So, some of you may know (if you’ve read my rambling blog posts) that I’ve had a pretty focused plan for publishing for a long time. It was a solid plan, and one that I made keeping in mind that I want to be viewed as a professional, and not just another stay-at-home mom with delusions of grandeur. I do have those delusions, but I can actually write a decent story and I’ve worked hard to learn the ins and outs of the craft.
So my original plan, which we shall call Plan A (although it may have been revised a half dozen times), was to write, write and write some more. In between that writing, I’d study, try to figure out what made good fiction good, then I’d join critique groups and workshops so I could take my lumps like any diligent writer. Man, the first time some stranger ripped me a new one, I was terrified to even approach a keyboard again. But I swallowed my pride and dove in again and again. That ripping was very educational, and although it still hurts, I’m grateful for it.
I worked for a couple of years on those first manuscripts. One or two of them have been filed away, never to be seen again because of their glorious awfulness, but a few also made it to “finished,” by which I mean they’re polished enough to query, but never quite perfect. I rewrite each one with every rejection.
I read agent blogs, published author blogs, interviews, books; you name it, if it had to do with fiction, books or publishing, I checked it out, and then I moved to the next stage of my plan, which I was told by my numerous sources was to build a platform. A platform? I asked myself. What the hell is that? Well, we all know what that is now. So while I made lists of agents I might someday query, I started a blog, joined Twitter and dove into the insanity that is social media. I kept up with writing groups and that all-important networking, tried to publish short fiction, and much to my surprise I got good enough that I found out someone would pay me to write shit for them. Well not shit. Articles on a wide range of subjects. Then I quit the day job and became a “professional” freelancer. As of today I’ve written almost 1000 articles for online clients. Pretty cool. Yes. Not fiction though, which is my ultimate goal.
For four years I’ve queried, written, edited, rewrote, and queried again. All of this time I followed the golden rule: Keep querying. Keep writing. Do NOT self-publish.
But during the last couple of years I noticed something happening. It wasn’t obvious initially. We’ve all heard stories of self-published authors getting big fat contracts the rest of us would kill for without blinking an eye. But we still were told that self-publishing is not the avenue for anyone wanting to be taken seriously to take. I agreed. I still agree. I don’t think any “new” author should self-publish right out of the gate. I think the process of the traditional route, even if unsuccessful, is a valuable learning experience we all need. It gives us time to hone our craft, to determine what we really want out of this career, and to be sure we’ve chosen the right genre and the right path.
The question is, how long do we keep our heads in the sand? How long do we hammer away in the same manner without getting any results? I suppose it depends on the author. How patient are you? How diligent? How determined?
I’d say I’m pretty determined. I haven’t given up on traditional publishing. I do believe it’s the right choice for me. However, my current plan is at a dead end. I’ve got a buttload of manuscripts, some finished, some requiring a few more rounds with the red pen of doom, but they’re just sitting. A couple of them I’m confident are publishable. Very confident. I know they’re worth reading. But I just can’t get a bite. I get a yank on the line now and then, but in the end the prize gets away.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot for more than a year. I’ve gone back and forth and back again. I’ve scolded myself for even thinking about “giving up” and I’ve beaten myself up for being an idealistic shithead for daring to hope every time I send a damn query.
So, this week I finally decided enough is enough. I’ve been thinking it for a long time, but I just couldn’t bring myself to “quit” or to give up the dream. But my gut keeps telling me I have to make a change. I almost always go with my gut. Why do I resist it so fiercely when it comes to this? You can’t do the same thing over and over again and expect different results. You just can’t. At some point you have to seriously look at what you’re doing and determine what needs to be done differently.
Well I’m switching to Plan B. I’m not quitting or giving up anything. I’m…evolving, I guess.
Plan B is not simply to self-publish and nothing else. I actually want to work within the traditional framework, but I have to acknowledge that the industry has changed drastically. The reality is that we now have more options and more paths open to us. Publishers aren’t as willing to take risks on new authors, even if you’ve worked a long time at the craft. They won’t risk a new author even if said author is writing professionally in another format, and is being paid for it. They want reassurance that the authors they take on can make money, which is understandable in the current condition of the industry. Publishers aren’t in this business to make dreams come true. They’re a business. I get it now.
So the new plan is to submit Jack to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel extravaganza thing. I think Jack is an excellent novel that readers will enjoy. Well, some will hate it. Some will love it. I don’t think there will be many who feel very neutral about it. That’s a good thing. Sure I could self-publish that one, but I think it’s got enough of a hook that it might do very well. And the prize for this thing is nothing to sniff at, so I’m not going to pass up the opportunity.
While Jack is fighting the good fight, I’m going to prepare In the Bones for publishing. Myself. Yes folks, I’ve gone and jumped out of the boat and I’m going to self-publish. I’m probably way out of my element. I’m sure I’ll fuck up more than once, but I’ll learn and things will happen. Different things. I won’t be stagnant. I won’t be waiting. I’ll be actively doing something to reach my goals. Is it the right something? I don’t know. Could be a complete disaster. But it could also be awesome. I can’t succeed or fail unless I actually do something, right?
The thing is, I have several books done, and several more outlined. If I do this right, I have a solid base to work from. I plan to hire an editor. My covers will be professional and the marketing, well I’m working on that. Marketing is an animal I struggle with. It’s scary and weird, but I’ll muddle through. I’ve already started a WordPress blog, because I have big plans for The Edge, but I’ll keep Blogger as well because I know many of you prefer the Blogger format and I like to creep around through your blogs now and then.
So, stay tuned. 2013 should be fun.
Or it may be the year I finally slip off the edge. Either way, good times for someone.