There are many factors that go into the decision of how to pursue publishing; be it traditional, self-publishing, or even something in between. Upon completion of my second draft of LR:GZ, I jumped right in to the process of traditional publishing. As a result, I shopped my finished manuscript around to both open publishers and literary agents for many months.
Now, for anyone who has not gone through the experience of querying, whatever the product is, there is something you need to know. It is an uphill learning process, one that is tailored to require you to continually throw yourself out there, like a salmon. But, even a salmon has some natural sense as to what their process is. Querying in the literary world is more like being a blind cave fish in a salmon stream.
It is a highly subjective environment and definitely a buyer’s market. There are a few guides out there to help develop your approach, but the unifying sentiment of those I found all indicate that it is a learn as you go process. You have to go into it expecting that you are going to be rejected. Period. Being rejected helps to build resilience, awareness, the ability to read the particulars, blah blah blah. But more than that, you have to accept that a “no” is as important and beneficial as a “yes”. Now, how could that be?
Say an agent does respond offering representation, however, they are not really invested in your ideas but looking to maybe pad their client list for some other reason. Is that agent going to be as beneficial in selling your manuscript to a publishing company as one who is actually excited by your ideas? Probably not. And as long as you are signed up with that agent, you won’t be concerned with looking for another who is invested in you. A delaying process that can last years.
Again, I tried for months. Eventually, I was faced with the choice: do I continue this indefinite process of querying until one day I may find the right person at the right time, or do I walk this road alone and publish with one of the self-publishing venues.
At this point, I’d like to reiterate that I had researched quite a bit on methods to improve my pitches, tailor my query process, and strengthen my approach. There were a number of people who provided insight through writer’s help sites and such. A particularly notable individual is Jane Friedman through her website, www.janefriedman.com I want to mention her particularly because, beyond just offering advice with one or two aspects of the process, she covers nearly everything. Her book, The Business of Being A Writer was very influential in my decision to self-publish. And here’s why.
In her book, she discusses a very broad range of poignant topics, in particular the differences between traditional and self-publishing. In it she offers no sense of bias one way or another and tackles the topic on the merits of each. Essentially, one main difference between traditional and self-publishing is that of a singular effort vs. a collaborative one. But with the lack of that team dynamic found in traditional approaches comes more creative control, and responsibility, to the author in the marketing, editing, formatting, and cover design processes.
Another main difference is the type of exposure; physical books in brick and mortar stores nationwide vs. online retail. In either case, I actually prefer the self-publishing aspects better than that of the more traditional route. I like having more control over my creation, and as a digital artist have had a concept for the cover since early in the process. I also like the thought of having a world wide reach with very little physical materials involved.
Now, it is to be said that another major difference is that of timing. In the traditional publishing example, even if I found a dedicated and invested agent today, I would not have a contact until they managed to sell the book. That process can take some time, even years. And that time is on top of the amount of time to find an invested agent in the first place, which can also take years. Say then that I do get a contract with a big five publisher, my book would still not be published for another a year or two more because of the collaborative effort of all those now involved, the production schedule of the company, marketing, etc.
Where this is not a race and rushing to publication is in no way a recipe for a successful book launch; quite likely the opposite. How many established authors out there waited 5, or 10, or more years before their work was accepted and published traditionally? What could they have done with those years were they not toiling to find the “right” agent/publisher? At the time, had they the option to self-publish as it is done today, would they?
It is with these thoughts in mind that I have dedicated myself to the self-publishing process. In an effort to maintain creative control, provide myself the best suitable publication options, and bring my work to the public eye in a timely manner; I will gladly walk this lonely road.