When I first got my Kindle, one of the first books that I really got into on it was one of the freebies. A book about a woman who has been through failed relationship after failed relationship and finally has had enough. She steps back from her life, quits her job, and sets out to follow a lifelong dream. Anyone want to guess what that dream was? Being that it is me talking about this, it might be a little obvious. She wanted to be a writer.
For a work of fiction, I feel like I learned a lot from it. A lot about the process of getting published. The actual hunt for an agent to represent you, the process of the agent hunting down a publisher for you, etc, etc. The main character went through it all. And I came to the end of the book dreaming. Dreaming about publishing, putting my work out there for agents and publishers alike. That was when I kind of decided I wanted an agent to represent me.
Bear, being the practical mind that he occasional is, did not see the value in an agent. He still doesn’t. And he encouraged me to only seek out an agent if I struck out on my own for a while with no results. I tentatively agreed, though in the back of my mind I still wanted that vision created by the book I read. Even though it’s slowly being ripped to pieces.
There’s another book that I got as a freebie on the Kindle, a lovely novel by Denise Grover Swank. I randomly started it one night on a long drive home and absolutely adored it. Come to find out later, its writer was a member of one of my Facebook groups, a writing group created by Pagans with Pagans in mind. This is the same group that, every time you turn around, seems to be discussing the pros of self-publishing versus going through the traditional channels. As much as it pains me to say it, they have valid points. Denise Grover Swank, a fantastic writer, has done better on her own than with a publisher.
I want to be published through the traditional means but the fact is that the industry is changing, and I would be an idiot to not realize it. With the continuing growth of e-readers and the digital format, publishers are feeling the pressure to keep up with it. Not only that, but it’s a risk for them every time they pick a manuscript out of the pile to publish, because no one can guess what will do well on the market and what will not. It has nothing to do with the writing quality; it could be the best book ever written but if no one buys it, it’s a failure. So when a publisher chooses a book to publish, to market, to show to the world with their label on it, it’s a monetary risk and an extremely large one, with so many other writers clamoring to be let on the ride.
I’ve heard tell that publishers will take to a writer more, will be more willing to look at a writer, if they’ve had success on their own already, with independent publications. It’s a slightly safer investment for them. And in this day of digital formats and social media, some writers do just as well without a traditional publisher. Some think that the traditional publisher is becoming a thing of the past.
So the question not just for myself but for all writers of my generation is which venue would be better. Independent publication or the traditional route with an agent and editor sitting in some big office in New York City? I still want the traditional route but here’s the thing about it.
Let me finish the book first, and then I’ll worry about how to put it in print, how to put clothes on it and take it out in the world for a spin. No one knows what could happen so it’s always best to keep your options open.