Hello! Are you ready for a glimpse into another one of Lyndsie’s internal conflicts? Well you’re in luck because that’s what this post is about!
However, instead of just me wallowing in my own insecurity, this time, I decided to reach out to my author friends for help. Writers these days are asking themselves two big questions:
- When do I know if I’m “good enough” to be a published author?
- Should I self-publish or go the traditional publishing route?
Honestly, these two questions will forever color your submission process until you come to peace with them. At least, that’s how it’s worked for me. I don’t think there’s ever really a “right” answer, but more like a right answer *for you*. So, I decided to ask these questions to my friends and post their responses below.
I hope their responses will inspire you and encourage you to keep pursuing your dream. I know it has helped me!
How do you know you’re good enough to be an author?
It is a known fact that I’ve waffled between whether I really should try to pursue being an author or if I should just give it up and get a corporate job. I definitely have a story to tell and characters that won’t shut up in my head, so that makes it seem like a yes, right? Then I go on to ask myself, am I *good* enough to be a writer? And if so, am I good enough right now? Or…when will I know when I am?
Here are 3 answers from Xero Reynolds, author of When the Man Comes Around, Jon Gray Lang, author of The Matilda Series, and Michael Kilman, Author of Mimi of the Nowhere.
Take it away, authors!
In earnest? I didn’t. I knew there were people that liked my writing, and the stories I could tell. More importantly, I just had to build up the confidence to say “Okay. I think this is solid enough to expect others to pay for.” Whether right or wrong—we all grow in our career after all—it was a place to start. And that’s the trick of it; being willing to take that step. If you’re already toying with the idea in your mind, chances are pretty good that you’re ready to go for it.Xero Reynolds, When the Man Comes Around, book 1 of the Nine Shot Sonata series. Twitter Twitch
When did I think I was “good enough”? That’s an interesting distinction. In the beginning, didn’t have any plans to publish at all. The whole thing was just to get a story out of my head. I enjoyed reading it and it was a lot of fun to do.
Once you pour so much time, sweat, and tears into something, you want to see what other people think of it, right? You hope for the best and expect the worst, well I do. I chose people who were close to me as well as others whose reviews I respected. As a bonus, it also made its way to people I didn’t know at all. This made for a mix of people who weren’t all fans of the sci-fi genre.
Based on their responses, I made some revisions and had other people give it a go. Funnily enough, the most common response I got each time was, “When can I read the next one?” Hearing those words time and time again from people I did and didn’t know is when it happened. I finally felt that I was “good enough” to be an author. Now the whole story will be five books long!Jon Gray Lang, The Matilda, book 1 of The Matilda Series https://jongraylang.com/ & Nun with a Gun, a novelette
(Pssst…You can read my review of Jon’s books The Matilda and Twistin’ Matilda below)
For me it wasn’t so much about feeling good enough as not writing made me unhappy. I love to tell stories to friends and family, I always have. When I was a kid I used to make up little books in school. I was such a bookworm that my 2nd grade teacher used to call me the absent minded professor, in part because I would always have my nose in a book and forget about everything else.
I tried writing books in my teens and then again in my early twenties but nothing felt right. I took a number of creative writing courses and did various writing workshops but nothing amounted to much. I didn’t feel like what I wrote was worth reading. But then, finally when I was a graduate student I came up with an interesting idea. Unfortunately it was years before I could explore it because well, graduate school is insane. But that idea stuck with me. I would get the urge to write about it constantly.
So as I finished grad school I started reading more books on writing techinques, decided that I would start reading an absolutely minimum of a book a week. When I read, and a passage was really good, I would note it and then when I had a free moment would dig into why it was good. I started reading more critically and then started writing that way too. But it wasn’t just actively working on my writing skills that made me feel better, it was that this story, which became the second and third books in my current series, The Chronicles of the Great Migration, just wouldn’t leave me alone. It was the insistence, or the need to tell this story that made me forget about the idea of “am I good enough, or not?” and finally just get it done. I guess in the end, my characters and world were so interesting to me, I almost forgot to worry about my own shortcomings.Michael Kilman, Mimi of the Nowhere book 1 of The Chronicles of the Great Migration https://loridianslaboratory.com/
Wow. There seems to be a definite trend here. Apparently authors like telling stories and some of these stories just won’t leave them alone! Sounds familiar doesn’t it?
As for being good enough, I guess if you’re asking yourself this question, then you’re well on your way! This is good news, right? Let’s keep on it!
Should I self-publish or run the gauntlet of publishing companies & agents to get my story out there?
So, now that you (and yes I mean *you*) know you’re good enough to be an author. Your next big question probably is: Self or Traditional publishing? I have also asked myself this question many times (and still am asking it to this day!). For some facts and info that I’ve discovered, you can always check out my other posts:
However, don’t just listen to me. Check out what my three authors said!
Self-publishing gave me more overall control, and to be frank the promotional side of it isn’t far removed from what you would be expected to do if you got picked up by a publishing house. The overall through-line of final draft to the physical book is much shorter, and gives me freedom to dictate when and where my books will come out for the best impact.
What was my impetus to self-publish over traditional publishing or partnership publishing? This took me longer to figure out than writing the first drafts of three books as well as a novelette!
What were my options? At the time, I knew of traditional publishing and heard the term self-publishing. I took a handful of classes from those better informed than me to learn more.
When the Matilda was ready to go, I investigated traditional publishing. At the time, urban fantasy was king. Traditional publishers weren’t looking for my kind of sci-fi story. The same held true for partnership publishing. It also didn’t fit in the standard length. I tried padding out the book, but it hurt the flow of the story. It just didn’t work in the longer prose.
Self-published books didn’t have standard lengths per genre. In fact, shorter works were selling well! And I knew there was an audience out there hungry for another sci-fi tale. I took a ton of classes on every aspect I could think of about choosing that route and two years later, I put it out there. It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s worth it.
When I finished writing, I tried to put out one of my books into the world for over a year. I queried a bunch of agents. The only thing I got back was one single rejection letter. Most were so busy or perhaps didn’t like my work so much that I didn’t even hear back. Someone online told me about self-publishing, so I started looking into it casually. I wasn’t serious though until I had a few series blows in my career. I tried to leave teaching and move out into much better paying work, but it blew up in my face and I ended up at Starbucks. Then I applied for a PhD program and despite it looking like a sure thing after 4 years of teaching and additional research, and I got rejected from the schools I applied too. I felt really lost for a few weeks and then looked at my books and what I had read about self-publishing and decided to go for it.
I went through my books again and thought it would be a good idea to have some sort of reader magnet. There was one character in particular that I thought would be fun to tease out and explore. Unfortunately she wanted way more time and space then just a 10,000 word short story and over the course of about 10 days I ended up writing a 43,000 rough draft that became my first novel Mimi of the Nowhere. Her character was so interesting and important in that book, that I went back through and added her to the next two volumes. She’s now one of the most important characters in the worlds I’ve created.
Despite never hearing back from any agents and going the self-publishing route, that book got a great review from Publishers Weekly, and was just a finalist in a best science fiction contest. So it seems self-publishing worked well for me.
Now, I’m not going to tell you one way or another which route you should choose because I can’t even decide from myself, but their answers definitely give more insight into the not-so-mysterious world of self-publishing.
Overall, I hope this exercise has been useful to you all. If you enjoyed my author mini-interview, let me know and I will do more of them. Happy writing, my loves! Stay amazing!
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