Patience: To Self Publish or Not?

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When it comes to writing and getting published, patience is indeed a virtue.

I know I may make some people angry by writing about this. If you’re one of them (or even if you’re not!) feel free to jump in with your own thoughts. I’ll listen. But my hope in writing about this topic is not to annoy or depress, but to help those of you who want to get published to actually get published–one way or another.

There has been a huge rise in self publishing over the past decade. HUGE! I could get into all the pros and cons of self-publishing, but that would take more space than I have here so I’ll simply say that the two major cons are 1) the author generally pays the publisher rather than the other way around and 2) the author does all or nearly all of his or her own promotion and distribution. (That said, I’ve mentioned lulu before as a self-publisher that does not suck the writer dry, and I still think they’re a pretty good company. For an excellent article weighing the pros and cons in detail click here).

Why the rush to self-publish? In my opinion, it has quite a bit to do with patience — or the lack of it. This topic was discussed recently on one of my published authors’ email loops, and it started me thinking. The authors chatted about how we started out. Nearly all of us wrote an entire manuscript, then had others read and comment. Then we revised our manuscripts, often tossing half the original pages away. Then we solicited more comments, revised again, and on and on until we’d created books that were as near to perfection as we could possibly make them. During this process, some of us took classes to learn how to perfect our writing skills or our storytelling ability. Then we began the painstaking search for an agent, sending out twenty, thirty, forty or more carefully crafted query letters at a time. We collected rejection letters and started the cycle all over again until we finally hit the right agent who was intrigued by our particular story and who just happened to get out of bed on the right side that morning. Then–most likely–the cycle of rejection started all over again (this time by the publishing houses) as our agents sent the manuscripts out to various editors. More feedback was collected and we went back to the drawing board–or rather, the computer keyboard–to revise once more.

I can’t help feeling that many writers today, anxious to see their manuscript bound and available on Amazon, are rushing the process. My heart goes out to them; it truly does. As someone who started a book in 1981 and didn’t see it on the bookstore shelves until 1989, I get it. I may have turned to a self-publishing company myself had they been so easily available back then. But where would I be now? Would I be making a living as a novelist? I doubt it, and frankly, that, along with a yearning to entertain, was part of my goal.

Maybe that’s not your goal, however, and that’s what you need to figure out. What is it you’re hoping to accomplish? If you’re on the fence, debating whether or not to go the self publishing route, ask yourself these questions: Have I taken to heart the critique of my friends and mentors and worked and reworked my manuscript to make it the best story I can produce–with the best grammar and punctuation it deserves–and still can’t “get published”? Have I queried, through the appropriate channels (educate yourself as to what those channels are!), at least forty agents and listened carefully to their feedback? Is the most important thing to me to make my book available for others to read, regardless of how poor the distribution of that book may be? Am I willing to do the lion’s share of promotion myself? If you can answer “yes” to all these questions, then self-publishing may indeed be the right answer for you (and there are indeed writers who have been “discovered” when their self-pubbed books suddenly caught fire. Not easy and not often, but it has happened).  But if even one of those questions received a “no,” then please, fellow writers, have patience.

I’d love from those of you who have self-published successfully and how you made that decision, as well as from those of you still on the fence. I know that must be a mighty uncomfortable place to be! 

 

18 Comments

  1. Margo on April 8, 2009 at 8:17 am

    I’m not a writer so won’t comment on the publishing question. I WILL comment on this adorable photo tho…Diane I LOVE the patience of this Golden. Could this possibly be a photo by John?

  2. Diane Chamberlain on April 8, 2009 at 11:04 am

    Not a John pic, Margo. I’ll always give him credit if I use one of his. But I loved this stock image of the golden and thought it perfectly represented patience. I miss my goldens! I loved my Bernese Mountain Dog and I love my shelties, but I have to say that my three goldens were more like having people in the house than dogs. They were so smart and cuddly! They were also too big and rambunctious for someone with RA to manage, which is why I’ve downsized. Shelties are perfect size wise, and sweet in their own way, but when I see a golden on the street, I always ask the owner if I can have a “golden fix” and get in a good cuddle!

