Okay, that’s a bit dramatic. I really do need opinions, though. I’m facing an important decision about something that matters a great deal to me. So naturally, I’m seeking advice from the internet.
Many years ago, I wrote a children’s book (my first book ever, in fact.) It was called “Astray: the Puppy Who Needed a Name,” and was (if I say so myself) a funny and heartwarming tale. I tried mightily to secure mainstream publication for it. I submitted the manuscript and my query letter to some 35 publishers and agents.
The result? Thirty-five rejections.
Most were form letters, a few actually included some words of encouragement (usually along the lines of “this is well-written, but it doesn’t fit our needs at this time…”) I still have those letters somewhere. Yes, they were actual letters. All this took place in the pre-Kindle, pre-Amazon Dark Ages of the late 1990s.
Fast forward to today. I’ve self-published 4 mystery novels and 1 essay collection – but I’ve never quite forgotten about that children’s book.
A few months ago, I revisited it. Trimmed extraneous scenes, tightened up the dialog and the pacing. I still like it a lot. I renamed it “Astray and the Shelter Dogs,” and submitted the manuscript to several agents, again trying to find a mainstream publisher.
The results? Again, so far, all rejections. (I just get form emails instead of form letters now.)
I’m wondering if I should keep shopping the manuscript around, hoping mainstream publication, or if I should self-publish again.
Self-publishing is fine – nothing to apologize for or be ashamed of. I know that. I work as hard on my manuscripts (and rewrite crappy sentences just as often!) as any mainstream author. But when I tell people I’m a writer, and they ask who my publisher is, and I say I’m self-published, the reaction is always the same:
A split-second hesitation and then a knowing “oh.” Often followed by a too-enthusiastic “That’s great! And hey, at least you’re doing it!”
On the one hand, self-publishing would give me total control over the project, control I’d cede to a mainstream publisher (if I ever got one.) That’s especially important with illustrations. Come to think of it, I love the covers of my 4 mysteries, but I never could have used them with a mainstream publisher. They would have chosen and directed the illustrator, not me.
On the other hand, I still have that dream. Random House or Penguin-Putnam. My titles on sale at every Barnes & Noble in the country. Doing book signings where people don’t mistake my table for an information desk or avoid making eye contact as they hurry by. Validation. Ego boost. The feeling that I’m a REAL writer at last.
It’s not about money. Perhaps it was, once, but I’ve both wised up and changed. There’s no money to be made in this, and anyway, I don’t write for the money. I write because I have to, full stop. And now that I work from home and set my own hours, I even have more time to devote to it.
So there’s my choice: 1) self-publish and get this book I really love out there while keeping control of the process, or 2) keep tilting at the windmill of mainstream publication and hope it happens someday?
My own opinion changes day to day, and sometimes even hour to hour. What’s yours? Please leave a comment and help this indecisive would-be author make up her mind!