No, I’m not talking about the home of the Cullen clan. The forks I’m referring to are the kind that show up when you’re riding along a scenic little path, content as can be. The calm winds blow through your hair and the sun warms your face. The world seems right. You close your eyes just for a moment to take in the serenity of your surroundings and open them in time to come to a screeching halt.
What the hell just happened?
The straight and predictable path you were traveling on abruptly came to an end, leaving you teetering at a point of divergence, with multiple paths before you. Each promises an infinite number of outcomes. The sun disappears and clouds form in the distance, portending a storm. You don’t have much time. So which path do you choose?
Alright, enough of the destiny chatter. It’s Sunday morning and I’m sure no one has had enough coffee to sit and ponder that.
I’m fitting the last pieces of this massive writing puzzle that I’ve been working on lately: the website, the edits to my manuscript, figuring out what direction this series is going to take me. And I’m preparing myself for the next step, which will ultimately be publication, in one form or another. This narrow path that I’ve been walking for the last few months, knowing what my mornings and evenings will entail, is about to become a bit convoluted.
Like most authors these days, I’m trying to decide which route I want to take. And because I didn’t spend countless hours fulfilling a writing degree, or even recognizing in the last 10 years that I wanted to become a writer, I honestly don’t know which yields better success. I’m not just talking about money here; I’m talking about successful publishing and all the decisions that go into designing a decent book. And do I have what it takes to contend? Am I considered a “writer” in the real world?
I won’t dive into the last question too much, except to say that I firmly believe it is the drive and passion you have for something that defines what you are. I spent 7 years working on 2 degrees in science, studying infectious diseases and biostats, and yet I feel no more a scientist than the girl who simply dreams of becoming one. The difference between the two of us is that she will do whatever it takes to get there, while I dream of another path I wish I’d taken.
Going back to my original conundrum, I’ve been reading and studying the topic of publication as much as I can (in as much time as I can). I’ve teased out pros and cons with each, and am left possibly more confused than when I began. No big surprise there.
Traditional publishing brings editors, a marketing scheme, reviewers and the validation that comes with a recognized publisher. Sounds enticing, if you’re able to make the slush cut. Because I’ve never pursued publication until recently, I don’t have the experience of an agent taking an interest in my writing, only to have it passed on. I can only imagine that if I’m tapped to send more than the first 5 pages of manuscript somewhere, I’ll be squealing with delight. Not good. This is what scares me about pursuing traditional publishing: the possibility that my beloved book will never materialize. And if it does, what happens if, as a debut author, I’m not meeting the sales mark? Forget for a moment that this is a series and that I have other books I’d like to publish. Sounds like I should go out and buy a lottery ticket; I’m pretty sure my chances of winning are greater.
Small press might get my book out there. And I’m certainly not opposed to this path, perhaps even leaning a little toward it. It also comes equipped with an editor, launch plan and reviewers. But if I’m not going to go the traditional route with all the big guns backing my marketing campaign, do I have at least some say in the details such as coverart and ideas to launch my book? I’m not a control-freak here, but if the big six isn’t branding my story, I suspect I’m going to need to exert a little effort to get it out there. And I’d like to incorporate some of my own creativity in the process.
The last is self-publishing, or my least favorite term – “vanity publishing.” Come on, I think just about every famous author has some little anecdote tucked away, detailing the difficulty in getting published. I once read that Margaret Mitchell was rejected by 38 different publishers before Gone with the Wind was finally picked up. Can you imagine a world without Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler? There are some great writers out there who simply can’t snag the attention of an agent. They take the time to write a query, a synopsis and outline chapters all for the purpose of dazzling an agent who reads hundreds of these a week. Vanity publishing? Really? How about we just call it, “I worked my ass off on this and would like to get it out there” publishing. Even if that means paying to do it. This route brings total creative freedom. Ultimately, it’s subject to the scrutiny of reviewers, bloggers and the same fickle public as a traditionally published author (though at a reduced readership). A crappy manuscript isn’t going to become a bestseller (OK some do, but that’s a blogpost for another day). Call it whatever kind of publishing you want. There’s a reason Amanda Hocking and Zoe Winters are icons of self-publication: they wrote something people liked. But self-publication doesn’t come without its share of stresses either: self-marketing, self-sustainability and the dreaded, self-editing. Of course, you can pay to have the manuscript edited, but these ‘per word’ services can become expensive if you haven’t taken a fine-toothed comb to it yourself first.
So here I sit with my manuscript becoming more polished by the minute; friends and family asking when they can purchase a copy; and a website showcasing my love for writing about to be launched. Will I begin the arduous task of choosing the right words to grab the attention of a weary agent and toss a penny into the fountain for luck? Maybe I’ll investigate some reputable small press publishers? Or will I give it a go on my own, taking my chances and hoping that what I wrote is interesting and well-written enough to keep me off of the “Self-Publishing Losers” list?
I’m undecided at the moment. What would you do?