Two Pies, Same Path?
Today I’m dealing with a problem all too common for someone like me.
That is, I’m once again wondering if the path I’ve chosen to pursue to get published is the correct one.
I think I need to first take a step back from that question to see if I’ve really got everything straight. You know, to catch you all up on what’s going on.
I’m writing a sci-fi novel. I think most of you know this already, but I needed to start at the beginning, which is, I am told by Julie Andrews, a very good place to start.
For as far back as I can remember, I have wanted to write a novel and get it published by a respectable publishing house.
Fast forward, modern era, authors can self-publish, and this is seen as a legitimate and sometimes lucrative way to start out or even pursue throughout an entire writing career.
Any stigmas that used to be attached to self-publishing have now morphed into the attitude of, “The market will decide if your work belongs here.”
I kind of like that attitude. Letting a marketplace decide the merit of a work is really quite romantic in many ways. It’s the American Dream if I ever saw it.
But here’s the thing, it’s not….quite….the whole story.
Marketing, presence, awareness of the author and their works, on and on and on….these are all the jobs assumed by a publishing house when an author’s manuscript is accepted.
So, what then do we have? Two paths, both legitimate, both difficult in their own ways, and both not half-measures, at least by my reckoning.
Here’s what I mean.
I’ve been writing this novel draft so far with the expressed intention of editing it myself once or twice, getting it professionally edited after that, and then querying an agent (many agents, actually). Then, once the novel is picked up by an agent, the agent will then take on the task of helping me get it accepted by a publisher.
Does that sound exhausting? I’m only on step one of that list right now, and yeah, it’s daunting, looking up the slope of the hill I mean to climb.
The alternative is no better. Sure, it means that the book is accepted by a publisher pretty much sight unseen (oversimplification, yes, but I think you take my meaning), but this is a different hill.
“Marketing” is that dreaded catch-all term that an author faces going down this path. I’m not going to enumerate it quite as much as I could here, but I will say that when self-publishing there are many hills to climb.
“Why not just publish your book on Amazon?”
I actually get this question a lot, and I never feel like I give a proper answer in the moment. The reason is that I don’t want to turn the question into an explanation of the publishing industry as I see it.
Eyes tend to glaze over when I attempt to honestly answer the question.
So, I end up saying something like, “Sure, that’s a possibility. Maybe I’ll consider it.”
The person leaves the conversation thinking they’ve helped me out, I leave the conversation barely containing how I really wanted to respond, which is usually along the lines of, “Hey, I’ve got some notes on my computer that I jotted down the other day about how you could be doing your job better, too. Want to get together and compare notes?”
It amazes me how “I haven’t published a novel yet” translates to everyone else as “amateur, unprofessional dabbler who obviously needs all the help he can get”.
Now, let me back up just a tad here and say that everyone who does this believes they mean well. They really do believe it. It’s kinda sad, and unfortunately it takes being a jerk in return to get them to realize what it is they’ve actually said and done.
Was that a soap box? It’s kinda nice up here, actually. Did someone just throw a tomato?
Whew, that was close. Apparently standing on those things makes it easier for people to throw fruits and vegetables that they just happen to be carrying around in case the opportunity arises.
Note to Self: Carry more fruits and vegetables in pockets. If no occasion to throw arises, treat yourself to a pocket snack.
So now we get to the analogy section of the day.
Here we have two pies. One smaller, one larger. The lady at the counter tells me that I need to decide if I want a smaller piece of the bigger pie or a bigger piece of the smaller pie.
I don’t get to know the relative values or sizes of either pie, just that I’ll get a bigger piece of one and a smaller piece of the other.
Will that average out?
That’s what I’m thinking about today, along with whether or not I need to have this whole thing decided right now, of if I can wait it out a bit longer. Kind of like putting off a decision on whether to take the red pill or the blue pill. Clock’s ticking, right?
Well, is it?!!
It’s important to note that all this does not come from a place of second-guessing the path I’ve chosen, which is to write a novel and get it published.
But I am definitely still sitting at the counter, trying not to piss off the waitress whose scowl deepens with every passing second as I point back and forth between two pies of which I can only get one piece.
*Picture of the model of keyboard currently on my desk. This thing takes a lot of punishment, so I have to give it credit. Pic from here.