It was a novel that seemed like it would be a winner. Those who had read it, loved it. Readings were well-received. An agent praised it to the skies and said I “write divinely,” But still she gave it a pass. No publisher was interested. Didn’t fit any genre; didn’t fit standard styles or tropes. Unmarketable, they all said.
So I gave up and looked into Smashwords. Everybody was doing it. Many writers were bragging about their success as indies. But the more I studied what I’d have to do to succeed as a self-pubbed writer, the more I despaired. I’d have to spend 80% of my time being my own business manager and publicist. To do it right required a greater investment of time and money than I had to spare, plus a savvy and expertise that I sorely lacked.
I whined, and my good friends in the community encouraged me. You can do it! they said. I gamely looked through the alternatives and the requirements, the dos and the don’ts, and shook my head. No. I can’t.
So I scoured the listings to find one more publishing house that I hadn’t tried yet. And lo, in my hour of despair, a light shone strong upon me. Double Dragon offered me a contract for Archimedes Nesselrode. And there was much rejoicing.
I feel a relief indescribable. If Archimedes does well, perhaps the two dozen other novels I have on the shelf will find a home, too. There is hope.
But I feel I need to make explicit why I am so overjoyed at not having to resort to self-publishing. It has little to do with the “stigma” attached to indies. There is no question in my mind that the publishing industry is broken and an alternative paradigm must rise to take its place. I’d be lying if I claimed I didn’t care about mainstream recognition for my work, or that I’d scorn success going the traditional route. But I know in my heart there is no way I am going to be the Next Big Thing. I just don’t write those kinds of novels. So I am prepared to be content finding my niche, connecting with the small slice of the reading audience who like my stuff.
My problem is a combination of cowardice, poverty and ineptitude. I can’t afford to pay an editor or to buy cover art. I don’t know how to get reviews. I’m not sure how to properly format a manuscript or get my book into all the right places. I have no faith in my business sense. So I am tickled silly that I have found someone who will do all that for me and advise me on the rest. And not only do I not have to pay them, but I’m the one who gets paid. Joy!
So, to my colleagues who have done it on their own, I wish the best of fortune. I don’t feel superior for having avoided self-publishing – far from it. You all have done something I couldn’t do. I went the traditional route because I lacked the courage and self-confidence to do what you have done. You have embraced the new paradigm. I lacked the nerve.