Friday, 18 February 2011

To e or not to e? That is the question.

 I’ve been hinting in my blogs lately about plans I might have that I’m unsure of (there’s a lot of certainty in that sentence, isn’t there?). Some of you have probably guessed, or you know because I’ve talked to you privately, but I have to admit, I still don’t know what I want to do. There’s been a lot of discussion lately on blogs and writing sites about the sudden surge in popularity of e-books and I’ve been thinking about jumping onto the wave…seriously thinking about it.

I have three completed novels. The first, an adult fantasy, has been sitting on my computer for the last three or four years. I’ve done nothing with it, telling myself that I don’t really know where to send it. The truth is that it’s my favourite ‘baby’, the one closest to my heart. I didn’t feel ready for anyone to reject it. That’s the one I started my other blog  about.

The second is a young adult fantasy. It’s still in need of a good polish, so I don’t feel guilty about not sending that out yet. It’s not going anywhere till it’s as shiny as it can be.

The third, a children’s fantasy has been ‘doing the rounds’ for the past two years. Twice it has been read as a full manuscript by a mainstream publisher. Twice it has returned after many, many months with a polite ‘thanks, but no thanks’. It’s frustrating, but is that frustration good enough reason to throw in the towel and head to Kindle land? Not with my children’s novel maybe, but with one or both of the others?

I know there are authors, such as Amanda Hocking, who have sold thousands, hundreds of thousands, of their books as e-books. The catch cry seems to be ‘you, too, can make your fortune’. I have two problems with this. Firstly, I don’t write because I want to make a fortune. I write because I have to. When I got another rejection the other day, my first reaction was “I give up, what’s the point?” But I can’t give up. If I stopped writing, I’d go mad. These characters inside my head would keep screaming to get out until I wrote or I turned into a jabbering mess. Giving up is not an option. 

I don’t want to be rich. I just want to be read!

My second problem with the e-book ‘thing’ is that I’m not good at self-publicity and all the social networking that’s involved in getting an e-book out there. I’ve joined places like the Kindle Boards, I’m on Facebook and I Twitter, but would that be enough? The last thing I want is to put my book out as an e-book to see it sitting there, doing nothing. ‘The good books will rise to the top’ they say, but there are so many ‘not good’ books coming out, I don’t know if I have the energy to make mine swim.

My reasoning so far has been that if I put a book onto Kindle and it flops, I’ve lost it. It will never have the opportunity to be ‘published’ in the traditional way. If, however, it’s picked up by a publisher, it will more than likely come out as an e-book as well anyway. There's no doubt that e-books are the future. But that 'if' is so BIG!

Oh, it would be so much easier if I could just give up writing!


Gregory House said...

Okay Kate I understand exactly where you’re coming from. Epublishing is a big step the social networking which everyone advises takes a lot of time having done it for seven months so far I can attest to that and I haven’t even got a book out yet. However, and here is the big equivocation, however as you have no doubt already seen (if not have a look at a few of my blogs on the very human flaws of publishers) publishers are actually not very good at picking books that will sell or that might be really popular. Their track record for rejecting highly acclaimed authors is astounding. After all look at the large number of times JK Rowling got knocked back. I feel and very strongly at that, that both Australian agents and publishers are abysmal at supporting new authors, if you’re not already famous they’re just not interested. If you want to wait for agent or publisher approval for the quality of your work then I am afraid that it could be a very very long time, if ever. I would suggest that you wander over to Lexi’s blog and have a read of how she got published on kindle and what’s happened since. If you still doubt your work download her book and have a read. If your still unsure look around for a few author forums and spread your work around see what others really think? Sorry about the length but I’ve got very tired of writers being put down by marketing morons who would have a spark of creativity if you plugged them into power point.
Regards Greg

Clare said...

