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Giving Up on the Gatekeepers (3 of 3)

The lovely Kelley, writing at a coffee shop(Yes, “The Changing Face of Publishing” was technically 2 of 3 in this series. How about I promise to do a better job with the series titles next week, and you promise not to give me a hard time for this week’s? Okay? Awesome.)

Today’s post is supposed to wrap up our discussion of the right path for the aspiring writer. I’ve given you a funny little tale to capture your interest, a heavy load of background information and details, and now I’m supposed to draw conclusions.

What should you do with your finished manuscript, to get all rich and famous?

The official advice is still what I described as “today’s path” in yesterday’s post — get an effective blog going, build a platform, land an agent, and pray for a book deal. That’s what major acquisitions editors and published authors and famous literary agents would all tell you to do.


I’m none of those things. I’m pretty good at writing stories — and pretty good at writing in general — but I’m not pretending to speak as an authority on the publishing industry. All I’ve ever done is chase after mainstream, traditional publication (and not even chase that hard, really).

In fact, when Courtney and I started our writer’s group just last summer, I remember talking at length about the dangers of self-publishing — the financial and professional pitfalls lurking out there — and I encouraged our two new writers to tread with care if they ever started heading in that direction.

That’s solid advice, just as much today as it was then. There’s a big difference between treading with care and turning a blind eye, though.

Pros and Cons

There’s benefits and drawbacks both ways. Obviously, going either route, you could waste decades of your life chasing after recognition (whether that’s an acceptance letter from an agent or editor, or significant sales numbers for your self-published book at Amazon).

There’s also money to be lost, especially going the self-publishing route. That’s where all the years of bitter negativity toward the self-publishing market have come from. After all, there are plenty of people out there anxious to tell you you’re going to be a star — that your book is perfect and everyone is craving a copy — and if you’ll just fork over a couple hundred bucks for an ISBN number and maybe a cool thou for a top-rate cover design, you can watch it go flying off shelves.

You’ve got to be careful with your money. Take things slow, do your research, and watch out for scams. That’s…technically it’s a drawback of the self-publishing method, but really it’s just wise financial advice.

On the plus side, if you do self-publish, you get to keep all your creative rights, not to mention a much larger portion of your sales. You’ll need a pretty powerful platform (or some stellar writing…or both) to get those sales numbers anywhere significant, but you’re working on that, right?

I Can Answer for Me

I can’t answer for you, and I wouldn’t try to. I’ll share my own thoughts, though, and let you do with them as you will.

Back in January, I set a New Year’s Resolution to finally land an agent this year. To really, seriously, studiously buckle down and try. As of today (or, really, a couple weeks ago), I’ve officially annulled that resolution.

I don’t want an agent. Not right now, anyway. If I get an offer on a book deal, I’ll look up someone with some legal knowledge to make sure I don’t get run over in the paperwork, but until then I’m done with query letters.

Instead, I’m going to take a stab at the new market. I’m writing a serial novel now (you probably know all about it), and I intend to release Part 1 as a free e-Book sometime this summer.

That’s basically the first act of a novel, and I’m hoping it’ll be enough of a hook to entice readers into picking up the rest of the book — in four more novella-sized parts at $1.99 each, or in a single volume for $5.99. Barring unforeseen circumstances, I should be able to have the finished product available about this time next year.

I’m going to spend the intervening time writing (of course), but also researching. I’m going to see what sort of deal I could get for print publication (probably Print-on-Demand), so I can get paper books available through Amazon. I’ll definitely have copies available for Kindles and Nooks and iPads.

And I’ll let you know how all of that goes. If it’s a colossal failure, I’ll be resolving to land an agent in 2011, and I’ll make sure to let you guys know you should do the same. If it’s a huge success, I’ll probably be warning you that my results aren’t necessarily typical…but I’ll be banging that New Market drum, too.

Why? Because it puts the power in the hands of the creators. That’s a valuable thing. Like any valuable thing, it has its costs — its risks — and that’s why I’m treading carefully. Cautious or not, though, the reward is big enough to keep me heading that direction.

