidelines and thinking – yes I want that, – but at the same time have reservations that my work isn’t quite where I need it to be, and that I might not be able to come up to the expectations of a traditional publisher – yet. (It is still a long term goal – but I’d rather do it really well, than risk shooting myself in the foot because I wasn’t ready).
On the upside, I also agree about the wonderful on-line writing community. It’s amazing to be able to connect with other encouraging writers from all over the world. I hadn’t realised what really great friendships you can make in this way. Best of luck with your journey!
Rachel, you know where I stand on the matter and I’m happy you reached a decision that is satisfying for you :) Best of luck with this, I’m very curious to follow you and very excited to support you on this publishing road!
I love this! So many people fail to realize that not being ready for traditional publishing yet is OKAY. There’s so much that goes into it, and whether people aren’t ready for the work, or the permanence, or the rejections, or the bad reviews, it’s important to KNOW, to be aware of what it all means and whether it’s right for you. So glad you made this decision for yourself at the right time and I look forward to see where you’re at in a few months, or next year, or whenever!
I think the biggest obstacle these days is contracts. To lock a manuscript in to something that lasts years when the business is changing so fast makes every writer worried. Also, the ridiculously low levels at which publishers can claim to keep rights (for example Random House is 300 copies sold over two reporting periods, ie a year) should chill the bones of writers.
No matter what path a writer takes, 99% will not make a career of it. I just pull that number out, but it’s actually higher than that. There are many reasons, but the biggest one is simple: many people will just give up.
Because it is hard. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.
Rachel, some wonderful thoughts on choosing your particular path. And I so know what you mean about feeling as though self-pubbing is a shortcut. I went through great battles with myself and those feelings. Good luck! There is definitely a wonderful support system available out there.
Hey, good for you! Really excited to watch how things go for you! <3