writing, Writing and Editing

A Novel Decision

And now a personal story:

Earlier this week I finally finished the last edits of my new novel Deception Island. Which means little other than it is my judgment that now, at this point in my development as a writer, I am not going to improve it any further by continuing to mess with things. There is a point where tinkering becomes just tinkering.

I have reached that point.

The next logical question is what do I do with it now?

In my mind, there are three options: I can try to have it commercially published via the traditional route; I can publish it myself; or I can just let it sit in a drawer somewhere gathering dust.

I’ve ruled out option number three (though a little voice in my head continually whispers that the novel isn’t good enough for public consumption. I need to keep working on it). Despite the nagging voice, putting the novel in the drawer doesn’t really fit anywhere in my intended career path. Besides, what is the point of working so long and hard on a work of fiction (or any other type of writing) if you ultimately will not allow it the freedom to be read?

So that leaves traditional and self-publishing as the two remaining options. Like many things in this life, each route has its advantages and disadvantages.

Traditional Publishing:

This is the age-old manner of bringing books to the public. Whether it is one of the Big Five New York-based publishing houses, or a smaller house with a smaller list, traditional publishing accounts for probably 80% of the books you see in any given bookstore. Whatever the size of the house, the traditional route has a similar, well worn, path. You hire an agent willing to pitch your book and they find a publisher willing to publish it.

The advantage to this route is that someone else takes over the difficult and time-consuming job of finding and approaching publishers with your work. Many publishers (and virtually all the big boys) will not even entertain a new book proposal unless it is submitted by an agent. (If your dream is to be published by Random House, for example, you’d better get an agent).

Another advantage of the traditional publishing route is financial. If a traditional publisher accepts your book, they take the initial risk of financing the printing of the book. Don’t take this too lightly; the book had better sell enough copies to make the printing worthwhile or you’ll have trouble convincing them to publish your next work. But they do take the initial financial risk.

In theory, the traditional publisher also has the financial muscle to promote your work worldwide and get it stocked in bookstores from San Diego to London. However, if this is your first work, don’t count on them devoting a huge marketing budget before seeing what your sales will be.

There are some drawbacks to the traditional publishing route, particularly if you are a first time author. First of all, once you sign that contract, you no longer have any control over your work. Not its title, not the cover art, not even how the interior is edited. If you need creative control over your work, this could be a problem.

The second drawback is that your agent (remember her?) gets %15 of your royalties, off the top. It’s how they make their living. The more money they get the publisher pay to you, the more money they get paid. Some will not like sharing their earning with anyone. Personally, I think %15 is well worth not having to deal with shopping my manuscript to the publishers.

The third drawback to traditional publishing is time. It can take years from the time you finish that novel until you finally see it in print.

Self-publishing

This option has exploded over the past few years with the advent of print-on-demand technologies. Many authors have committed themselves to completely bypass the traditional publishing houses and simply publish their works themselves.

The primary advantages to self-publishing are creative. You have total creative control. You decide the title, the cover art, the back cover or dust jacket copy, the contents of the interior. Within reason, you even control when the work is released.

The drawbacks to self publishing are primarily financial. When you publish your own novel, for instance, you pay for everything: design, layout and printing. It doesn’t end there either. For the most part, the firms that help you self-publish will do no marketing or promotion for you or your work other than having the book listed on Amazon and other online booksellers. If you want advertizing you have to contact the media and pay for it yourself. If you want bookstores to carry your book, you have to make the pitch to their buyers yourself. The same goes for setting up a reading or signing tour; you’ll either have to set it up yourself, or hire someone do do it for you.

Between publishing the work and effectively promoting it, you can end up spending a tidy sum.

And personally, I still haven’t figured out how I, living in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, can effectively convince a bookseller in Florida (or Sydney, Australia) to stock and sell my books.

Okay. We’ve looked at some of the pros and cons of the publishing options available for my novel. Now back to my personal story. What have I decided to do with Deception Island?

Yes.

Since I don’t currently have enough money set aside to publish the novel myself, that is not an immediate option. With my current budget, I estimate it will take me at least until the end of the year to save that money, so, in the meantime, I’ve decided to shop it around to a few agents. If one decides to pick it up, great. If they successfully find a commercial publisher to take it on, fantastic. But should that not pan out, I am going to be saving my pennies and dimes so I can publish it myself.

The query letters went out yesterday. (fingers crossed)

Stay tuned.

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