Monday, December 28, 2015

This Year, I Let All The Way Go

I finished my first novel in 2008, seven years ago. And pretty much since 2008, I had been trying to have a book picked up by a traditional publisher.

2015 was the year I let that go.

I don't know exactly what changed, it may have been any number of both positive and negative experiences and realizations, but probably a combination of:
  • The horror of having my first YA book published by a now defunct microscopic independent press that didn't have any idea how to be a microscopic independent press (truly a horrible, but valuable, learning experience that I won't soon forget.)
  • Unexpectedly, and thankfully, getting the rights to ASCENDANT back at the beginning of 2015 (instead of waiting another year for the rights to revert) and republishing it my way--to great personal satisfaction that was largely unexpected.
  • Reading the writing (no joke intended) on the wall with regards to me and my now former agent. Which was basically that, while we connected on ASCENDANT, everything I sent her thereafter was sort of a "meh" for her. Not that she said it like that, but I've always thought a girl should be able to tell, and be honest with herself, when someone is "just not that into you." We parted extremely amicably, but I knew I was writing stuff that didn't excite her the way that first book had--it happens. Once we parted ways, I couldn't even begin to imagine starting all over. Querying agents? After already having one that wasn't able to sell your first book and didn't really like your others? That felt like trying to get back in the game after a divorce, five kids, and a mortgage to pay. Seriously, working harder and staying single (self-publishing) seemed to me the far more attractive, and constructive, use of my time. 
  • Realizing that no matter what all the publishing professionals tell you on their blogs and Twitter feeds, the terminal waiting of traditional publishing is ridiculous (seriously, you have never waited for anything, not even your baby to be born, like you wait on every step of traditional publishing. The terminal waiting is of course a direct result of an extreme excess of supply (i.e., writers with non contracted manuscripts waiting to be read) and a demand nearing zero. The exception? You are super important writer (lots of media buzz) or high dollar earning self published writer, and then everyone in publishing drops everything else and runs to woo you. In case you are wondering, MOST writers do not fit into either of these categories--sadly, not even the ones with a traditional publishing contract.)
  • The vagaries of what everyone in publishing THINKS they want--but, with the exception of the perennially successful and talented editors that seem to get to STILL EDIT BOOKS, most don't really have an articulated clue that doesn't vacillate wildly from week to week. Essentially, and they may not say it right out loud, I think it basically boils down to wanting the "sure thing" that "sells well." This is often called "just loving it." *shrugs* If you read a lot of books, your guess about what might sell well is probably just as good as theirs.
  • The time I spent working at an agency, lifting the curtain, and seeing the whole show first hand. This experience, while extremely valuable, I will equate to those that have become vegetarian after visiting a Tyson plant or a pig farm. Sausage is probably less palatable to anyone that has seen it being made. As a writer, this was probably the best and worst job to have ever taken because now I know the truth, and sadly, I also know the truth.
  • And the saddest truth? Sigh, good books, hell great books don't get picked up ALL THE TIME. It's not enough to be a talented writer with a good story. And weirdly, mediocre stuff does get championed and sold to publishers (even if it doesn't eventually sell well, or at all, to the public) and it all boils down to one gatekeeper's personal taste and the personal relationship that particular gatekeeper has with certain stakeholders in New York et al. Furthermore, most writers have NO IDEA what sort of relationships certain agents have with certain editors at certain houses. How could we? Agents and editors RARELY badmouth each other publicly, that would be unprofessional. But they definitely hold opinions about each other (both good and bad) that effect acquisitions. But the writer almost never knows...and yet these relationships, or lack thereof, impact the writer most of all. 
  • And finally, self-publishing is a lot of work. But what I've found is that in comparison to the quagmire of traditional publishing, for me anyway, self publishing is a constructive, forward moving, direct path that leads to the whole reason I want to write books in the first place--SO THAT READERS CAN READ THEM. Period. That is what I want. For readers to read and enjoy my books. And they do. Because my books now exist out in the world for people to read. Some readers buy them, some readers get them for free, but I'm writing books and connecting with readers because the link between the writer and reader (THE BOOK) is available instead of waiting in a pile of first level slush hoping to get championed and then shoveled into the second level pile of slush (where it may, but probably won't, get placed in the lineup to be pushed out the door in two-three years.)

So yeah, a few experiences coupled with epiphanies topped off with letting go and moving forward. Traditional publishing is absolutely a successful route for some writers.

Just not this writer. I've let all the way go.


  1. These are the same general conclusions I came to after years of research about traditional publishing and the entire process. Landing an agent sounds like it takes so much work, but landing a contract takes luck to boot. Then, having to give up so much control and wait such a long time--it's just not for me. I'd rather put in the investment of time and money to get my books out there. Whether five people read them, fifty, or a hundred, I don't really care. I just want to share them with people who will enjoy them as much as I did. Thank you so much for writing this wonderful post. I feel kind of vindicated knowing that someone who experienced so much of it first hand has come to the same decision.

    1. It's definitely not the road for everyone, but I can say that one benefit I have is the knowledge that I really, really, really tried with traditional publishing. But then I really wanted it in the beginning as well so I was willing to put in all that effort, time, money (yes money--why do people seem to think that pursuing traditional publishing doesn't cost writers anything up front?? Have you ever seen how much it costs to attend a writers conference?) to chase after one way of publishing.

  2. Hi Rebecca - thanks for coming by my blog. I can see what you're saying here - and probably most people would be better off doing what you've done and self-published ... at least your work is out here ready to read. Waiting around doesn't help anyone ... have a very successful 2016 and happy year ahead .. cheers Hilary

    1. Hi Hilary! It's certainly not for everyone--it really is a ton of work to do it right. And the learning curve has been huge. But I enjoy the work and actively seek out and enjoy learning new information, so for me it's been time well spent.

  3. I recently took my rights back on two series. One is being traditionally published with a different publisher and the other I'm self publishing. I love being a hybrid author.

    1. Kelly, that is awesome you were able to find another publisher for one of your series...I think that is so rare. I imagine you had very good sales numbers! I will pop over to your site and check your books out. Hybrid is such a great position to be in because you can absolutely play the benefit of one for the other in ways that straight self or straight trad cannot do as easily. Thanks for stopping by!