I am a writer. It took me 15 years to admit that one. I’ve written 5 complete novels, countless short stories, flash fictions, and a few incomplete novels. I have hundreds of titles or incomplete ideas floating around the world in word docs, blogs and physical notebooks that will never see the light of day. I love blogging. I even enjoy technical and process documentation for industry.
I don’t have my name in print, save for several academic papers I contributed to in college.
- Because the world of publishing is a crapshoot.
- Because “writer” is not a valid or respected profession.
- Because writers “don’t make any money”.
- Because if you’re not doing it [insert opinion of an individual’s “right” way here] then you are doing it wrong and should just give up.
- Because there is every excuse in the world to not do the thing you love because you are told countless times that the thing you love is wrong.
But you know what? I’m tired of hearing the becauses. If you are a writer, then get on that G-D laptop and write stuff! Here I will tell you the saga of my last 10 years of writing. This is centered around the debate: Self vs. Traditional Publishing.
So why am I not published yet? Because the decision between these two publishing models has crippled me. In part 1 of this 2-part series on Self vs. Trad Pub, I think it’s important to understand how much writing has meant to my life.
I participated in NANOWRIMO for the first serious time since the early 2000s while I was in grad school finishing my M.A. I “won” by finishing the novel, Sparks at around 60k words. This was a epic YA fantasy about an inter-dimensional magic school where magic was performed using the 4 elements (earth, air, fire, water). I even “won” a free voucher to get a published copy from some company. I didn’t do anything with it b/c I was told self-publishing would shoot myself in the foot for the rest of my (nonexistant) author career.
I participated in NANOWRIMO for the second time while studying for my Master’s Exam and finishing up my M.A. Thesis. I won again, by finishing a contemporary, sci-fi, zombie novel called Love in the Time of Zombies. Then I saw Zombieland and realized my story was eerily close to the movie though I had never heard or seen any previews for it. I abandoned that project as well…
In 2012, in the midst of planning my wedding and planning a large event for my medieval reenactment group (The SCA), I used NANOWRIMO to start the novel that some of you may already know about. Since this is the novel that I am *still* working on, if you don’t know about it, you must be living under a rock… This is my near-future, dystopian, science fiction (Cyberpunk) new adult novel called Anamnesis.
- Apparently I only want to do NANOWRIMO when I have 75,000 otehr things going on in my life.
- This “book” has now morphed into 5. A prequel, In Memoriam is 80% finished. Anamnesis is being split into 2: Anamnesis and Insignia. A third book, originally the sequel, Memento Mori is 50% finished. And a 4th series-ender, Nirvana is in outline version. Thus is the lament of a writer who goes too long sitting on her own work
Anyway, in 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, & 2019 I finished Anamnesis . (Yes, I “finished” it multiple times because it has undergone edits every time I wanted to declare it officially “finished”). Currently I am working on “finishing” it again but this time for reals…I have an editor now!!!
As you can tell, I have sat on this book forever. What am I going to do with it? The idea of submitting to traditional publishers has literally paralyzed me. Though, I couldn’t really place my finger on why.
Most people would just say that I’m lazy and/or not committed enough to my writing to work really hard and do research 45 hours/day and get 1000 rejections before finally getting accepted somewhere. But in actuality, I think my feet-dragging was really related to other things:
- I didn’t feel like I was good enough to be a writer.
- So if I suck as a writer, why put a ton of work into trying to get published?
- I was overwhelmed and didn’t know where to start.
- I was scared of losing control over my story and my voice.
- There’s a lot of conflicting information and most of it consists of opinions
- Trying to find the truth highlighted one of the tasks I struggle with: doing research
- I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no one “right” answer
However, I realized that NOT getting my work out there was kind of killing my self-worth too. Then in 2018 some things happened:
- A friend of mine started this online writer group with bi-weekly meetups.
- I also learned about the Angry Robot publishing open door contest which encouraged new writers to submit manuscripts directly to the publisher.
- I found the Colorado Independent Publishers Association (CIPA) and the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s Association (RMFW).
Those two things put the fire under my butt to begin fine tuning my Anamnesis manuscript and seeking publication in earnest. I went to CIPA meetings. I got in touch with authors, publishers, editors, writing coaches and a bunch of other inspiring people. I happened upon a talk about Traditional vs. Indie publishing which was very enlightening.
Self-publishing was starting to sound very appealing. It really relies on networking and marketing which are some of of my BEST talents. But the thought still lingers…will I be shooting myself in the foot as a writer to self-publish? There still seems to be a bit of a stigma or “ugh-factor” when you hear of someone self-published. Like…did they take the time and money to get a good editor? How long did it take them to write the book? Are they any good? These questions make the decision a difficult one.
In early 2019 I made some sort of a decision. Before I pulled the proverbial trigger and self-published, I should give myself a really good chance at getting picked up by a traditional publisher. So, I wrote query letter after query letter and saw rejection after rejection. Then, one publisher actually provided me feedback along with my rejection. They also said that if i fixed that stuff, they would consider publishing me. HOLY CRAP RIGHT? But the feedback was really vague.
At this point, I decided to try and get some beta readers to take a look and see if I could edit it per the publisher’s wishes. Well, it took a huge amount of time to get 3 feedbacks from 20+ beta-readers. (I will have another post out about beta readers who are your friends, so stay tuned).
By this point, it’s early-2020 and I’m finally starting to update my novel based on some great beta-reader feedback. Well, surprise surprise, it is now 15K words longer than before for a total of 30k too long. Buuuuut….I can’t cut it enough to fit the YA or NA category. So…why not just split it!? Well, now it’s two too-short novellas that need more content. Back to the writing board, it is!
In the mean time, I’ve almost finished the prequel, In Memoriam, which I’d always intended for self-publishing since it was going to be novella-length. Well, it may not be as short as I had originally planned, but ya know…we’ll get there when we get there right?
Also, I finally admitted to myself that if I wanted a great chance at getting picked up by a publisher, I needed to hire an editor. I would need to do this for self-pub anyway, so why not? The editor I selected was adamant that I try to go trad-pub before self publishing. She’s a bit traditional, but seeing as how much my novel has changed, why not try?
And this is where I am at. The new #1 (half of the original Anamnesis) will be going to the editor at the end of the month. Then…we’ll see what happens! I am going to do this, darn it!
Now, if you are as terrified/paralyzed as I was, I will tell you that you can do it! In Part 2 I will weigh the Pros & Cons of both styles of publishing from my experience. I am no expert, but I have done a crap-ton of research. First of foremost keep in mind, everyone has their opinion.
In the meantime, keep writing!