An author friend of ours just announced that she and her hubby have their writing laid out for them for the next several years. I am happy for them about that; it means a certain amount of security to have contracts in the bag, and they’ve worked hard for it. They were first published about ten years ago and have produced multiple novels a year for much of the time since then. They have ‘paid their dues.’
Linda and I, on the other hand, are rank amateurs at this business. We didn’t become ‘real’ writers until last year and published our first novel this year. Our second novel will be out before the end of the year (knock on wood.) In the meantime a novella set in the Foreworld Saga is coming out this fall, I’ve published a short story and our novella ‘Diaries of a Dwarven Rifleman: Rear Guard’ is on the brink of publication. Most of our production is self-published.
I find myself torn; there’s a freedom to self-publication. I’m not sure that I want several years of writing laid out for me, and I like being able to finish a piece and get it out where people can read it right away. I also like getting paid monthly instead of quarterly.
The downside is of course that the freedom that I am speaking of means freedom to starve. It would be nice to have the security of a contract or two. But at this point I’m not certain that it’s worth the trade-off. We actually get to pay a bill from our writing (not a large bill mind you, but still…) and we have the freedom to write what we want and publish on our own schedule. Let’s face it, in today’s market we are going to be responsible for our own advertising and promotion anyway…
What we lose by self-publishing is shelf-presence. If a traditional publisher puts out our book it will be on shelves across the country where new readers can stumble across it by accident. This is no small thing; I discovered almost all of my favorite authors in exactly that fashion. The other thing we miss out on is that there is undeniably ‘cred’ attached to having a publisher buy and publish your work; it lends a legitimacy to your writing in many people’s eyes. After all, these days anyone can publish anything… and they do.
For now we’re going to stay the course. We’ll shop the odd novel around to a few select publishers but for the most part we’ll keep self-publishing. It’s not like there’s any hurry, or even any need, to restrict ourselves to one or the other method. We’re just babies in this game after all, and childhood is about learning and having fun. We’re doing both, so we must be doing it right.