With my friend Becky, about six months ago.Â My summation:Â “I dunno.Â I think if I couldn’t get published traditionally, I’d have to take a good, hard look at my work.”
With my writing group, Wednesday night.Â My summation: “I think it’s a path to publication that is opening up for some people, like bloggers and celebrities and other people with existing platforms.Â But I personally would not do it.”
With Mark, last night.Â My summation: “It’s not the worst idea.”
All this is to say that my attitude toward self-pubbing is rapidly opening up.Â Which I don’t think is because I’m crazy, or because I haven’t found an agent yet.Â I think it’s because between the blogs and the e-readers and the bestselling books based on Twitter feeds, we’re reaching a sort of inflection point.Â Things are changing.Â For some writers, they already have.
Now, I am not anywhere near ready to comb through the Lulu terms of service yet.Â But, Mark and I did have another “what would we do if the book didn’t sell” conversation last night.Â It seemed to me that there were two possible paths: (1) write another book, and hope that when it sold, it would pull this one along with it in a package deal and (2) self-pub.
Just for the hell of it, we talked about how to chart a course down Path #2.Â “What if I released it as a blog?” I asked.Â “A chapter a week, for about a year.Â And if you want to read the whole thing right now, you can buy a self-pubbed copy?”
Mark liked it.Â It tied into that whole giving-your-stuff-away-for-free ethos that is such a big part of the web.Â “You could be, like, the Jonathan Coulton of cozy mysteries.”
“But my audience isn’t all that webby,” I pointed out.Â “It’s entirely female, and I’m not really sure it’s necessarily the youngest, most tech savvy females.Â My audience properly includes my mom.Â My mom is never going to read a book online.”
“And here’s the real kicker.Â I’d be risking not just this book, I’d be risking the entire series.Â If my book didn’t take off for any reason, I’d never get it, or any of the sequels I intend to write, picked up by a traditional publisher.Â I’m not saying I can’t come up with another idea.Â I’m just saying, I’ve got plans I don’t want to torpedo on a whim.”
And yet… the idea still held some appeal.Â It was new, it was sexy, and it involved higher royalties.Â So when I got home, I looked up “serialized online novels.”Â And it turns out that, yes, this is a thing that is done.Â And is it successful?Â Sometimes.
The really successful serialized books I found were in the horror genre, i.e., they had a primarily young, primarily male audience.Â And it’s hard, honestly, for me to know how successful they really were.Â Which brings up the whole question: what is success?Â How do you define it?
I used to define it as having a book published that was critically acclaimed.Â Now I couldn’t care less about that last clause (well, I could care less, just not a lot). But I think that for me success still entails a presence on a bookstore shelf.Â Which probably means publication, traditional publication.
So that is what I’m pursuing.Â But I’ll be honest: the idea of self-publication still does have its appeal.Â On the one hand, everything would be on me: the editing, the marketing, et al.Â And on the other hand, everything would be on me.Â It would be my baby, start to finish.Â I could get started today, and if I didn’t get my feet under me immediately that would be ok, because there’s no one I’d ever have to get approval from.