When I wrote about deciding whether to find an agent, I mentioned that my decision to go the traditional publishing route was a topic for another post. This is that post.
I’ve had to explain to more than one friend, some of them very successful self-published authors, about why I decided to go the traditional publishing route. My decision really came down to two basic considerations: (1) writing is a second career for me, and (2) it’s a lot easier to decide to go indie or self-pub after you’ve attempted to go traditional and failed than it is to do it the other way around.
Writing as a second career. This is the main reason why I’ve decided to go the traditional publishing route. This is not a hobby for me. Yes, I started as a hobbyist writer, as lots of writers have. But as I went from writing when I felt like it, to writing once a week, to writing on lunches at work days, to writing every day, I discovered that I have a real passion for writing. It’s become such a part of my life that I dream about characters and plots when I’m walking the dog, when I’m in the shower, when I’m trying to get to sleep. I get out of sorts when I’m not doing writing and dream about the day I’ll be able to write full-time. Maybe that won’t come until I’ve retired, but you know what? That worked for David Feintuch, the first author who ever signed books for me, who talked to teenage me like a potential future writer and said this is something you can do if you want it badly enough and put in the work.
Is it realistic to dream of being a New York Times bestselling author? Maybe not. But I don’t think the dream is silly. It’s something attainable; people attain it all the time. And the only way to attain it is to go for it. If you don’t ask, the answer is no. I have three things going for me–I’m smart, I’m a hard worker, and I’m persistent. I’m not going to stop trying until I get there.
The possibility of later going indie or self-pub later. If I can’t make it on the traditional publishing route in the way I want to do it, I can always decide to look at indie or self-pub later. I have a full time job that I enjoy and find rewarding. I have the luxury of not hurting for money, so I’m able to devote hours a day to something that isn’t paying me right now.
Once you go self-pub, it’s difficult to go back. My research tells me that you’re about as likely to win the lottery as you are to to get an actual publisher to pick up your book that you’ve already indie- or self-published. Yes, I could make money doing self-pub. I could have my name on a written work that people could read right now and make money at it. But it’s not about the money and it’s not even about having something for my friends and family to read. It’s about that dream I have, where I have a career as an author. I just don’t think self-pub is going to get me there.
That isn’t to denigrate people who self-pub. I have friends who self-pub and love the freedom it gives them to have total creative control over their work, who are actually able to make most of a living with writing. And that’s fine–they have a goal and they’re pursuing it and succeeding and loving life. My goal is different, and that’s okay too (even if sometimes I really envy them, that they’re doing it while I’m still trying to do it).
That said, self-pub is something I’m looking at for my short stories. Unlike with my first novel, which I just started querying, I’ve been trying to sell short stories since 2012. Four years of trying to sell short stories is getting me to the point where I don’t care about doing it the “right” way. I’m getting impatient. But I’m not going to make a decision on this until, because, again, once you go self-pub, you can’t sell that particular short story to a magazine. And I have magazine dreams, too.