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?
23 thoughts on “Why Do You Want to Be Published?”
I know I’m leaning towards self-publishing. I might submit to some traditional, or to some indie publishers, but I’m more of the hands-on type. And, just a note, but a lot of the traditional publishers actually don’t handle marketing and all that unless you’re super popular, like JK Rowling, Steven King, etc. Just thought I’d throw that in. 😉
That’s great! Though traditional don’t take submissions without an agent first, which is a long process in itself. That is a good point! Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂
You’re welcome! My creative writing teacher has a friend who had a traditional publisher whose editor totally rewrote her stories. So she talks about this stuff a lot. 😉
Yes, I want to earn becoming published, too. But it’s always been my dream to be traditionally published, simply because it would be awesome to see my book in print from the same place that inspired me to start writing. Although I would settle for Indie publishing, in the likely case that my manuscript doesn’t click with an agent. My mom wants me to Indie publish. Like you, it’s always been my dream to hold my book. And with indie publishing you get that, but I guess it wouldn’t be living my full dream without that (traditional) publisher’s name on the spine. 🙂
Yes! I totally understand what you mean. Traditional has always been my dream but I’m realizing I can get my dream in other ways too, trying to evaluate what is most important to me. Like do I really care if it’s in bookstores? Or just as long as it’s in print? I understand that too! I used to be adamant about only traditional publishers, but am opening my mind to other possibilities. Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂
I am just starting to think about publishing, though I know the process is really far off for me. I had the same outlook you did though, and after hearing from some others and now you, I’m thinking Indie could be a decent route as well. I had thought it was basically the same as self-publishing too, but the more I hear about all the options, the more appealing it becomes!
Even if its still far off, it’s always good to have an idea of what you want your publishing journey to look like. That’s great! Yes it is definitely very different and there are a lot of benefits! Good luck when you do start to publish 🙂
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Maybe I have the wrong idea about indie and self-publishing then. I went with the self-publishing route for a short story and a short story collection (published through Createspace and KDP). I’m with a small publisher now, and as you said about indie, I have a lot of the same control I’d have with self-publishing, but with a publisher’s logo on it. I don’t know if that’s what you’d consider indie, but it might be. I still consider it traditional, but just with a small (the company I’m publishing with just started, and I’ll see how it works out) publisher. Maybe I’m the one who has it wrong. Hmmm…
Traditional is usually one of the big 5 publishing houses, or any major publisher that requires an agent for submissions. What you’re talking about sounds like an indie publisher, but maybe one of the ones that is really more like self publishing with a label on it. Indies vary a lot in the services they offer, some very similar to self publishing and some almost similar to traditional, and some in between. That’s why it’s important to do research and see what’s best for you! But if you like the publisher you’re with, it really doesn’t matter what they are, as long as it works for you! 🙂
I’ve never really looked into Indie, or I guess realized that it existed. I’ve always been off about self-publishing. I want to hold the book and have book tours. I want to read in bookstores and sign books for those who were just like me. I want to answer peoples questions and have people be interested in my book and characters at a face to face level. I want to make those human connections and most of the time it is impossible with self-publishing. And even with Indie, if you book meets the right hands, you still might be able to be the next JK Rowling!
Same here, before recently! Yes that is absolutely what I want too. And I was really surprised to see that indie can offer all of those things too! Yes self publishing can be impersonal, and so difficult to stand out from the slush. Haha I guess so! Thanks for reading 🙂
So far I am loving the Small Press Publisher I have.
That’s great! Did you submit without an agent? What benefits do you have? Marketing, freedom, etc? Just curious 🙂
Great piece!! Really made me think and I didn’t even know Indie publishers existed until I read this. I’m kinda with you on the self-publishing thing; it’s far too easy to do and doesn’t feel official and it takes a while to fight through thousands of self-published books (mainly, excuse my language; poorly written, un-revised and looked after) before hitting a gem where someone really deserves to have published the book and is a massive risk of not being seen at all.
Thank you! And yes I wasn’t really familiar with them either until I looked into it. Yes that is very true, and a huge turn off for self publishing for me. It is very difficult to be successful and stand out from the millions and millions that are out there, especially as a new author with no credibility. Thanks for reading and glad I could open your eyes to indie! 🙂
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I have self-published all my books and the only reason I became an author was because I realised I could self-publish 😀 I never liked the idea of traditional publishing as they take so much control from you and your work.
Self-publishing is hard, hard work, partly because you have to fight the stigma of it, but the feeling of accomplishment at the end when you’ve produced the whole book yourself (maybe with outside help, but pretty much all you!) is incredible.
Nowadays most traditional publishers expect you to do your own marketing, etc, anyway. So why not give it a try, I say! Doesn’t mean traditional publishing will be cut off from you in the future too 😀
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I applaud you for self publishing! It is very difficult. That is great 🙂 yes that is true! Thanks for reading!
I’ve had so much fun self-publishing and the odds of making millions either way are small. I wanted to write a BIG book and when I did agents said they wouldn’t be able to sell it to publishers since big publishers usually didn’t take the chance on unknown authors unless the books were super commercial vampire types.
I write about a couple of post Civil War families with issues.
That is a good point! I’m glad you found what works for you 🙂 I hate how much of traditional is based on what is “marketable” even if your book could be amazing. Thanks for reading!
I’m a solid self-pub, but not because of the typical reasons. I believe in the promise of free culture, and want to help foster that as much as I can. As a result, I release my work for free as PDF the same day the book goes live. It’s an option if anyone wants to buy the eBook.
And I know that insisting on something like that not even an indie publisher would go for. I’ve moved my validation from “being officially published” to hearing from readers just how much they loved the book, or what deeper meanings they caught.
Like you, I’m not in it for money or fame. I just want to tell stories that people enjoy hearing.
So. I have a post similar to this when I did some soul-searching as to whether traditional was right for me, though it’s shorter and called “Fuck It.” I decided to go self-published because even indie wasn’t right for me, but to each his own. I’ll tell you, though (not to persuade you, just for informational input), being self-published is no less fulfilling than being traditionally published. If anything, it may be more gratifying just because seeing all YOUR OWN hard work come to fruition in your hands and others’ is kinda the ultimate payoff.
Glad you made a decision about this, regardless of the decision itself. I hate to see people struggle with that traditional querying and agentinf and stuff. >.<
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Great post! I, too, had to dig within myself to find out what I truly wanted. Traditional publishing, to me, meant finally “arriving”. It meant that someone else approved of my writing and my work. I’m a tad older than you and I’ve been working on trying to get an agent/publisher combo. I came close a couple of times but the timing was never right. In one instance, with the For Dummies ppl, I submitted an idea for a For Dummies for Writers idea. They could not believe there wasn’t one already. I brought it to their attention. But, at the time I was not established enough. So, they went with another writer who was established. That hurt — a lot.
For years now, I’ve been thinking about going the self-published way but the stigma was a virtual brick wall. In recent years, that wall has been hit by a nuclear bomb in the form of thousands upon thousands of great, well-edited books. I recently self-pubbed and I’m so glad I did! Here’s my recent post about going Indie: http://thenotebookblogairy.wordpress.com/2014/10/25/on-being-an-indie-author/.
Take a deep breath and dive in, Victoria. The Indie/self-publishing waters are just fine! We are just behind the early adopters so we have some direction in this still largely uncharted waters. What we do have is each other.