Monday, March 19, 2012

The Self-Publishing Debate and the Clock

One of my chief principles is never to make a serious decision without giving it three days of consideration. It's the Three Day Rule. I'm making an exception concerning my decision of how to publish. Instead of three days, it's three years.

The flux in the publishing industry is maddening. The speed of change has everyone on edge. I ran across this great transcript of four hardcore insiders talking about traditional publication. If you decide to read it, better to do so with: a) alcohol handy; b) an hour set aside for vigorous exercise afterward; or c) a baseball bat. What struck me the most is how subjective the traditional route to publication can be. Of course I knew that, but I didn't want it to be true. (BTW, I chose b, but c was a close second.)

Then there is the ever-raging conversation among writers about going indie. Why and who and when and what for, on every blog (now this one, too.) Trish Gentry posted a recent essay of her thinking behind the self-release of her work. The piece also opens a dialogue about whether Amazon should charge indie authors upfront to upload books.

Gentry's post made me want to assess my own feelings about this issue. My emotions are mixed. Every writer wants validation somehow, whether by attracting an agent, publisher or readers. How I become published may boil down to why I write. In my better moments, when I write for joy, then my ideas about how to publish lead me in one direction (let it live, I don't care how). If I want outside validation and the potential for greater commercial success, I stay the traditional course.

But time is becoming more of a critical deciding factor. There’s a point of diminishing return, both financially (how long can I take myself and my family down this path) and emotionally (how long can I take myself and my family down this path).

I believe traditional routes to publication suffer because the process takes much too long to discover, edit and publish books. The decision-making is also highly subjective (again, see baseball bat post), and although many high-quality books come out of it, traditional publication is by no means the stamp of quality 100% of the time.

For me, it's boiling down to a question of tolerance. How long do I keep pursuing the brass ring? I have to ask myself: "Why not self-publish if I believe in my work, have vetted it thoroughly (at my own expense) and take responsibility for good/bad reviews/sales?" At times, the alternative route doesn't seem so distasteful. Quite the opposite, self-publishing looks idyllic.

How much longer should I wait it out? That's complicated, too. If I use the Three Year Rule, is it three years from the point I began querying or the point I began writing? Either way, the clock is ticking.


  1. I agree completely with you logic. Though, at sixty-one, my time limit is one year. One year of queries and pitches and then it's time to move the book down the road myself.

  2. Pamela, Thanks for your comment. I presume many new writers feel the same. I'm amazed at how many writers I come across who go for self-publishing and don't look back with any regrets. I hope whatever your decision, it feels right for you.


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