Welcome to my little writing home, Scott Cyre!
I hope you’ll enjoy this insightful guest post from my talented friend. Scott and I go way back… to 2014 when we met in a small creative writing class that felt like a boot camp. We put our hearts on the page, and then shot up some prayers for that tiny circle of writers to hear us and help mold us into stronger writers. Scott made us all crack up and whisked us away to a fantasy land he’s spent years crafting.
THE LABOR OF BIRTHING A BOOK
Writing is medicine and books hold the cure for what ails the world. Pithy little sentence, I suppose. Hallmark’s probably coming to get my permission now.
If you have ever thought about writing a book, I understand. It’s the psychological equivalent of placing your tongue on a frozen flagpole. Once the idea gets stuck in your head, that’s it!
Every year for nine years, I gave a pound of flesh to the voices in my head, trying to write a novel. Well, honestly, it probably equated to a quarter-pound, but it still came out of my flesh.
A few of you will take this rather morbid idea of writing a book to heart and actually do it. That means you have a decision to make:
Do I want to publish this thing?
If you’ve never written one before, that question might seem silly. “Why else would I chain myself to a desk/table/kitchen counter/toilet for years on end?” But once you have a full manuscript in your hand, you begin to realize the monumental work still ahead of you.
Getting a book published feels a lot like a 13-hour labor with a 13-pound baby.
First bit of business on the table: Traditional publishing or self-publishing?
Both paths require tremendous amounts of work. Millions of authors and would-be authors (sometimes called agents) have plenty of advice—reliable and otherwise—on the topic of how to give your baby away to the fat-cat, cigar-chewing publishing houses, or how to peddle your book Maverick style, a DIY journey into hell.
If you think I can tell you which path to take, then think again.
What did I do? I self-published. I decided I desire masochism more than the smell of power suits and stale board rooms. Looking back on it all, I will say that each path presents profit and punishment.
PUBLISHING: ORIGINAL OR EXTRA CRISPY?
I do have a few aha moments to offer from the ordeal. These observations come from my vast experience and track record: ONE self-published book at Amazon. Think about publishing like going to Kentucky Fried Chicken (minus the good food). You’ve got choices to make people: drive-thru or dine-in, original or extra crispy, and of course, cash or credit. Here’s what you should know:
1) Traditional publishing takes a long time. Most industry experts advise it takes two to three years from the date you sign a contract until the day a book hits the shelves.
2) You need an agent if you want to work with a big publishing house. Writers send an astronomical volume of literary material to publishers like Doubleday, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster, and it all ends up in landfills and recycle plants. Get an agent to do your bidding. If a smaller, independent-style publishing house agrees with you, you may still need an agent, depending on your genre.
3) Self-publishing is easy. However, successful self-publishing (the art of selling more than three dozen books) is hard. Why? Because you have chosen to do absolutely everything that an agent and a publisher normally do on your behalf.
4) The path an author chooses depends largely on the degree of control an author wishes to keep during the publishing process. If you need everything your way or the highway, do yourself and the literary world a favor: self-publish.
Okay, so that concludes my “life-altering” revelations. Really, I wanted permission to say this: original or extra crispy is a preference, nothing more. Evaluate all the possible paths as best you can and give it a shot. The only guarantee: failure. And let me tell you, life is a better teacher than I’ll ever be. Give yourself the freedom to make a bad choice. You’ll recover, I promise.
THE BIG-BOTTOMED LINE
The real question, the one I started off asking (or at least intended to) is this:
Should I really publish my book?
The answer assumes you have written something special to you. If you emptied yourself, bared your frailty, crafted light in the darkness, toppled governments and distant worlds, forged a smoldering romance, or made yourself laugh out loud, then the only answer is yes, yes, yes. Writing done right connects the ideas of an author with the hearts and minds of a reader. To put words on paper only for yourself is akin to finding a cure for cancer and drinking the whole vial before anybody knows about your discovery.
Therefore, it’s my less than humble opinion that half the power in writing is in the publishing. Once you find the cure, you must share it with others.