Yes, as writers, we all want to be published. But why?
It’s a question not many authors consider, but maybe we should.
And it’s a question I’ve been asking myself. Lately, the road to traditional (or perhaps, the warpath) has been a little disheartening. Not so much the rejection, but wondering where this is going. How many hours, queries, contests, years, would it take before I get an agent? And then how many more before I am actually published?
I’ve never pursued anything other than traditional. A couple of years ago, I looked into self-publishing for a short time, mostly because I thought I had no chance of ever getting traditional publishing. But I didn’t like my options, and since then, traditional has seemed like the only option.
Then, a blogger asked me a question I had never really thought of. Why do you want to traditionally publish?
He asked it in the context of self-publishing, which I knew I didn’t want, but couldn’t really come up with a solid reason why. I brushed it away at the time, but recently I have been re-evaluating my publishing journey, and my goals. Yes, traditional seemed like the only real option, but is it? And is it really what I want?
To answer that, I have to ask myself: Why do I want to be published?
I’ve been writing stories my entire life. At the time, even when I started writing books, I didn’t think anything of it. These stories were for me. But somewhere along the road, a little girl started to dream, and thought just maybe that she would write the next Harry Potter, be the next JK Rowling.
I know one reason for sure I don’t want to published is for the success or money. Despite the fact that writing is probably the least likely career to get this from, writing is my passion first, and I will always do it because I love it. Any money or success that does come from it would be just a cherry on the cake.
I’ve also said that I want to publish because I want to share my stories with people. I want them to get to know my characters, feel for them, fall in love with them, get lost in the world. This is still absolutely true, and probably my biggest reason for wanting to publish. Maybe it’s a big reason most of us want to publish–we want to share this piece of our heart with others.
And then again, this blogger questioned: if you just want to share it with people, why not self-publish?
Now that stumped me. I was so anti-self-publishing for my own books, but why?
I couldn’t really answer that question, so I’ve been doing some writerly soul-searching. I re-examined each of my possible publishing options: self-publishing, indie, or traditional.
Self-publishing has many things to offer, like freedom, total profit from sales, absolute control. It also has negatives, like being responsible for all the costs and marketing, which is a big thing for me. And another aspect of self-publishing is that for me, it wouldn’t really feel real. I didn’t have to submit anything, get approved or chosen. Yes, it’s nice that there are no gatekeepers to get through, but on the other hand it wouldn’t really feel earned. Like I just woke up one day and decided to call myself a published author.
Traditional is the main option many people think of when they think of publishing. But when I looked into it further, I realized how many negatives there really are. Little freedom and control, losing your rights to your book, a small royalty percentage, dealing with bureaucracy, long wait times and long process, multiple gatekeepers. But on the other hand, it is the status of being a published author that everyone wants. Book signings, panels, events. Seeing your book in Barnes and Noble. It’s always been important for me to be able to hold my book. But is dealing with all of that worth it? Not to mention the entire querying and agent process.
Finally, I looked at indie, which I didn’t really understand when I started. Some people didn’t distinguish between indie and self-publishing, but I realized that there can be a world of difference. Some indie publishers are really just fronts for self-publishing, which is great for some people. I considered this as well, as a form of self-publishing but with some sort of gatekeeper and official stamp on it. But then I saw some of the publishers that Twitter friends of mine were releasing from–Twitter friends that I didn’t even realize were indie. They were doing book events, signings, all the things I thought of as traditional publishing. These publishers were small, yes. But they took care of overhead costs, design, marketing, logistics–while also allowing more freedom and input, and more profit. Not to mention a more direct, personal relationship. And there was none of the long, stressful agent process. You just submit directly to the publisher.
It took a while for my grip to loosen from its permanent vice around traditional. But when I really started to understand my options, I started to realize that maybe traditional wasn’t right for me. I knew I didn’t want to be self-published, but traditional didn’t feel right either. Which is why indie feels more and more like a perfect fit.
And honestly, it feels like a relief. I feel like a weight has been lifted.
I’m getting ready to submit to a couple publishers in a month or two, but I have no idea what to expect and there’s no telling what will happen. But still, it feels right.
With indie, I get a personal, direct relationship, more control and creative freedom, and I still get to feel like a published author. I get to hold my book, sign it, even see it in bookstores. And maybe I won’t be the next JK Rowling, but that little girl still gets to live a part of her dream.
This is what’s right for me, and it may not be for you. But don’t take traditional as your only option. Do some research, dig deeper, search your writerly soul to find what is right for you. And ask yourself this question: Why do you want to be published?
Are any of y’all indie? Do you know more about it than I do? Any snippets of wisdom to impart before I dive in? Or maybe you’re all in for self-publishing or traditional. What do you think?