Well, life sure moves fast. At this time last week, I was figuring out how to finalize preparing the house for showings. Today, the showings are done. We got 2 unbelievably strong offers in the first 3 hours of showings, and now we’re working through all the paperwork and approvals to get the house sold. On the plus side, that means a minimum of people wandering through our house! On the minus side, it’s a lot of extra worry to try to get everything in order, from bracing for the invasive inspection (which we hopefully pass) to negotiating all the little stuff like closing costs and move-in dates.
At the same time, we’re starting the process of packing and purging, trying to cut down on the “stuff” we have and keeping only that which we want or need or use. Sarah and I are both habitual packrats, so we keep a LOT of stuff. We also have a habit of forgetting what we have, sticking it in a cupboard or box and losing track of it. The move to a condo forces us to downsize, and also to have more awareness around what we really own and how much space it takes up. Some things, like books, we will keep 95% of the time. Things like VHS tapes? Yeah 100% of those are going away unless there’s a really, really good reason to preserve one or two. But overall, it’s helping us get organized and it’s helping us reduce our stuff.
Not that that process is any fun.
Somewhat accidentally, this week also corresponds to me sending my 50th query on the current novel. 50 was the goal — I promised myself I would send the novel out 50 times before I gave up on trying to publish it. Thus far, I’ve got no bites from agents who want to represent it. However, many (if not most) agents have a 4-8 week turnaround on responses, so there are certainly no shortage of agents out there who may yet look at my query and jump on it. But, on the other hand, this may be the end of the process for now.
I actually did get one R&R, a revise and resubmit, and when I can breathe and think creatively at the same time again I will probably make the changes requested and see if that still appeals to them. I’m not 100% convinced that such changes make for a better story, just a different one, but, on the other hand, publishing isn’t about ME AND MY ART AND THE PURITY OF MY WORDINESS. It’s a business. Publishing is about selling books and making money. And if I want to publish a book the traditional way, then I need to be willing to set my story aside and make the changes that will sell. I don’t necessarily have to feel them in my soul; I just need to be flexible enough to make them real.
So, what now?
Well, it is spring, the time of new beginnings, new growth, new life.
I start over.
The current novel is not the first I’ve written — it was the 21st. It won’t be the last, either; I’ve written 2 since then and am working on the third. It wasn’t even the first original novel I’ve written, and it won’t be the last. I have ideas for a dozen new original novels. That’s the nice thing about writing so much — no one story, one novel, one work is the be-all-end-all of who I am and what I do. I do love this novel. I love it and I want it to be in the world.
“But wait!” you say. “Couldn’t you just self-publish it?”
Yes, but not really.
Is it technically possible for me to format the novel, get some kind of artwork, put it into a downloadable format, and sell it on Amazon or Kindle or whatever? Of course it is.
Is it a good idea for me, personally, to do so? No. No it is not.
Self-publishing works well for certain people and certain genres. Romance, for example, does better with self-publishing because of the voracious appetite for new books that readers of romance possess. But even then, the successful authors who actually make money through self-publishing do a hell of a lot more than just formatting the book and making it available for a dollar. They do self-promotion through social media, reading groups, conventions, message boards, podcasts, etc. They put in a huge amount of effort to get their books in front of audiences. They work with other authors to cross-advertise for one another. They network until they have thousands of followers who will loyally retweet and reblog and share their efforts to get their books read.
It is a metric fuck-ton of work. And you know what? I’m probably not cut out for most of it.
I have been a Marketing Analyst. I know about SEO. I know what it takes to get people to click on your site, and to get them to stay there. I know how social media networks disseminate information to one another. I know that you might need to get 10,000 “likes” before you get even 1 sale. And so the amount of work needed for me, from my laptop, to do all that is disproportionate to the amount of interest and patience I have in doing it. There’s a reason I am no longer a Marketing Analyst, and a reason I was never an “influencer” on social media.
So, yes. Technically I could self-publish it, but I’d be doing myself and my book a disservice. I am not cut out to be the single mouthpiece shouting into the void to get readers. I can support the professionals in it, can maintain my Twitter presence and my blog, can show up where I am told to go, but I can’t generate that much content, that much presence, that much effort on my own. It would take spoons not just from writing, but from living.
Therefore, no. It’s traditional publishing for me, or maybe nothing at all.
It’s sad to put the novel in a drawer, if that’s what happens, but it’s not the end of the world. I gave it a good shot. I didn’t give up or get disheartened, and I made it all the way to 50+ rejections (and one R&R so far). I learned what it feels like when those rejection emails come, and I got used to filing them and forgetting about them. I got my query letter read, but the novel wasn’t the right fit. So I’ve learned a lot about the search for an agent, even though it will probably end in failure.
But that failure will serve the next novel, and the next. And the ones after that.
Because I’m not giving up. I’m already an author. I’m an author because I have written novels. I’m a writer because I think about writing ALL THE TIME. I’m not published, but publishing status doesn’t make me any less an author or writer. It just means I’m still not getting paid.
And who knows? Maybe in 3 weeks someone will email and say “Hey, finally got to your submission and hells yeah I want to rep you!” Maybe the next novel will be the right fit that this one wasn’t for the market or the agents or the random swing of what is currently popular. Maybe the novel 2 or 3 from now will sell and my agent will say, “Hey, do you have anything about dragons I could work with?” and I’ll be able to pull it out of a drawer. Maybe something I can’t even imagine will happen.
So I’m not sorry for having gone through this process even though it has been unsuccessful. I’m not in the slightest sorry for writing the novel, even though nobody bought it. Writing is a journey, and I’ve learned from everything I’ve ever written, every short story, every novel, sometimes even these blog posts. If the answer is that I need to learn a little more, or find slightly different timing, I’m okay with that.
It’s not like the ideas will dry up in my head any time soon. In fact, I’ve got about 30 more ideas to write than I will have time in the next year or two. And since I get a new and usable idea about once a month (and many, many not-usable ones every day), that deficit will continue to grow. Which is how a life based on producing art should be, in my opinion. The day that I run out of things to write is the day I quit breathing.
Except not, because at this rate, I’ll still die with 30+ unwritten stories on my list.
It’s like trying to put the thread in a sewing machine when it’s already running. And in this, I am just fine with always being a few steps behind. This isn’t a race I can ever win. It’s not a race I ever WANT to win.
And if this particular sprint to publish is over, then I guess I need to go find the next one.
(Possibly after figuring out the whole house-selling, condo-buying, stuff-purging, moving thing.)
(But, with my luck, not.)