At work, I’m known as “the guy that’s written two books.” People are constantly asking me how my writing’s going. It feels good. Actually, it feels great to know that my co-workers care about my efforts outside the Day Job. It’s rewarding to know that they think it’s really cool that I’ve managed to crank out over 200,000 words (not counting my short fiction), and they’re amazed at my ability to juggle work, family, writing, eating and sleeping.
I love the people I work with… until they ask if it’s published. I tell them about the two short stories I have published, and they congratulate me. Then, in the same breath, ask if the novels are published.
My usual answer is, “I’m working on it.” That’s the truth. I’m searching high and low for agents and editors that may show a glimmer of interest in what I’ve created.
Then they drop the hammer on me by asking, “Why don’t you self-publish?”
These days, I don’t really have a good answer for this. When I was asked this three or four years ago, my answer went something like this, “There’s no vetting or editing on self-published work. It’s just people throwing words at the screen and hoping someone wants to buy them. I don’t want to be lumped in with that crowd.”
While these statements are still true, there are tons of people out there who have put in the time, effort, energy and money to have their work professionally edited. There are some stand-out self-published novels these days. Would I like to be lumped in with the shining examples of quality work? Certainly. The problem comes in putting in the effort to become one of those stand-out people. I’m not talking in the craft going into the words, but into the energy the business side of things requires to be successful.
In the self-publishing world, there are a few hard markers by which to measure success. Sales figures are king. Number of quality reviews is the queen. Having a high average rating is the crown prince. Obtaining (and keeping) loyal fans are the dukes and duchesses of the measuring stick of success in the self-publishing world. However, it takes tons of effort to get all of that. Not just in writing, editing and producing the book. There’s a whole mess of crap that sits on top of the writing to make sure things go well.
There’s money to spend on a quality cover. There money to spend on a quality editor (even if you have a critique group). There’s money to spend on a layout person (or do it yourself *shudder*). There’s money to spend on getting the book in the right places online and in brick & mortar stores. Then comes marketing. I haven’t a clue where to start marketing anything, let alone a book. That’s probably my biggest barrier right there, so I’d have to pay a marketing genius (I happen to know one) to put together a marketing plan for me.
It’s just too much.
That’s why I’m not self-publishing. I want to focus on my craft of writing and leave the cover, layout, design, production, distribution and marketing to the pros. That means the publishing houses.
Yeah. Yeah. I know the truth of the matters about marketing. Unless a publisher has already advanced you stupid amounts of money, they’re not going to back you with even more stupid amounts of money for advertising and marketing. That’s normally on the shoulders of the author to take care of some (most??) of it. So, if I land a publishing contract, I’ll be reaching out to the marketing genius I know and offering him a healthy part of whatever advance I get to come up with a marketing plan for me.
Another reason I’m not going with self-publishing is this:
I think my book is great. My former critique partners thought the book was great. My wife thinks the book is great.
Does that delude me into knowing the book is great?
Don’t get me wrong. I believe in my book 100%. I just need to find that professional out there (agent or editor) that believes in the greatness of my writing as much as I do. It’s confirmation that my efforts have been worth it. It’s validation that I can produce quality writing. It’s an ego stroke. It’s that “rubber stamp” and “big thumbs up” from someone that knows what they’re doing in this industry.
Have I completely ruled out self-publishing? No, but it’s not for me right now.