I’ve spent the last few weeks in the rewrite/revise process of polishing up my novel. I’ll admit that for the last couple, I’ve felt a wee bit of discouragement. Most of that stems from having a lot to do and less time to do it in, but some of it also comes from the changing landscape of the publishing industry and feeling mired in the ever-expanding sea of “published authors.” My two favorite Kristin/Kristens both wrote about this today, Kristin about why she won’t self-publish, and Kristen Lamb about why traditional marketing doesn’t sell books. Both dealt a bit with some of the pitfalls of self-publishing.
I won’t self-publish. If I can’t sell my first novel and subsequently, my trilogy, I’m not going to self-publish it. Why? Well…there are a bunch of reasons. First among those is that — without going too Martin Luther King Jr. on you — I have a dream. That dream is to see my book, a chunk of paper sheaths bound with glue and a cover, on a shelf in a bookstore. I’ve had that dream for years and years, and having it exist as a bunch of 1s and 0s isn’t in line with that dream for me. If my trilogy doesn’t fly with agents, I’ll just try to write something better and try to get that published.
I agree with both Kristin and Kristen that in many cases (not all, mind you), the self-published books out there are the product of frustration with the publishing industry’s very exclusive gatekeepers, a desire to see the book in print/online sooner rather than later, and myriad other factors that push the writers away from the traditional route. Sometimes these books have made my eyes hurt to the point where I wonder how the author thought it was a good idea to let anyone read it, let alone try to get people to pay for it. Maybe that sounds harsh, but if you’ve explored enough of the fiction that exists out there in e-pub-dom, you’ll probably give at least a grudging nod to that.
I don’t want anyone to say that about my books. There is a reason I want to choose the more difficult route. I won’t take it personally when (not if) agents say no or even that it’s not publishable. If they say it’s not, I’ll believe them. Because frankly, they know a whole helluva lot more about the business than I do. It’s not a reflection on me or even my writing — unless they just scribble “HAHAHA, NO” in crayon and send it back to me. I want the satisfaction of knowing that my stories and my writing could pass those gatekeepers, people whose job it is to ensure salability and quality. While I don’t expect to be buying any castles in Scotland any time soon, I want to walk away from my conference in three weeks with at least some idea of whether or not my current project could sell. Urban fantasy is a growing genre, I do know that. I believe that my book both expands on the classic earmarks of that genre and hits new tones. But that of course is just me, and those who make their living analyzing the ebbs and flows of the market might very well have a differing opinion.
As I revise my novel, I’m reading. A lot. Of stuff that isn’t mine. I’ve read heaps of books lately. I’m working on The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo right now. As I read, I’m cataloging what works. Most of what I’ve read works. As much as creative people hate to think it, there is a formula for a good story. Even stories that make you cry leave you somewhat satisfied, and they do that with the formula. That formula is structure. And it’s why my revision is taking some time — I’m doing a pretty big structural change to make my story cleave to this formula.
Kristen Lamb (along with many others in a parade before and behind her) says that you should work smarter, not harder. Her book, We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media, speaks extensively to this point. I’ve also heard many times that a smart person learns from her own mistakes, and a wise person learns from the mistakes of others. It’s why I haven’t “just gotten my work out there” yet. It’s why I haven’t started the query process or submitted my manuscript. It’s not ready. I know it’s not — and if I know it’s not, you can bet your buttered buns that an agent would feel the same way.
To attempt to add some cohesion to the end of this rather long and rambling post, I have about three weeks to get my novel looking like its shirt is at least tucked in and that it’s had a shower. Less Pig Pen, more Linus. I have about three weeks to continue researching agents and honing my pitch. Three weeks to try to boot that discouragement and remember the end goal: books on shelf. Three weeks to maintain and sculpt the perspective that if it isn’t this book, it will be the next one. That’s a lot to pile into three weeks.
I’ll keep you posted. Happy Thorsday.
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