  3. Margo on April 8, 2009 at 11:53 am

    I’ve never had a Golden but I’ve heard how gentle and wonderful they are. Growing up on an acreage we had collies and usually 5-6 of them (they all looked like Lassie…1 of them was HUGE and looked more like a lion)…also had 1 Irish setter. Gary had a gorgeous German Shepherd when I married him…later we rescued our 2 beloved bulldogs and now are sweet and beloved Kramer who is an Australian Blue Heeler.
    One day I’m sure we will rescue a Golden…maybe sooner than you think…we’ve lately thought about adopting another shelter dog for Kramer to play with. We’re a little undecided since he’s now 14 and wants our full attention. (-O:

  4. Margo on April 8, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    Diane, are you still taking title suggestions for your new WIP?…I’ve thought of some more titles:
    IN MY SISTER’S ARMS
    SWEPT AWAY
    WHISPER’S ON THE COAST
    GENTLY THROUGH THE FOREST
    A GLIMPSE OF BLUE

  5. brenda on April 8, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    Diane-what about those who are one hit wonders? Maybe that would be one reason…or someone who just wants to see his/her name on a book cover…certainly not someone making a living.
    As to the covers on books-the other topic…I had never heard of Diane…never…and I am an avid reader…I blame the bookstores and the libraries!!! One of my members of my Baby Boomer’s Book Club (my own private online bookclub-with about l0 members) suggested Keeper to us…we fell in love–I immediately bought all of her books-some at the bookstore-some from YOU …(here I am going from you to her-sorry…)
    I LOVED it asap…

  6. brenda on April 8, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    Okay-I have tried not to say this: I can’t stand it…here goes-no offense to anyone…I am so so so tired of picking up books by authors who are FAMOUS…and wondering WHO WROTE THIS??? Are some of these FAMOUS authors using ghost writers? No names…Also–why why do they have to have a plethora of stories in one book? Why not use some of the plots for others? I am so so so tired of a million voices in one book. I do not mean a few..or members of a family-and friends-if the PLOT is cohesive…also-I started two books over the weekend like this: I pick up a book. I walk to the store. My friend talks to me…present person…OKAY-thanks for listening-driving me crazy…
    AUTHORS must realize if it is not broken-do not fix it…
    Diane-thank goodness when I read one of your books I UNDERSTAND it easily. I am entertained…I think…I don’t understand this…I am not alone-many of my friends where I live and online-email-agree.

  7. Lindsay on April 8, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    I’ve been lurking again… but this was a topic I just had to comment on.
    I’ve mentioned before that I write, but only when my muse lets me 🙂 Which hasn’t been since January now and before that it was years.
    Anyway I have one finished first draft manuscript and I love the novel and the characters. I went through and edited it and wrote in another significant event but I have been horrible at typing up the second draft. I need to cut it down A LOT. it’s ridiculously long but I struggle with what story points to cut because I love them all.
    I’ve been thinking about returning to the story this summer and seeing if I can get the second draft printed off by the fall.
    Originally I posted the story on a website called fictionpress.com. It was the site that sort of re-introduced me to my love of writing in my second year of university.
    I’ve taken this story off the site due to copyright concerns, but I do have other incomplete writings posted that I just write for fun. I have some of the chapters of my finished manuscript on a private lj but not all.
    I have in the past considered lulu as it’s been recommended to me. One of the authors I ‘met’ on fictionpress actually self published and I’m proud to have her novel on my bookshelf. I would love to get published without having to self publish but at this point in my life I don’t seem to be willing to do the work to get published either way. Maybe one day.

  8. Diane Chamberlain on April 8, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    Margo, you were so lucky to grow up with a houseful of dogs! I don’t know how Kramer would take to sharing you with a golden, though. Is he playful with other dogs? He’d either love it or hate it.
    Brenda, it sounds like you’re very frustrated with some writers. As you know, I write from many points of view in my books (although my current work in progress has only TWO. Not sure how that happened.). What makes the difference for you between multiple POVS you mind and those you don’t? I did recently read a book with way too many POVs for my taste. I never felt as though I got to really know any of the characters and had trouble keeping them straight, and it definitely sapped some of the joy from the story for me. This was from a writer I ordinarily enjoy very much.

