The comments have already begun:
“Are you nuts?”
“You’ll kill your career.”
“No one will ever take you seriously now.”
Believe me, I’ve thought all of those arguments and more. There are a lot of authors balancing on that mid-point of the see-saw between traditional publishing and self-publishing. A lot of bookstores are, too. A woman I know who runs an independent bookstore told me that she loves to support self-published authors, but . . .
“The only problem is that you’d can’t be sure of what you’re going to get with a self-published author,” she said (which is why she sells those books on consignment). “There’s no guarantee of quality. Some of them don’t bother to really learn how to write nor do they care to, which is a slap in the face to those who do.” She shrugged. “Then again,” she added with a laugh. “There are plenty of traditionally published authors who I don’t think are very good, either.”
It’s every writers dream to be discovered by a good agent and snatched up by a big name publisher. We all want to be <insert name of author here>. (For me it’s either Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, although I’d settle for just being me except with their paycheck.)
I’ve gone the standard route and have five books to show for it. Four are media spin-off novels I did back in the 90s (two Star Trek, a Quantum Leap, and an Earth 2), and my collection of short fiction (“Darling Wendy and Other Stories”) was published through the auspices of Seventh Circle Books, a small press in New York City that I’m sad to say has (for now) gone the way of the dodo.
I’ve tried very hard to sell my latest fantasy novel, WEATHERCOCK. Contacted a lot of agents, wrote a lot of letters, agonized over a lot of synopses, all to no avail. On my more cynical days, I’d think “Well, that’s because there aren’t any zombies or vampires in it.” (Is anyone else tired of that trend? I mean, my God, people. There ARE other things to read/write about!) On my less cynical days, I poured over the manuscript (and my letters and synopses) with a hypercritical eye. Still nothing.
Some years back, I tried to sell an early version of the book. “Bad” as it was (and I shudder now to think that I sent it out, let alone that it might have seen print), it gained this response from an editor at Warner:
“This manuscript is better than 95% of what I see – the male/female subject turned on its head is well handled, and the characters and writing are both strong. . . . My compliments to Ms. Crandall, though, and I’m sorry I can’t make an offer.”
And that was for an older, less well-thought-out version.
I think you can understand my frustration, then, at being unable to sell (now) a manuscript that is, in all ways, superior from that ragged step-child of years before. Most editors I heard from were, at least, willing to offer advice on how to improve the work, and I appreciated each remark, took every comment to heart, and tried to look at the book through their eyes. I have to say, many of them were spot-on in their criticism and the current book is the better for it. So, thank you to each of them.
But things change. How publishing works. The market itself. What sells. What doesn’t. What’s hot and what’s not. At any rate, it looked as though WEATHERCOCK’s future was destined to be shut away in a dingy trunk in an attic crawl space.
And then I thought — well, why not? There’s certainly precedence:
Margaret Atwood. Alexander Dumas. Terry McMillan. Edgar Allen Poe. Pat Conroy. Virginia Woolf. Deepak Chopra. (The list goes on — check out bookmarket.com.) There are some pretty big names out there who started out believing in their work enough to put their money behind it. Who says I can’t be one of them?
So that’s what I’ve done. With the help of some very good people (among them my husband Ed, friend Pam, and fellow writers M.J. Allaire and Ryan Twomey) the dream will soon be reality. I believe too firmly in this book to let it die. I believe in the story it tells, the mirror it holds up to our own word.
And finally, at last, I believe in myself.