Tuesday, April 12, 2011

J is for just throwing it out there

So here's a hypothetical for you folks.  (We lawyers love our hypotheticals.)

Let's say you have a day job that you like and pays you enough money that you are surviving happily.

Let's also say you have a secret shameful goal -- like, say publishing a book someday.

Let's say you've written a few books to date, and one of them seems pretty good, in that it's readable and amusing.  But alas, you haven't really got any agenty-takers.

So you've shelved that project and are happily working away on a new one, all the while working at your day job, attempting to exercise daily, form positive social relationships with other humans, maintain shiny volumized hair, and contribute to the good of society.

One more detail -- you have this weird character trait.  Let's call it "obsessive-compulsive disorder."  Or maybe it's just a character flaw -- impatience.  Or maybe it's more philosophical -- "carpe diem, quam minime credula postero," my homies.

Whatever it is, there is a voice in your head that insists today is better than tomorrow, and too much of your life has already been spent on regretting not taking immediate action.

Do you just decide, "What the hell, I'm going to buy an ISBN, format my Word .doc into a PDF, and just e-publish this thing myself.  Charge people $3.99 or give it away for free, I don't care.  I just need it to be out in the universe already.  If it's not as good as I thought it was, so be it."

Or do you keep plugging away, assuming that someday this effort will be rewarded in more traditional avenues?

Want some more details for the hypothetical?  Sure you do, you've gotten this far.

Let's say you know a few graphic designers.  A copy editor or two.  Hell, maybe you yourself even had some copy editor training back in the day.  You know how to set up an LLC, just so everything can look classy and on the up-and-up.  At the very least, you can be sure it won't look like crap.

It gets more awesome -- you know people in marketing who at the very least can suggest ideas to keep it from taking up the very last spot on's sale list.  Your embarrassing dream will at least be able to make a respectable showing ("respectable" is in the eye of the beholder). 

And, perhaps most importantly -- at the end of the day, you do not mind one teeny, tiny bit if no one ever buys the damn thing.  It is enough for you to know that people can.   

But ... and here's the big but.

You don't want it to come back and haunt you someday--or worse, jinx you--should the "more traditional avenues" ever pan out.

Given that getting published via traditional means is unlikely ... is the "big but" actually even a concern?

Thoughts, feelings, jokes you would all like to share?


  1. To quote Thomas Haden Church's character Jack from Sideways to his aspiring author friend Miles "F&*^ the New York publishers, publish it yourself. I'll chip in. Get reviewed, get it in libraries, let the public decide."

    I don't know if that is super helpful, but I don't often get the chance to quote Sideways and as a Mormon male it is part of my priesthood duty to quote movies as often as possible. Though most don't quote R rated movies about wine drinking. So, I can maintain my street cred.

  2. Oh, the whole first half of this was TOTALLY me. Though my writing goals are a little more persistent than that. I WILL write some day for a living, even if that isn't until that living is supplemented with retirement money... I know for a fact only 10% of writers support themselves with their writing... it's a labor of love. And I DO like my day job... what's more, I am my family's only wage earner for at least the next several years, as my husband is only now finishing prerequisites to APPLY to a nursing program (wait 2 years, 2 years of school).

    When I look at the scenario you've got... I think I would try patience and the agent route FIRST and if you (or I) are getting form rejections, we are NOT ready (in which case, work on it some more) if it is perfected though, enough that agents say "I like this; I just can't think of anyone who would publish it" (which in this conservative market is not uncommon) then it may be go-for-it worthy. (maybe use a pen name if it is too different from future writing genres, or if it is incompatible with your day job)

    My own plan: I dropped my first name (used my maiden as first and last, so it's still me) so that my FICTION doesn't cast doubt on my science (I'm an academic). I have a cozy mystery contract under a pen name (but that was the publisher's deal--how they do it for that type of series), I am trying to publish my YA traditionally and really think I have a shot. But I also write more adult content but teen character, fuzzy genred stuff that once I have some success, I may self-publish. it is just hard to market.

    Advice I saw recently: you want to be seriously working the social network stuff 3 years before first book release. (I know--scary, but I've seen some people do REALLY WELL when they had their ducks in a row--and a book that does really well, is unlikely to ever embarrass unless it isn't 'done')

  3. I have no experience with this, but Hart's comment sounds probably most logical to me.

  4. I was going to say go for it - but after reading Hart's comment that may be the best way to go.

    I think I am the only blogger in existence that doesn't have a desire to be a writer so I have never looked into the plus/minuses of both options.

    Wish you luck - and if it makes a difference I would definitely buy your book. And pimp it on my blog too. :)

  5. I've had very similar thoughts.

    My concern is that looking back at my first novel or two--yikes! I would never want those published--traditional or otherwise. I feel more confident about my current novel. I've decided that if it still looks good to me after I finish my next novel (and maybe my next), then I'll go the self publishing route.

  6. I just want to mainly ask you: HOW do you have time for it all??? Plus, I'm slightly jealous of your confidence because I think it's amazing. I wish I knew more about publishing and what not but since I don't I'll keep my mouth shut

  7. Colt: Love the movie quote, and the fact that you acknowledged the fact that Mormon men speak in movie quotes. Kudos.

    Hart: Solid analysis. So to go through it ... would I say this particular story is perfect? No. Do I objectively think it is "publishable?" Yes. I am still a bit on the fence, though I think your idea of a pseudonym is a good one.

    Heidi: Dude, I feel your pain. There are two particular novels I wrote before this one that will never see the light of day, hahahaha. In fact, I kind of try to pretend they never existed at all. :)

    Michelle: I watch a lot of TV. It really helps your brain detox. ;)

    Piper: I'm glad you think so, because I'll prob try to strong arm you into copy editing it for $50 and Cafe Rio. :) The smiley face lightens the tone, but the lack of a winky-sign means I'm serious.

  8. Go for it. Headlong. Your writing is excellent.
    And patience sucks.
    There are certainly times when patience is wise and necessary, but I don't think this is one of those times.
    Very little to lose, everything to gain.
    Besides, our generation defines itself by ignoring traditional avenues. I don't know much about publishing, but I can't imagine it's that much different from the rest of the world.
    That said, the pseudonym is a good idea. CYA.
    And that's not see ya, that cover you a--.