Many of my fellow writer friends and acquaintances are chasing the traditional publishing dream: query agents, get representation, sell to publisher, get success. They acknowledge the growth of the self-pub and indie-pub movement and keep that in their back pockets as “Plan B”, and after a length of time chasing after an agent, many then dip their feet into this world.
The risk to this approach is that when you finally approach the self-publishing venture, you are already half-questioning your work. Was I really not good enough to get an agent or am I just not marketable to them right now? Is my work any good? And after you release your book to the world and let the internet know via Facebook and Twitter, you can get dismayed and disappointed by the lack of sales, which only furthers your self-doubt.
I, instead, am embracing wholeheartedly the world of independent artist/entrepreneur. I told my husband as we started our arts business together that I wanted to build an empire with him. We both like to have control over every step of the process. I don’t want an agent telling me that a story is too short or too long, or should have pink sparkling monkeys instead of purple striped otters. I don’t want someone else choosing my cover art for me. And I don’t want someone else setting my price point. I’d rather release my work (after making sure that it’s the best possible work I can do and checking it very thoroughly for errors) and build my momentum slowly. Make mistakes now before I’m in a partnership with anyone else. And if the opportunity should arise for me to work with an agent or publisher, I will have the confidence of my previous indie published work behind me and will approach our relationship with that confidence, rather than gratefully accepting the crumbs that may be tossed my way (something I did for my first year out of grad school in another arts career – just grateful for a job, any job, to call myself a professional, until I realized I was only averaging $5 an hour).
I’m not saying my way is the right way or the only way, but it is the right way for me. And if you are someone who is choosing to attempt the traditional publishing route, really ask yourself some difficult questions. Are you only attempting to find an agent because you are looking for outside validation of the worth of your story? Your ability to find an agent shouldn’t be the be all, end all of your attempts at writing. And alternatively, if you are toying with the idea of self-publishing, are you prepared to do the legwork to get your story noticed? Simply sharing to your 500 closest friends on Facebook and Twitter is not going to get you up the Amazon lists.
There are many paths to follow in our quest to share our creations with the world. Keep an open mind, don’t close any doors, but be smart about your strengths and your flaws, and be honest with yourself.