This is my first post on my new blog. I hope a lot of writers who are sitting on the fence about self publishing their first book read this blog--especially if you're a writer either near, or over the age of fifty.
Not that long ago I was a snob about self-publishing. Yet after being a published author for nine years, reality set in, and I finally realized why self-publishing is a much better road to take, and if you hear me out, I think you will agree. I want to stop here and tell you that this post is a bit long, so if you don't have time, bookmark it for later because you are going to want to soak up everything I have to say.
Okay. First off, I have nothing against being traditionally published. I am traditionally published, and from what my editor at Tor told me, my first YA novel, Never Slow Dance With A Zombie was one of the hottest books of the year. I believe she said it was the second book her publishing house--with a long and storied history--had ever gotten accepted into the prestigious Scholastic Book Club. I don't know if you know anything about The Scholastic Book Club, but Scholastic holds book fairs in just about every school in America. The fairs feature not only their own books, but books from any publisher they believe young people will like. That meant my book, Never Slow Dance With A Zombie, would be presented in front of a captive audience of young readers. To cover the schools, Scholastic ordered 25,000 books. Before my first novel ever came out I'd already sold 25,000 copies. Yowzah! Before Never Slow Dance With A Zombie was even ordered by bookstores, it was a hit.
And yet I am here telling you DO NOT make the mistake of being traditionally published, especially in today's market, which is vastly different from when I was starting out. Now, I don't have an axe to grind, or sour grapes against being traditionally published. My experience with my publisher was for the most part good. Most of my favorite authors are traditionally published. What I am going to share with you here in this blog is just plain common sense.
If you are a writer over 50, (even if you're not) and you hope to have a career as an author please, please self publish. And here's the simple reason why--traditional publishing takes too long. It takes years for your book to come to market. As we got older, time becomes more precious, especially when we are trying to accomplish a goal.
Here's the math: say you just just turned 52 and you have what you are sure is the next The Hunger Games. Your manuscript is finished and polished. It's time to find an agent. You get a list of reputable agents from The Writer's Market or online, and you begin to submit. Agents get lots of submissions. Some agents get hundreds of submissions a week. They usually take one to three months to get back to you, and most agents pass. But you get lucky, and in six months you find an awesome agent. That's fast. But you were expecting it to be fast because you have a great book.
Awesome Agent loves your book, but would like your book to go through a professional edit. This is common in today's market. If even if your MS has been edited three times, they will more than likely want one of their editors, who knows how to get your book in the perfect shape to be accepted by a publisher, to have a crack at it. Yours is not the only MS the agent is editing, and you still have your day job, so let's say it takes three months to get your book in pristine shape. That's fast. It can take six months easy. But you were expecting fast because you have a bestseller on your hands.
Now, the submission process begins, and no matter how fast it is... it's slow. Agents generally submit to one publisher at a time, and the average time to respond is three months. The first publisher tells them (after three months) they no longer publish this kind of book. This happened to me. They go to the second publisher on the list, and then the third. Publisher number three loves your book. They want to publish it. You're so happy. This has only taken a year. You're now 53.
They negotiate. This is fast. You just want to get going. One month. They assign you an editor. You and the editor meet and she/he tells you the general direction they want to take your book. It's a love fest. She/he sees things just the way you do. The editing process begins. Ask anyone who has been through it. The editing process is grueling. But you get lucky, you get through all the edits in six months. This is especially lucky, because the editor is busy, and has many more books than yours. Weeks can go by before you hear from your editor with your next set of revisions. But like I said, you got lucky.
Now your book is ready for the copy edit. It's June. The copy edit is easy. All you have to do is agree with all the copy edits (punctuation and such). That's what I did. I was anxious to get my book out there. You turn in the edit in a week. A month later you hear that your book has been accepted. "That's great," you say. "When will my book be coming out?" "Next October," your editor replies. "What? It's July. What about this year?" Your editor informs you that you are lucky, you just got in on next year's schedule. It could have been the year after.
So... three years after you first submitted your MS to an agent, your book comes out. You're now 55. You've already written the sequel, but your editor doesn't want to look at it until they see how well your first book has done.
Don't believe me? Look at your favorite new authors. When did the second book in The Hunger Games series come out? When did the second Twilight book come out? My guess is two years after the first, and if your book isn't as big a hit as those were, it could take longer.
This means when the third and final book in your saga is published you will be 59. You were 52 when you started this journey. You got lucky, and yet it has taken three years to get it to market, and seven to complete the series. If you 're 40 when you start the journey, you will be 47. Ask yourself: suppose I don't get lucky? Suppose my book isn't a hit as big as The Hunger Games? How long would it take then?
I don't know. I can't answer that question. I got lucky.
This is key reason why I gave up on traditional publishing. My decision had nothing to do with me being a maverick, or me thinking traditional publishing is bad. Traditional publishing isn't bad. It's a choice. Thank goodness we have more choices today. My decision to self publish was a common sense decision. I looked at where I was in my life, and realized I didn't have the luxury of time. Do you? I also noticed that quite a few self-published books get major book deals after they've proven themselves. These authors (Hugh Howie, EL James, Amanda Hocking) didn't go looking for a traditional publisher, the publisher found them. Wouldn't it be better to get your book out into the marketplace where readers and publishers can find it?
Whether you agree with me or not, whether you have the luxury of time or not, I'd love to hear from you. Please leave a comment. Let's start a dialogue.
Here's the good news. Self publishing isn't very hard. Yes, there are several new things you have to learn, and learning new stuff (especially at my age) can be daunting. But if I knew how easy it was to self publish, I would have done it a lot sooner. If you're curious (and you should be) stick around the blog, and I will tell you more.
In my next post I'm going to share with you the real reason writers won't self publish. The answer may surprise you. Stay tuned.
Writers, whether you're traditionally published, self-published, or not yet published, you need to get my free cheat sheet: 7 Proven Steps To Self-Publishing Success. Learn self-publishing tips from successful pros such as Hugh Howey, Barbara Freethy and others.