The great debate: Traditional press vs. self-publishing

Uh, I don't know, guys.  This maze looks pretty hard.

Uh, I don’t know, guys. This maze looks pretty hard.

Dear readers, I have a confession to make.  I have been having impure thoughts.  Late at night, when the lights are off and no one is watching, I find myself browsing through QueryTracker.  My Google search history is full of despicable phrases like “literary agents” and “fantasy publishers,” which I quickly erase in case anyone sees.  I can’t seem to control my urges, and it’s starting to worry me.

You see, I’ve been getting my new series written and ready for launch, and I can’t help wondering about which path to take.  As someone who runs a blog focused on self-publishing, someone who has published several books on her own, and someone who strongly supports indie authors in their quest for equal recognition in the tough literary world, it seems so wrong to be setting my sites on New York.  It seems like the ultimate betrayal, no matter how often I stress that self-publishing and traditional publishing are not enemies.

Before I go further, let me reiterate that I don’t believe that traditional presses are evil, and I don’t believe that indie publishing spews out an unmitigated stream of untested, unedited crap into the world.  I think both have their merits, and the fight going on in my head isn’t about recognition and prestige and legitimacy.  It’s about what tools this new series needs in order to succeed, and who can provide them for me.

As a (relatively) experienced self-publisher, I have a lot of skills at my disposal.  Not only can I write the thing, but I can format a book, edit it reasonably well, create an attractive cover, and bring my work to market quickly and efficiently.  I can produce an adequate product with the minimum of fuss.

I know all about marketing, too.  I know exactly what to do with my blog, and with Facebook page, and with Twitter.  I can write press releases and send my book to review sites and urge my local stores to stock a couple of copies on a back shelf somewhere.

I can do all of these things myself.  But I’m pretty darn sure that literary agent, professional editor, and publishing house can do them better.

The thing is, I turned to self-publishing because I’m an independent person.  I like being in control of my work.  I like doing things on my own.  I like quiet and solitude because I don’t always get along with other people, and taking charge of a project from beginning to end means that no one else will have the opportunity to screw it up and do it wrong.  Self-publishing is great for people who demand control over their own choices.

But being a solitary control freak also means that I lack the most important skill set for a self-publishing author: the ability to be likeable, outgoing, and engaging.  In short, I don’t have the ability to network and manipulate that network into something that can produce real results.  I don’t have the time or the energy to give my work its due.

I lack the ability to sell books.

I’m well aware that publishing houses do not do many favors for beginning authors who haven’t proven themselves a lucrative investment yet.  There are no whirlwind book tours and giant posters and TV appearances for the average wordsmith – or even for a relatively well-known one – these days.  But there are books in big book stores.  There is word of mouth.  There are tweets and posts and all the social media savvy of someone who has absolutely no task other than moving copies of new titles.  There is some degree of help.  And sometimes, I wonder if just a little bit of help isn’t what I need.

Dark the Night Descending is a good book, and the beginning of a good series.  It has potential, and it has appeal.  And while I would love to be able to push it to market in a matter of days instead of waiting weeks and weeks just for a literary agent to reject me, I just have this nagging feeling that self-publishing it with my limited scope will be a waste of something that could be great.

I just finished drafting Book Three out of Four, and I’m doing final checks to ensure that Book One is ready for public viewing.  I guess there’s still time to wrestle with the issue, but I would like to start moving things along, if I can.  So I put it to you, dear readers, for your opinion: what do you think should I do?

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3 thoughts on “The great debate: Traditional press vs. self-publishing

  1. Up front, I have not published anything… yet. With that said, I am looking to self-publish my first book in September, a non-fiction book. At the same time I am working on an epic fantasy story to be published next year, I hope, and plan to send it out to agents to see if anyone is interested.

    My thought is that I wouldn’t mind working the “traditional” publishing path, but at the same time, I won’t let it stop me either. If someone doesn’t pick my book up quickly I have no trouble self-publishing. I think self-publishing is the future of the publishing industry, but it is not the only option and you should explore all options.

  2. I’ve self-pubbed two full-length novels (under a pen name) and two parts of another. I’m getting ready to publish my first full-length YA books this summer. It’s my baby. It’s a story I sat on for so long because I wanted it to receive the best treatment. I still held out hope that maybe I would traditionally publish. I even had some interest from agents, but never submitted to them. Here’s why: I like having control. And, while traditional publication provides a sense of validation (not sure from whom, but people seem to think it means something), I’d rather not have to give up so much control over something I hold so dear. I would never say that one way is right over the other. It differs for everyone. And, just because you CAN do something, doesn’t mean you should. 😉 Good luck!

  3. Having already given self-publishing a try, why not go for the uncharted territory this time and seek a publisher? Best case scenario will mean success for you and your new book(s), while the worst would have you come away with a solid learning experience, and maybe some more tools you can take back with you to future self-published works. Either way, you’ll never know unless you try!

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