I feel for you on this one, Katie but my instinct is that your instinct is right and that you should hold out a bit longer for a print publisher to take up your MS.
Two full readings is a positive endorsement that you're on the right tracks but just haven't found the right time or the right publisher.
If you go by the Kindle route you will have the satisfaction of making your book available but you rightly question how you can market it so that people know it is available and choose to buy and read it?
I suspect that the few people who might succeed in gaining more than a handful of readers will be those people with abundant self-confidence (sometimes delusional!) and a willingness and ability to be pushy in marketing themselves. That doesn't strike me as something you would be happy with, Katie - you want your book to be read on its' merits and a publisher to do more of the marketing.
But I could be totally wrong because what I have just written is the course of action that would appeal to ME!
GOOD LUCK down whatever path leads you to publication!

Julia Hones said...

You may want to discuss the matter with those who have already published books and then follow your intuition. Good luck with your endeavor!

Kate said...

lol, See where my problem lies? I have three answers, all different, none of them wrong! How do I decide?

Greg, you're right that getting an agent or publisher in Australia seems impossible. But I do know people who have found publishers and they weren't famous at all beforehand. So I know it does happen. I haven't checked Lexi's blog yet, but I will.

Clare, I think you've picked exactly what my problem is. I'll keep trying, but I'll definitely keep the Kindle option open...though I suspect someone will manage to make even that harder to do in the future (note to self - stop being so pessimistic).

Julia, thanks. I'm definitely going to have to talk to those who've published either way. As I said, I'll keep my options open and decide from their experiences and what I know about me and my books.

Julia Hones said...

I have been thinking about you and your questions and I came up with an idea. Have you considered taking part in contests? They can pave the way to publication. Even if you don't win, you can get an honorary mention or something like that. Good luck. Keep writing about your challenges!

Kate said...

Thanks, Julia. Yes, a friend just entered a novel competition and actually won himself publication. I'll look into it.

Guy said...

It's possibly not as much of an 'either-or' situation as we generally think, Katie. Just because you release an ebook on Amazon DOESN'T preclude a print publisher from taking it up down the track. To my thinking there are two factors here.

1. How patient are you? You're already more patient than I am, but can you wait another 2-3-4 years to get somewhere with the traditional publishers? If the answer is yes, then I guess you should wait.

2. Could releasing one of your books (presumably Treespeaker) on Amazon actually benefit its chances of being published in print down the track? (Or, also, might it help with the publication of the other books?) This would depend on it selling well in that format of course.

As you know, my own ebook publishing experience has been fairly unsatisfactory in terms of sales (that was on Smashwords though, not Amazon), but I'm not 100% sure that publishing Treespeaker digitally will preclude it from being published in the traditional sense down the track. This line of thinking probably needs investigating, because if it doesn't count against you then you might as well do it.

Kate said...

Hi Guy, you may be right, but you're the only person I know who's had that chance of publishing the same book two (three?) ways. I've heard of Americans with huge e-book sales who have been approached, but can I get those sales?

I'm getting less and less patient, especially with three books ready. It feels like if I could just get one off the ground, things would start rolling. I'm definitely leaning towards putting a time limit on things...if I'm not published by xxx then I'll go to Kindle...but it's a gamble and I'm not good at gambling. :(

Emily Ward said...

Hello! I found your blog through Critique Circle forums, and I know how you feel. I don't have a polished novel to publish, but the idea of the immediacy (not having to wait a couple years for publication) as well as complete control over my work is very appealing.

Concerning self-publicity, I recently read on Amanda Hocking's blog that she doesn't actually do that much self-promotion. She has a twitter and a facebook. An internet presence, but she's not touting her books at every website she comes across.

I think if you can't handle rejections on the first one, then put it on Kindle, because the odds are it will get rejected before it gets accepted. But until you decide to submit it around or self-pub on Kindle, it won't do anything but sit and collect computer dust.

As for the other ones, that's up to you. There's a lot to think about - patience/time, rejections, self-promotion, etc. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

This is a tough decision, and it requires research and social networking. If you're afraid of a flop, you can always use a pseudonym, but then that requires separate social networking accounts with that name.

