It’s been a while since I wrote a post for The Insecure Writer’s Support Group. So long, in fact, that my blog had actually been removed from the list and I had to reapply. I thought I would rectify this for September, since moaning to similar-minded people can be wonderfully cathartic and I could use that right about now.
For those who don’t know about The Insecure Writer’s Support Group, you can click on the badge above to go to the site. The short explanation is that it’s a group of neurotic people such as myself, and on the first Wednesday of each month everyone writes a blog post venting their fears and doubts, offering advice to others who are struggling, or basically whatever you’d like to write about that pertains to, well…writing.
You can write about whatever you’d like to in these posts, but every month there is a question posed on the website for those who might not have an idea about what they want to write. This month, for the first time, I’m going to focus on that question.
What publishing path are you considering/did you take, and why?
I personally chose to go the way of self-publishing for a few reasons, but the main one has to do with time, and the market.
My first ever completed novel is a zombie apocalypse story called Nowhere to Hide. It’s a bit different from your standard zombie-based story, and though I was confident in the book itself, I was not confident in traditional publishers to see its potential. By the time my manuscript was complete, zombies had been “in” for a long enough period that people were beginning to move on to different things. And we all know that traditional publishers’ moods wax and wane with the tide of public demand. You could have the world’s greatest masterpiece in your hands, but if it’s on a topic that isn’t the current “big thing” you’ll be lucky to get anyone to even read it, never mind consider publishing it.
That was my first concern. My second concern was how much time I would theoretically spend coming to this conclusion if I tried to publish traditionally. Each publisher I looked into quoted at least a 6-month turnaround period before receiving a response, one way or the other. That in itself isn’t the biggest deal, but then you have to consider that many publishers also have rules against submitting to their competitors simultaneously. Nearly every publisher I looked into had rules stating that if they discovered you’d submitted to another publisher at the same time as them it would result in an automatic rejection.
So, assuming each publisher takes an average of 6 months to respond, and sticks to these single-submission rules, that would mean that I could only submit to 2 publishers per year. Some of the world’s best authors submitted to dozens of publishers before getting something accepted.
After spending three years of my life writing, editing, and perfecting what I genuinely thought was a great little novel, I couldn’t stand the idea of spending years, perhaps even decades just trying to convince someone to print it for me. And with waning interest in zombie stories, the number of years required would likely just get worse and worse.
I wasn’t willing to put myself through that. One way or the other, I wanted to have a book published in my lifetime. Even if it turned out to be an utter failure, I just wanted it to be available. I wanted something that people could actually hold in their hands and read, something that I could slide on my bookshelf next to my King and Gaiman and Adams and Rowling. So I went the indie route. I fought with Scrivener until my file looked right, mocked up a cover in Photoshop (which would later be replaced by one I commissioned from an actual cover artist), and uploaded everything to CreateSpace.
By the time my second book came along – The Other World: Book One – it just seemed logical to go the same route. Nowhere to Hide had looked great, after all, so I used the same cover artist (10dollarcovers.com) and set to work uploading my second book.
Now I have two published books with beautiful glossy covers that can be purchased through Amazon or Kindle and look awesome sitting on my shelves with the books I’ve been reading throughout my life. It’s awesome. And yet…
Let no one ever say that there are no downsides to self-publishing. I love the convenience and speed of being able to simply upload my files, order a proof copy, and have my book available for purchase within a fortnight. In the case of ebook-only content, I can have a piece up and available in a night or two!
But the big downside, the thing that has haunted me the most about choosing to go the indie route, is the fact of how incredibly difficult it is to get people to actually read your book as a self-published author.
In the case of both of my books, they’ve been read by family members, a handful of friends, and a smaller handful of YouTube followers. Of those people who have read them, a very, very small percentage have bothered to rate and/or review, which is something that’s absolutely necessary to becoming noticed on Amazon.
Although you are always, in part, responsible for promoting your own work, having an actual publisher back you is a huge deal that self-published authors don’t get to enjoy. Traditional publishers take out ad space on the internet. They buy shelf space in brick-and-mortar stores. They help set up readings, signings, and release parties. They help convince people to actually buy your book.
This all important factor of getting people to actually buy your book is so goddamn difficult when you’re doing it all on your own. I can’t take out ad space because I don’t have the disposable income. I can’t secure shelf space in brick-and-mortar stores because brick-and-mortar stores don’t just hand out free shelf space to amateurs with no proof of success. Readings? Signings? Release parties? Um…who would come? My parents? My husband and daughter? Not exactly useful (or confidence building).
So, yeah, okay, part of me really wishes that I had, in fact, gone the traditional route. It would be really nice to have that backing, that support system, that, well…money. But then I look at the Submittable account on which I sent one of my manuscripts to a publisher just shy of 6 months ago and I think…is it worth it? Is it worth the time, the frustration, and the genuine agony of sitting here, waiting, never hearing anything?
I honestly don’t know. Is it better to have books that no one ever reads? Or to wait theoretical decades to get those books in the first place?
I just don’t know. What do you guys think?