  9. Diane Chamberlain on April 8, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    Lindsay, thanks for sharing your experience with writing. It sounds like your muse visits you quite nicely from time to time. It also sounds like the buisness part of writing is not what you want to be doing. That’s an interesting point and makes me wonder if that’s another reason why many people end up self-publishing: it saves them a lot of hassle. Again, I think it boils down to the writer’s goal: a career in writing versus publishing a book that will most likely have limited exposure. I like that you know yourself so well. At this point in your life, it seems as though you want to write for the joy of writing. Good for you!
    I’m not familiar with fictionpress, but I’d be concerned about sharing my work on a public site because, while the writing is copyrighted, the ideas are not. Even if no one actually “steals” another person’s idea, there are only so many storylines floating in the ether out there, and it’s easy to THINK that your idea has been stolen and that’s a very disconcerting feeling. I don’t mean just yours, Lindsay, but all writers’ ideas. I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen one of “my” ideas appear in someone else’s book or on the movie screen. I know it’s coincidence, but I don’t ever want to be in the position where I wonder if someone has lifted one of my ideas. This is why I no longer read other people’s manuscripts and also why I don’t judge writing contests.

  10. Lindsay on April 8, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    Yes, that’s moreso my concern with this manuscript. My other writings are pretty juvenile and fluff pieces that are pretty standard whereas my finished work is more original and has a lot more depth to it then anything else i’ve written.
    Talking about it on here just may inspire me to get my butt in gear and do something about the much needed 3rd edit of the writing 🙂 Hopefully, anyway.

  11. Margo on April 9, 2009 at 8:30 am

    Diane, Kramer is not around other dogs except when we take him to the lake for a walk…when he sees other doggies he acts excited but also on his guard so at this point in is life it’s probably not a good idea to bring another doggie into the home. Kramer is very, very protective of us and his home…he loves people but other animals, not so much. I think Gary & are going to wait on rescuing another one for now.
    Diane, have you decided if we are to still submit title ideas for your WIP?…I listed a few more above but maybe you’ve chosen one already?

  12. Diane Chamberlain on April 9, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    Margo, I think you’re wise to wait on the new pup and give Kramer all the time and attention and loving he deserves.
    As for titles, you all gave me a LOT of great food for thought, but I ultimately decided to stick with THE LIES WE TOLD. That may change over time, but right now, it works.
    Lindsay, you’re approaching this so wisely–taking your time and revising, revising, revising!

  13. Margo on April 9, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    Diane, that’s exactly what Gary and I finally decided…Kramer is absolutely 1 of the happiest dogs I’ve ever seen and not to brag, but I think it’s because he’s never had a home where he’s loved so much…we shower him with affection and attention and he truly deserves it. I know his previous life was not good and if these last 3 years and however many more we can give him are the best for him, because he’s #1 in our house, then that’s something to celebrate in our book! I know he’d be sad to have to share us with another doggie so we know we’re doing the right thing. We’re so blessed to have our ‘heeler’! (-O:
    I love your title Diane…

  14. brenda on April 10, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    Diane-one easy answer…what frustrates me is when the stories of each character (told from his/her viewpoint) has nothing what so ever to do with the theme/plot of the book. I don’t want to mention the couple of authors–I waited for these books forever…to be released…then just about had a fit. I am a patient, kind, faithful fan of so many writers-but this is terrible…your characters-their voices…they connect…somewhere in your books.

  15. brenda on April 10, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    Diane-also–I agree with you “I never knew the characters well.” WE love your characters…we get to know them…we remember them…that is difficult to with some of the books that are coming out now–it is as if the author (authors) wants to tell so many stories in one book.
    I like YOUR TITLE by the way…

  16. Margo on April 11, 2009 at 10:43 am

    I agree Brenda…I remember Diane’s characters as if they were my next door neighbor…books I read ages ago and I still remember the names Diane gave them!…I connect with her people.
    Also, I love Diane’s title too..it has a good ring to it.
    Happy Easter everyone.

  17. Cerise on April 13, 2009 at 10:44 am

    Bonjour,
    Je suis en train de relire votre série de livres sur Kiss River et vraiment je les adore ! J’aime tous vos livres d’ailleurs.
    Je viens de découvrir votre blog, et je venais juste vous dire un petit bonjour de France.
    Cerise

  18. Diane Chamberlain on April 13, 2009 at 11:02 am

    Merci, Cerise. I love hearing from my French readers, and I’m so glad you’re enjoying the Keeper of the Light trilogy!

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