Kate said...

I did think about that Medeia, but that would just complicate things even more.
I'll keeo researching.

Anonymous said...

It's such a predicament isn't it? Of course, there is always self-publishing. Definently not for me...but some have had fantastic results with it.

Have you submitted to smaller presses? I know that's the only place I've had success.

Have you had friends read the complete manuscripts and give an honest opinion? This has been invaluable to me and has helped me clean up my stories. I actually rewrote the entire ending to my novel on a friend's suggestion with great results.

If you truly believe in your work I would NOT give up! Keep submitting. If you really want to be published then go the electronic route but be prepared to market yourself. Nothing wrong with that.

Best of luck to you!
Mella Reese

SlingWords aka Joan Reeves said...

Katie, I just have to chime in. I'll apologize in advance for being so long-winded. (In fact, I wrote so long I had to edit and cut to get the comment accepted. I think I'll post everything I had to say on one of my blogs.)

I don't know of any serious writer who writes with the goal of making a fortune. We all write because, quite simply, we want to be read.

Writing without publication is like acting without an audience. Sure you can do it, but where's the sense of accomplishment? Where's the satisfaction? I think this desire to reach readers is one of the driving forces behind indie publishing. Most indie publishers who are actually selling have tried to reach readers the traditional way, but it didn't work out.

I get the feeling that you think going the indie route is selling out or throwing in the towel, and the fear of failure - thinking that your work will languish without anyone buying it - is holding you back.

Guess what? You can publish a print book, and the book can languish as well. Then you get caught in publishing's death spiral. (Had to cut rest of this.)

Many of the indie authors who are succeeding are writers who followed the rules and tried it the traditional way for more years than they care to have lost. The end result is that they never could get a book in the publishing pipeline.

You see, it's not enough to write a good book. You also have to have luck on your side. Luck that your book reaches the right agent, and that the agent isn't in a bitch of a mood because they had a fight with their sig other that day.

Then the agent has to send it to the right editor. What you may not know is that agents establish relationships with editors at various houses. If your book would be embraced at House B, but the agent you chose doesn't work with any editors at House B, then she sends it to House A which never publishes that kind of book or they just contracted for that kind of book, etc.

The old networking way of doing business in the publishing industry can kill a good manuscript (rest deleted to fit).

There is so much you probably don't know about this business because you just haven't been offered the opportunity to be on the front lines of the writing/publishing war.

Luck. You either have it or you don't.

I have a friend who finaled in RWA's Golden Heart, whose mss. have been read by editors and received accolades and wonderful REJECTION letters. She never got a contract for those books. She tried for years!

Finally, she got a contract from Ellora's for a mss. that should have been snapped up by a big trad. publisher.

Now, she's self-publishing her other books, and they are wonderful. Check out Cynthia Wicklund on Kindle. Her Ellora book is there and her garden series starting with In the Garden of Temptation. All of those books should have been grabbed, but they weren't because she doesn't color inside the lines when writing romance.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that if you have a book you believe in, then put your belief to the test. Indie publish it. If 10 people buy it and think it's wonderful, then you have 10 confirmed fans who will buy everything you write.

Going the indie route doesn't mean you have to abandon the traditional publishing route. Do both! It doesn't have to be one or the other.

My last opinionated piece of advice is to start writing something new. Never stop writing because at least you're building inventory, and that's another reason indie writers who get "hot" do so: they have inventory to publish.

In the interest of full disclosure, yes, I'm going the indie publishing route because my work is like the square peg of romance, though I whittled away, I never could get it in that round pigeon hole. Like so many indie authors, I just can't color inside the lines.

Best wishes,
Joan Reeves

Kate said...

Mella, it has been critiqued twice on Critique Circle and a friend has been through it to check for errors and plot holes, so I'm pretty happy that it's ready to go.

Joan, wow, that was a thorough reply! You're right of course, the book is not getting anywhere sitting on my computer. I have to do SOMETHING with it. Still torn.