Meet: My Path Toward Publication

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Seeking out the tried and true is the wrong direction for crazy times.  –Seth Godin

And it’s crazy in publishing these days.

The industry is in the middle of an upheaval and anyone who claims to know exactly how it will end up is lying. But one thing is for sure: writers have more choices than ever. And that’s nothing but good. A lot of worthy books never get read, let alone published. If more of them now have a chance (along with more bad ones, sure) let’s all do a jig.

I think I was lucky I knew nothing about the publishing industry when I finished the first draft of my first novel two years ago. I came at it with green, unbiased eyes. I knew there were things called agents and editors and publishers, but I had no idea how it all worked, so I set out to learn.

This was 2011, just as the industry was really starting to turn on its head. Options were opening up that had never existed. What used to be unheard of or stigmatized was now becoming more common and accepted.

Once I discovered there was more than one path to choose from, I had to figure out what was most important to me. I started reading other writers’ essays about why they chose to go the traditional route (try to get an agent, who then hopefully finds a publisher). I read some version of the following from several writers: “My dream is to see my book on the shelf in a bookstore.” (It was and still is the case, as far as I know, that large chains, like B&N, and most indie bookstores do not carry self-published books.)

Was that my dream, to see my book on the shelf of a bookstore? Sort of. But it didn’t feel quite right. It wasn’t THE dream.

I also read, “I don’t want to/don’t have the time to learn the industry myself [like self-publishers have to], so I’m going traditional.” That didn’t dissuade me, either. I was almost itching to learn and do it all. Plus, I kept reading that much of the marketing falls on the author no matter where she’s published, and that’s a big part of getting your book in front of readers.

So I started reading essays in support of self-publishing, and my heart/gut/intuition/Jedi-master signals went off like crazy. (To read more about why I chose, at the time, to self-publish, click HERE.)

Here’s what I learned after all my research:

I believe the author has the right to complete control over his or her book.

Complete control. That includes the story, the cover design, and when to share the book with the rest of the world.

Used to be, an author couldn’t have complete control and be taken seriously as a writer. Now we can.

This does not mean a writer doesn’t need, and shouldn’t solicit, help. It means the writer calls the shots. The author is the CEO of The Book. Not the publisher or their marketing department—the author.

Last fall, I hired an editor (the former acquisitions editor of a traditional publishing house). It isn’t cheap, and that’s one reason why some people can’t choose to self-publish. I’m lucky that my family could afford it.

I steeped myself in information about cover designers, book bloggers, marketing tips, proofreaders, book formatting, SEO, Amazon categories… I spent every free minute (and some stolen ones) on my computer. And I enjoyed it.

Don't know what this means, but it's how my brain felt. (On a side note, I love the use of "On the other hand," as if we have any idea what's on the first hand.)

Don’t know what this means, but it’s how my brain felt at times. (On a side note, I love the use of “On the other hand,” as if we have any idea what’s on the first hand.)

At some point, I started to get carpal tunnel (I’m sure of it). I realized I hadn’t had a conversation with my husband in something like ten days. We hadn’t watched a movie together at night for weeks. I hadn’t relished in my little children for too long. I dreamed about ISBN numbers. Self-publishing was taking over my life.

One day I had the thought that if my children were just in school already, I’d have more time to learn the industry and prepare to publish. That thought made me realize I had only a year or two left until my children were in school full time.

And that’s when I pulled my head out of my arse and set my priorities straight.

Months earlier, I’d read about a new publishing model in the form of She Writes Press. At the time, my heart was set on purely self-publishing. When I realized I might want to remember my children’s early years, I decided to submit my manuscript to them. A hybrid press, they combines the best, I think, of traditional (vetting of authors and distribution) and self (control, rights, and profit).

They accepted The Rooms Are Filled and I signed the contract last week. SWP can also be thought of as “assisted self-publishing.” I pay for services I would have paid for as a self-publisher, anyway (like proofreading and cover design). But I get help—they’re basically managing my publication but I’m in control. And now my book is open to book bloggers and bookstores who don’t deal with self-published titles.

I want to give my first book the best chance I can without sacrificing my principles, and SWP—the first model of its kind, far as I can tell—is giving me a chance to do that.

Self-publishing is not for the meek (or the bold with young children). Nor is traditional publishing. Hell, neither is writing a book in the first place.

It’s crazy in publishing these days—and exciting. Right now, both traditional and self-publishing are in the game, and some mix of the best of both will survive and form a new industry. How lucky are we writers and readers that we get not only to be in the midst of it, but help create it?

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26 thoughts on “Meet: My Path Toward Publication

  1. I’m with Melissa, this is SO exciting! I’m so glad you updated us on the path you chose, and I’ll be so interested to hear details as they come up. I know first hand what a giant pain it’s been to self publish… and continues to be, and I think your choice was a great one! HUGE congrats on the contract!!

  2. Wow, I’m SO excited for you and truly admire you knowing exactly what you wanted and having the guts to go for it! You’re right—everything is changing these days, and we have to be willing to change with it, too. I’m glad you found the perfect fit with SWP—congratulations on the contract!

  3. It was so interesting hearing your take on the whole publishing dilemma. I’ll be looking forward to seeing how this works out for you. Your choice makes a lot of sense. I like the idea of having that kind of control too.

      • Not yet, I’m a ways away from publishing still. I like the idea of the traditional route, let a small independent publisher print and distribute. But it would have to be one that would give me more control than some of the bigger, more established publishers. And these days, you have to do most of your own marketing anyway, so a traditional publisher would have to make up for that extra effort on the writer’s part to sell one of their books. But I’m tempted toward the entrepreneurial route as well. A dilemma for all of us these days. I’ll be following you closely to see how SWP works out for you! Sounds like it’s a good compromise.

  4. “I dreamed about ISBN numbers.” I flatlined! That’s exactly how I feel! We had people over last night for dinner and I just kept thinking about building my author platform, etc. It is a very exciting time right now for authors, and I find that indie authors are so supportive. I’m happy for you! Way to go!

  5. Boy, IS IT a crazy time in publishing! I definitely see people spreading out across the continuum (now that there IS a continuum) between traditional and self-publishing.

    I walked into writing books and learning the publishing industry knowing one thing about myself: I didn’t want to do anything but write. Writing is what I love. Of course, I’ve had to take on marketing and building a platform and everything, and I get what pleasure I can out of it, but I really envy people like you–who have the drive to learn and master that stuff. Congratulations paving your own way. I’m seeing some great work come out of the self-publishing realm that otherwise wouldn’t have seen the light of day.

    • Thanks, Kiersi. That drive is a blessing and a curse–I like learning and doing (the blessing) but there’s also some Type-A control freak at work (the curse). I can’t not be involved. So part of me admires people like you, who also know what they want and can stick to it and let the world go crazy around them.

  6. Watching with interest, and cheering you onward.

    The self/indie-publishing world continues to be… interesting. I’ve read some books that, frankly, howled like a dog and were SO Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time. But then, I’ve also read trad published books that were, IMO, a hot mess. Love your analogy to the Wild West – it really is, isn’t it?

    • I hear you. I actually haven’t read many self-published titles and those that I have were sub-par (beyond the obvious subjectivity of liking or not liking a book). But I think more and more of us are doing it right, and will continue to make self-publishing a more viable option for readers and writers.

  7. Pingback: Meet: My Path Toward Publication | de Frémancourt

  8. Pingback: Quiet Literature « True STORIES.

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