Traditional or Self-Publishing…that is the question

The lead-in question has been on my mind a great deal over the past couple of weeks. Why? Well, I’ll get to that, but first the journey…

Next (Journey album)

No, not that Journey.

Over the weekend I caught up in transcribing my handwritten journal, a task I set myself to with abandon with my wife away for the weekend, because I have been frightened over losing the journal, and with it all that I have written.

Finished with the task I now sit at over 114,000 words, which, depending on how many words you assign to a page (I’ve seen a range of 250-400), my story spans between 280 and 400 pages.

What does page count mean? Squat, really. The story will end when it ends, but when I tell people how many words I’ve written they almost always ask me to translate the number into pages.

If you read the blog I posted several days ago about my trip to UCLA you will know that I now see the scenes on the path to the end. I call them waypoints. Probably from playing all those video games. As I talked to myself on the way to UCLA that day I found out that my mind had been doing work behind my back. Lucky for me the novel gnomes had been busy and finished the rest of the novel for me. Now I just have to put words to paper.

What does this mean for me? The end is in sight. Sure, there will be a part II. Again, my mind has gone there already, but I see a resolution to the current conflict and that’s where this novel, Part I, will end.

Oh, and I have a full title for the novel,

The Tome of Worlds, Part I of The Worlds Within

OK, now what? Where will I go with the manuscript after it’s done? Well, it’ll sit in a drawer (folder) for at least a month while I write a science fiction short story that’s been eating at my mind in parallel. After a month I will pull the novel out of the drawer and revise with what I hope is a fresh(er) eye. Then the novel will be seen for the first time by eyes other than mine. Several people have volunteered to read the manuscript, and I have an online group to which I can feed the novel. From there I will look at it again with my own eyes, revise, and then send it off to a copyeditor.

And after that copyeditor? Well, there’s the lead-in question.

I’ve read many points of view on the debate, but even some of the most die-hard self publishers say you should query agents. I will query agents, of course, but I am aware of the lottery I am playing, which is why I am proceeding along as if I am going to self publish. I am looking at distribution models, data analytics, and cover art.

Sad to say, but unless I do research all I have to go on is what draws my eye, and what draws me to novels is great cover art. Even if by some miracle I am picked up by an agent and publishing house I will still have to promote myself, and great art depicting scenes from my novel will help with promotion.

To that end I have asked family members who are talented at illustration to draw characters, landmarks and scenes from my story, which I will publish on my various social media sites when the illustrations are done. Also, I’ve started the search for cover artists, and so far I have two prospects, whom I’ve linked below. If you have an opinion on either one I’d love to hear it.

But back to self publishing and the great debate (at least in my mind). Someone, somewhere attributed a quote to Louis CK, the comedian. I cannot verify if Louis CK did say this nugget of wisdom, but the words are stuck in my mind. I paraphrase:

“If you are good enough, you should go it alone. Own your work. Be your own publicist. Be your own agent. No one will have your passion. And if you aren’t good enough, no one will want you anyway so you might as well go it alone.”

Unless you sign your life away with an agent or publishing house, I don’t see why you can’t go promote yourself and have an agent and publisher. Publishing houses and agents open too many doors to be ignored. Besides, I have a family and a full time job. Even the limited amount of social media that I have been pursuing is eating up more time than I would like. I cannot imagine how I will organize my life if I have to self publish. Read Catherine Ryan Howard’s blog, Catherine, Caffeinated. She has a great post on the work you should be doing if you want to self publish.

On the other side of the coin, querying agents and publishing houses take time. You have to be patient. Can I be patient? I can. Scott Southard, who just released A Jane Austen Daydream, told me that an author querying agents should set a time limit for himself. If after 8-12 months you have not had success, self publish the book and move on to the next project.


And that’s where I stand now. Scott’s advice sits well with me. The first draft editing process has yet to begin, but my mind is at ease knowing that I have a plan.

What did Robert Heinlein say?

“Certainly the game is rigged. Don’t let that stop you; if you don’t bet you can’t win.”

7 thoughts on “Traditional or Self-Publishing…that is the question

  1. There is independent publishing too. You’ll just have to do more research on these small houses because some are disguised as vanity presses and want fees from you not listed on the website. You don’t need an agent and you don’t need to wait a ridiculously long time to hear back from that partial or full you sent out. I’m with an independent publisher, and while there is no advance, my royalties are much larger and I get marketing to boot. I also get to choose my own cover, with the assumption that I know what will accurately reflect my book.

    • Thanks, Amber. I didn’t mention independent or small print publishers because I haven’t done enough research, but they are on my radar.
      What I don’t know, and maybe you can answer this, is it fine to pursue publishing houses on my own in parallel with the pursuit of an agent?

      • Assuming the house doesn’t want an agent, that’s fine. Some may consider it unwise just because there is the potential of you landing an acceptance from both an agent and house and so now you’re left with having to choose, but there is no rule out there saying you can’t. Some independent people will do so well with their first book they query their second book to agents and land one.

      • I don’t think I would cry if I was put in the position of having to choose between a publisher and an agent. There are worse positions to be in as an aspiring writer.
        What’s great about publishing nowadays is that you can no longer be left behind. Of course, that means that the field is crowded, but that also means that if you put in the effort needed to sell your book, like hiring an artist who is experienced at cover design and paying for a great copyeditor, you have a chance of rising above the din.
        Of course, you could do all of that and go nowhere, but at that point at least you’ll know that you put your best foot forward. You didn’t leave anything on the table.
        And then you move on to your next project, while still promoting your last, and hope that you have better luck with the next book.

  2. It’s definitely a tough question: traditional or self-publish? I have begun the query process, but every time I send out a query I get this biting pain that reminds me how flawed the system is. Like you mentioned, the odds of finding an agent are pretty slim, and then, if you’re so lucky to actually land one, the odds of them selling your ms to a publisher are even more astronomical. I was talking with an author who decided to self-publish after countless rejections from agents and she said she too saw the flaw in the system. There was no way anyone could read a couple of brief paragraphs about her book and know if it would sell or not; that book was her baby and she knew it was good enough. She decided since the system was flawed, she would just buck it. Since self-publishing, she has been offered numerous contracts and now has an agent and a Big 6 publisher. I know it doesn’t magically happen for everyone, but it almost seems like greater satisfaction to self-publish and then hope for the best, rather than the other way around. After all, we write so that readers can read our work- not so agents can read a sentence or two and turn us down. Just my thoughts. Happy writing! 🙂

    • I think you can do both–push for an agent and self publish, if you wish. Self-publishing means that you are your own boss, marketing department, and salesman.

      I will go through the process, go down the traditional path. See where it takes me.

      What’s the name of the author’s book?

      • It’s called “Beautiful Disaster” by Jamie McGuire.
        Best wishes on the traditional path!

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