Death of a traditional dream?

30 Jun

At what point do we give up?

At what point is it no longer healthy for us to pursue a path that isn’t leading to the desired destination?

I ask this question because of something that happened to me last night.

After a long and fruitless search, late last year I decided that I would give myself till the end of 2011 to find an agent and/or editor for my book Marlowe and the Spacewoman. If I didn’t find a route through traditional publishing, then come 2012, I was going to self publish.

I made a huge final push to find an agent or editor. There has been some interest, but nothing definitive yet. And now, halfway through the year, I’m pretty much resigned to the idea of self-publishing.

(I know, I know, the indie publishing scene is thriving and growing. The stigma of self publication is fading. But it’s hard to make the adjustment to the idea of the self-publishing model when for years your dream has been of the traditional publishing model.)

Last night I got together with one my critique groups for the first time in almost a year. And when I mentioned this plan to self publish, one of the members shook her head and said, in effect, your book has something to it and you should be able find an agent.

(There it is, the self-publishing stigma.)

And suddenly I doubted my plan. The stigma of self publication seems to be receding a little bit, but that could merely be the self-serving perspective of the indie authors I hang out with and follow on twitter.

There are arguments for and against self-publishing. There is one more than one treatise on why self publication is actually better for an author who has any business savvy. (And a pre-existing huge fan base, by the way.)

There is a sense of optimism amongst the indie authors I know that things are changing.

But there’s also that stigma. I’m not saying there are no quality self published books out there. There are.

Unfortunately, there’s also a lot of crap.

So what do I do? I’m getting tired of trying to find an agent. I’ve queried well over 100 well over – I know 100 itself is a small number). I’ve done the research route, you know, making sure you find the right agent to query. I’ve done the dance, I’ve jumped through the hoops, and I’m about as far as I can go without a positive response.

I’m not saying that self-publishing is giving up. My question here is: at what point should I give up on traditional publishing? At least for this book?

Yes, I had a moment of doubt last night, but right now I’m still sticking with the plan. I have one nibble at this point that hasn’t played out yet. All my other queries have you resulted in outright rejection or, even more frustrating, silence.

So I’m sticking with my plan despite my fellow critique partner’s reservations.

I just wish it didn’t feel like giving up.


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8 responses to “Death of a traditional dream?

  1. Commander in Chief

    30 June 2011 at 9:02 am

    I’m less worried about the stigma of self-publishing than about the fact that there’s a lot you don’t get when you publish yourself. You have to do things like secure the Library of Congress number and other information so that your book can be offered on Amazon, you have to take care of all the distribution and marketing, etc. I have a very good friend who wrote an amazing historical fiction trilogy and, because she is in her 60s, decided she didn’t want to wait years to find an agent/publisher. She learned how to self-publish (and her book is by far the best and most professional-looking self-published volume I’ve seen) and is actually making a decent amount of money from the sale of her books, but the amount of time she spends on it means that she hasn’t written anything else. She’s won some awards both for the quality of her writing and for the quality of her publishing, but unlike in the traditional publishing world where awards get you on popular book lists, she didn’t see any bump in sales.

    I’m right there with you in wondering whether it’s all worth it, but I’m taking a little different route. I think M&tSW is good (although I liked the story of the kid and the pictures that lead to other dimensions better) and I think that you shouldn’t give up. You want the kind of support and taking care of details that a traditional publisher will afford you, if only to free you up to get other stuff onto the market.

    • ianmdudley

      30 June 2011 at 9:30 pm

      I hadn’t heard that about the Library of Congress number. Which is strange, because CreateSpace doesn’t say anything about it either.

      What’s the name of your friend’s series?

      But yes, you have to do all the work, including the cover design and the marketing (and the book launch party – how wrong is it that you have to plan that?). And that is very very time-consuming.

      The story of the kid in the pictures is on my list. It’s right behind Marlowe and the Spacewoman and the sequel, Balloons of the Apocalypse. 🙂 It needs another round of edits based on the most recent critique, but with all the things going on in my life, I haven’t had time.

      And I’m really hoping that I can go the traditional publication route for at least one of those two books, if not for Marlowe in the Spacewoman. So I haven’t given up all hope. 🙂

  2. mchaos

    30 June 2011 at 10:06 am

    It is not giving up. It is changing your route. If the bridge is out, you find another way across. Giving up would be to simply go home. Uh….moldy cheese?

    • ianmdudley

      30 June 2011 at 9:35 pm

      Oh I agree, I’m definitely not ‘giving up.’ I think perhaps the better analogy would be not a bridge that is out, but riding a bike up a very steep mountain road that has a lot of roadblocks and other unnecessary obstacles. I know agents are supposed to be ‘gatekeepers,’ but sometimes I think they do the job a little too well.

      Plus they’re not just gatekeepers for quality, but they’re also taking into consideration perceived commercial viability. Yes, Twilight was extremely successful commercially, but I wouldn’t call it quality.

      Yes, moldy cheese.

  3. pageintraining

    30 June 2011 at 12:37 pm

    Giving up would be deleting your files. Giving up would be not letting anyone else see your book. The two avenues are different. Yes, there are many things self-publishing won’t give you, but you also get to keep more of the rights to your work and don’t have to worry about things being buried in your contracts.

    It does mean a change in the dream where you won’t be able to walk into a bookstore and see your book everywhere. It’s not the death of the dream though.

    • ianmdudley

      30 June 2011 at 9:41 pm

      No matter how bad I perceive one of my works in progress to be, I never delete my old files. If I ever become a rich and famous author (ha ha), and then die, whoever controls my estate will find the most embarrassing drivel ever to be produced on this planet by an English speaking human being.

      I have a plan for the bookstore problem, however. I will print up a whole bunch of my books, and then sneak them into the bookstore, one book at a time, stealthily secreting them onto their shelves. And if I can figure out how to set it up with the barcode, I will price the book at one… million… dollars.

      That ought to get me noticed.

  4. Tamela

    30 June 2011 at 3:03 pm

    I agree with Pageintraining. You are not giving up. Becoming an author is a process. It requires many tools. My philosophy is that you use any and every tool to build your career.

    Self-publishing is a tool that helps you build a following of readers. Later, when you have another book to pitch to an agent, you can say that you have a fan base. You are special. People like your work. People buy your work. It puts you ahead of those who don’t have a fan base.

    The road to Authordom is a journey, grasshopper. Grasp it with both hands. Use all the tools at your disposal. Be all you can be.

    Or did I just mix my metaphors? Hmmm… I need to work on that.

  5. ianmdudley

    30 June 2011 at 9:46 pm

    I guess that would work great if you actually develop a fan base. And I suppose if you don’t develop a fan base, you’re in the wrong business anyway (and those pesky agents were right).

    Regarding this ‘journey,’ are we there yet? My feet hurt. And I’m tired. And I stepped on a grasshopper and it’s all sticky on my foot now. I guess I should’ve worn shoes for this trip.

    Be all you can be: an Author of One. Boo-Ya!

    I guess you put those metaphors in your new blender, eh? 🙂


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