18 February 2014

Tradition vs. Self Debate

Circle: The Spinner's Journey
So I have some good news, and then I have some choices.

The good news is that I am finally done rewriting and editing (for the bazillionth time) my first novel, The Spinner’s Journey. Considering I have spent the last decade perfecting this 229 page young adult adventure story set in the fantastical world of Aorea, I’m pretty pleased with myself.

So now I have another decision to make: attempt to find an agent who will not screw me over with the publishing companies, or just self-publish and by so doing, accept that I will never make money as an author since I have precisely zero time to promote my own work and host book signings.

I have mixed feelings about both options, and it seems my peers are mixed across the board as for which option is better. So here is the list of pros and cons of each one, traditional production versus self publication, as I see them. Perhaps writing them down will help me figure out which way I’d rather go.

Pros of Traditional Publishing:
  • If I find a good agent who believes in my work and my vision, I may one day be listed as an author for one of the same publishing companies that published my favorite books, which would be epic.
  • Greater chance of recognition and distribution to book sellers to get my work out there, so to speak.
  • Greater respectability/credibility as a byproduct of an existing system that incorporates a multi-layered editing/critiquing process designed to make my novel as great as it can possibly be.
  • Contracts that protect my creative work more effectively from copyright infringement than if I were to just, say, post it on the ‘net.
  • The cost of publication doesn’t come out of my own pocket, which let’s be real, isn’t exactly empty but certainly isn’t deep.
  • All the promotion and marketing that I don’t have time to do by myself, someone else will do for me. Dude. Maybe my book could be a movie…
Cons of Traditional Publishing:
  • Every author I’ve ever seen/heard/read/interviewed seems to absolutely hate the big-name publishing company who stripped away all their creative rights to their own work (and yet they still used them), and then changed a bunch of random things and published something very different than what the author originally wanted, because by that point it’s not the author’s work anymore anyway.
  • Having to sign away my first born child and gods know what else in return for a faceless corporation to sell a book, sorta in my name, that is nothing like the manuscript I originally sent them.
  • Having my work dumbed down so it appeals more to the barely-literate masses…and please keep in mind that “barely literate” is not the judgment I would pass, but rather the assumption big name publishers seem to make about the masses, considering every novel that pops up on my kindle recommendations is basically the same novel, just with a slightly different title. Hello, am I the only one sick of teen paranormal romance? Yeesh! There’s hardly even a kissing-scene in my novel and even that one little PG scene, I’ve debated removing entirely (although, as I finished my most recent round of edits, I realized there is a lot of completely asexual nudity in my story; my characters always seem to end up naked and yet not banging…I guess they’re too busy being badasses who upon occasion accidentally end up separated from their clothing).
Pros of Self-Publishing:
  • My work is mine. Always and completely. No one has publishing, reprinting or other related rights to my work except for me.
  • My novel will never go out of print as long as I want it to remain printable.
  • The novel I publish will be the same novel I send to get published.
  • No shady deals with third parties, unless you count the people running the printer, and I’m not particularly worried about them wanting to sign away my future children.
  • I get to design and format and illustrate and all that other fun stuff my artist-side just adores doing.
  • Upon a very rare occasion, self-published authors have been known to get later picked up by actual publishing companies anyway, and it’s easier to maintain some creative rights to your own work when a version of it already exists in print.
Cons of Self-Publishing:
  • The downside of no third party involvement is a lack of credibility, since literally anyone can self-publish…and if anyone can do it, is it worth doing? I’ve always believed in rising to the occasion, meeting the challenge, taking the hard road over the easy, over-used trail, so naturally the fact that self-publication requires no challenge or filtration process disturbs me.
  • If literally any bloke can crap out a hundred pages of gibberish then shell out some cash to get that gibberish in print…do I want my own novel, that I slaved over for years and poured my heart and soul into, to be associated with that level of non-work? I know it’s a rather elitist perspective, but I want my novel to be a good novel, not just something that a few of my friends read out of pity and then quickly throw away or worse, forget.
  • I have to fund the production, marketing and distribution of my book completely by myself. Again…pockets. Depth. Not so much.
  • Generally book sellers like Barnes & Nobel don’t buy from self-published authors unless they come with a helluva sell-back plan, which oh yeah—costs yet more of my own money.
  • I don’t have time to market my own stuff! If I ever want to be publicized, not just published, that involves a huge time commitment that my very-busy day job of oh, say, being in the Army, doesn’t really support. I can’t exactly take an extended lunch break to conduct a reading and signing at the local book club to promote my latest publication.
So that’s where I’m at right now. Some of my friends—Orion included—are totally on board the self-publish train. Others, such as Amphitrite, are urging me to seek an agent and begin the lengthy process of reading rejection letters (at least I have a lot of experience in dealing with rejection and not letting it get me down). A lot of the best agents don’t take queries from first time authors, or else they only read a query if it comes with a referral. So yeah. Lots of rejection letters in my future. However, apparently there is a third option that is somewhere in between the two extremes that other of my friends and acquaintances are familiar with, so I’ll be looking into that third, hybrid-option as well.

Having read back over my pros and cons list, I think I’m going to start drafting a query letter. The worst that can happen is I receive a world of no from every agent and waste a book of stamps.

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