You would think that after self-publishing thirteen books that I’d have the hang of everything and know exactly what I’d like to do with my career. Unfortunately most days, that’s not the case. I still struggle with making the right decisions. Part of this comes from being a perfectionist, but most of it comes from letting go of the old way of doing things. (Or trying to at least.) When you spend a lot of years working one way, it’s hard to shift gears and move in another direction.
When I started writing seriously, which was twelve years ago almost to the month, there was a set way of doing things. You wrote your book, sent it to critique partners, made the suggested edits, then either queried agents or sent the manuscript directly to the publisher. It wasn’t particularly fun–I haven’t had the best of luck when it comes to agents–and the wait times were LONG. Months and months and months of waiting to hear back from various people. Most of the time you were just waiting to hear that your book had been rejected. This happened to me yesterday, but I was genuinely grateful that the agent got back to me because these days a lot of them don’t. I appreciate that she took the time to write me. Publishing twelve years ago was also a really exciting time, when you got the news that your book sold and you eventually walked into a store and saw it on a shelf. Let me tell you, nothing beats that thrill.
When self-publishing came along, I was at a place in my career where I could take advantage of the opportunities. I had been selling a bunch of short stories/novellas, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I had a LOT of backlist titles that I had the rights to or could get rights on quickly. I acted fairly quickly (should’ve done so sooner), which automatically gave me a backlist. Now that I’ve been doing this for a few years, I find it’s a kind of double-edged sword. I love the fact that for the first time in my writing career I’m actually making a living. The first nine and a half years, I did not. Not even close. Part of that was my fault. I didn’t know what I wanted to write. (I still have that problem, but I’m better at hiding it these days.;) I wrote in genres that I didn’t particularly care to write in. I was following my agent’s advice and not listening to my instincts. This went on for over two and a half years. I finally reached the point where I had to leave or quit writing. I left.
Now the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction. I now have a tremendous amount of freedom to write in whatever genre I want. This is both good and bad, when you’re a writer like me who has a lot of different interests. It can leave me scattered and give readers whiplash. I don’t want to do that…anymore, so I’ve put together a writing schedule and carefully chosen the projects to work on. Taking responsibility for my career is both exciting and terrifying. It’s also exhausting. It makes me realize that there are certain projects that I have that would probably work better with traditional publishing. This is especially the case with my YA. But it also leaves me in a position where I can no longer settle for ‘okay’ book deals. I think there are probably a lot of authors in the same boat. Some of the work would be better suited for traditional publishing (not digital first publishing), while the majority works well with self-publishing.
I think the first company that comes up with a way to work with authors like me–like us–will make a small fortune. In the meantime, I’ll keep forging ahead.