To Self-Pub or Not to Self-Pub

self_publishing1

Back when I first began this writing journey (seriously, anyway) I’d told myself I was going to become a legitimately hardcover printed, agent-represented published author and follow a traditional route from “aspiring writer” to “novelist”. My reasons for this mindset were based on my narrow understanding of the possible success of self-published authors and the stigma that goes along with being one. The more I saw writers plastering themselves on Amazon (because they could, dammit) made me less eager to be just another drop in the piss bucket. I’ve witnessed similar phenomena in other artistic arenas: anyone with a point-and-shoot digital camera can call themselves a photographer; anyone with a mic and Garage Band can call themselves a recording artist. Anyone with access to the internet and some sense of storytelling can become a published writer… It’s a similar bucket of nonsense in a lot of instances (really, in most instances), and another example of the many ruining the respectability of the few. So I said, “Screw that. Imma a be legit, yo.

This was before I wrote TICK. I’d just finished trudging through a rough draft of the first in a 7-part historical fantasy series, The Diaries of Victoria Hart, all the while wondering in the back of my head how in the world I was going to get any agent to bite this grotesquely rich 7-layer cake. When TICK made the journey from brain to page (intended originally as a stand-alone, and still could be, we’ll see) I realized that my concerns for the success of the Victoria Hart series were reasonable and should not be ignored. TICK, I decided, would be my way into the industry, my jumping-off point so that I may launch Victoria Hart into the world as an already established author.

TICK, however, comes with its own set of ramifications. For one, the time to release a story as this is, well, NOW. With The Hunger Games movies coming to a close and Divergent still hovering at the peak of the waveform, there’s soon to be a void left when the winds die down. TICK is the book to fill that void. While it is a very different sort of story that the other series, I believe TICK will do quite well riding the wake left by The Hunger Games and Divergent.

There’s a problem with this plan of action. For one, TICK is still in the re-write stage. It still needs to be edited, and copyedited and proofread before it’s even considerable as a novel. Then, there’s the lengthy process of querying agents. Then there’s the time it takes to find the right editor at the right publishing house, then get the manuscript ready for print, then go through whatever logistics that are needed to actually get the damn book on a bookstore shelf. That could take a year. Hell, that could take two years. And by then someone else could have caught the winds. Or worse yet, the winds could die down completely.

When my no-bullshit-allowed Initial Reader finished the manuscript for TICK (in two days, mind you), I flinched when she went straight into talk about putting the thing into Kindle format. No, I thought, that’s not how you sell books. That’s not how you become a “legitimate writer”. I’m here to do this the right way. Well, who’s to say that traditional publishing is the “right way” anymore? Hugh Howey is certainly proof that one can begin their career as a self-pub author and make it big. And in Howey’s mind, many are best staying permanently in the self-pub world. He’s even become an advocate for transparency in all aspects of publishing and has been busy crunching the numbers to find out just what the differences are between self-published works and those released by the Big Five. That’s not to say there aren’t equally-valid voicings from equally respected authors who argue that there is no one answer to the greater question: to self-publish or not to self-publish?

I’ve landed on the conclusion that TICK is in fact best served on a homemade platter. A couple of thoughts have stewed in my mind and landed me at this conclusion. For one, while TICK is of the same vein of The Hunger Games and Divergent, it is the younger, scrappier, foul-mouthed, rebellious younger sister. I’ve chosen not to censor most of the language. There is violence. There is drug use. There are many issues dealt with that may cause the Big Five editors to blush and wave me away, insisting I tone it down a little. TICK is not meant to be lewdly inappropriate for young adults because it is a Young Adult Sci-Fi novel, but I set out to write the most realistic and honest story I could tell and TICK is what came out of that brain-birth (you remember what it was like to be an adolescent, don’t you? Lots of crazy shit goes down in those teenage years, let’s not forget that). But a larger publisher will be less inclined to take on such a risky story. It’s their business to sell to a broader audience. And, quite frankly, I just couldn’t let TICK be butchered like that. I care too much about this story to let it be diluted for a pool already saturated with too much feel-good blabbering. TICK is what it is, and it’s got a whole lot of me in there, and I know I could not allow myself to let go of my freedom of expression so easily.

Self-publishing will take more work, certainly. Still, there’s no telling that any Big Five house will be willing to shell out money for advertising for an un-established author anyway; it’ll be up to me regardless. The leg-work is up to the author these days, and I’m okay with that because I believe in this story. TICK is something I will fight for.

 

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