Photo credit Julie V. Photography.

2 Responses to “Giving Up on the Gatekeepers (3 of 3)”

  1. Several things. One: I’m glad you’re doing this as the guiney pig for the rest of us so we get to sit back and learn from your mistakes/successes. 🙂 Still not sure the e-book would be the route I choose, but I’m curious, none the less.

    Two: I am very interested about one aspect of your chosen route of self-publishing. The editing part. Are you going to hire a professional editor or rely on the eyes of yourself, friends and family to get the sucker up to par? If you pay an editor (or if your argument is that the common writer SHOULD – ie: your blog readers), then how much is reasonable? How long should this process take? What should we watch out for?

    And thirdly, (this one is just for curiosity’s sake) building up a readership at CCC seems very smart. I have a gut instinct that says once “Part One” of your story is online, you will discontinue the challenges with that series. True? (And if so, what are your plans for CCC writing?) If so, Shane and some others are going to be ticked off. 🙂 But I have already planned to do the same with mine, not wanting to put too much out there for nothing (not that I have any plans of writing an e-book). I’m more concerned about protecting my ideas for copywrite purposes (call me silly if you like). Right now my plans are to stop right after revealing the first plot point (and a major cliffhanger), at about a quarter of the way through the book.

    • Aaron Pogue says:

      Wow, Becca! Those are some fantastic questions. I’m so glad you asked!

      Ahem. Actually…that was all stuff I wanted to address in this article, but I stopped short because of word count. So brace yourself for a long answer.

      1) For what it’s worth, I’m doing this experiment with just one book — a standalone novel outside my normal genres. I’ve got half a dozen novels I could self-publish right now, but I’m holding off on that until I see how this one goes.

      So, yeah, I’m definitely approaching it as an experiment — not my “enlightened understanding of the new right way to do things.” I would really love to see this pan out, but if it doesn’t, I’ll still have all my best stuff in reserve. I’m definitely in favor of you, my readers, holding off on anything rash until you see how this plays out.

      2) As far as my predicted “new market” goes, editing is the most important service traditional publishers provide. That includes copyediting, which I mentioned — finding all your typos and agreement errors — but also larger-scale stuff, like shepherding a book from a rough rough draft (or even just an idea) all the way to a polished, marketable product.

      There are freelancers providing both services. The cheapest I’ve seen high-quality copyediting offered was around 5 cents a word. That comes out to $5,000 for a single read-through and markup of a decent-sized novel (along the lines of what I did for yours, Becca…but, y’know, all the way through to the end).

      A book shepherd generally builds a team that does a lot more (and, consequently, costs a lot more). A book shepherd might subcontract a copyeditor, a copywriter, a cover designer, and a printer (although often the book shepherd gets started in one of those roles, and so handles it himself).

      I’ve spent some significant time researching book shepherds lately, so I should probably just do a whole post them. They’re fascinating, but they’re not going to come cheap.

      In answer to your question, anyway, I’ll probably rely on the help of my incredibly talented friends, at least for the first book. If self-publishing pans out, I think I’d happily invest five to ten thousand dollars in professional services, if it left me with a product I could expect to sell in significant quantities (and keep all the profits).

      I wouldn’t recommend an investment of that scale to anyone working on sheer hope and faith, though. That seems like the kind of risk that could kill dreams (and maybe even ruin lives).

      3) And as far as CCC goes…I don’t know. I go back and forth. I think I’d be willing to share the whole rough draft on CCC, in the knowledge that the finished product will be of much higher quality, and much more convenient to read (whether it’s an ePub e-Book or a self-published paper book).

      You can run into difficulties with traditional publishers trying to sell rights to a book that has been significantly published online, but I don’t really plan to go that route with this book so I’m not too worried about it.

      Then again, half the time I feel like I should keep it all secret so I can at least extort a few sales out of the CCC folks. As I said, I go back and forth on the issue. I’ve got until mid-June to decide, and I find myself leaning more toward the transparency side every day.