Tag Archives: fiction writers

The Decision to Self-publish: A Terrifying Leap

The blogosphere is rife with essays about the war between traditional and self-publishers and the internecine feud among self-publishers, who belittle other writers and publishers alike. Everybody is mad at someone. Public venting may make some people feel better, but it demeans us all.

I left a comment on one of these posts stating those who say self-published writers have a choice is a little like saying I chose the over-40 basketball league at the local gym over the NBA. The NBA wasn’t offering a contract, even when I was 21-years-old and in peak physical condition. Upon further reflection, this comment missed the mark.

Most self-published authors have four basic choices:

Option 1: Keep pitching your book to agents, knowing each rejection chips away at your self-confidence.

Option 2: Work hard to improve your manuscript and then renew your efforts to pitch your work to agents.

Option 3: Consider self-publishing on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or the other popular e-book platforms.

Option 4: Abandon your novel and move on to a new project.

Most writers pursue Options 1 and 2 with vigor, but as time stretches from months to years without success, they move from Option 2 to Option 3. Having been through that thought process, I found the self-publishing option terrifying to me. It’s like the feeling I got the first time I dove off the high diving board. Don’t look down. Take a deep breath and just do it. The idea that my work would be out there for anyone to criticize was scary enough. The stigma associated with self-publishing (though that is changing) also gave me pause. The lack of a strong platform was an equally daunting thought.

I agonized over my decision. If you are facing a similar decision, here are some considerations:

Age. For an older writer, the self-publishing option may be appealing because time is not on your side. If I was 20 years younger (or even 10 years younger), I would be willing to wait up to 10 years to secure an agent and a publishing contract. As a writer in my mid-50’s, I don’t have time to wait. I want to write more novels. I may decide to shop these novels to an agent, depending on the marketability of the story and the quality of the writing. Or I may self-publish.

Genre. If you are writing Young Adult, Science Fiction, Romance, or Mystery, and you have a strong manuscript, you have a shot at publication. It’s a long shot, but an agent is going to pay attention to a strong pitch followed by an engaging sample. If you write family sagas like me, the odds are really against you.

Skill level. Some writers are ready for prime time, but maybe their book is the wrong vehicle or it doesn’t showcase their talents. These writers should keep at it and try to get published. Novice writers shouldn’t pursue traditional or self-publishing until they have honed their craft.

Tolerance for rejection. Writers must have a thick skin. Simply put, if you have no tolerance for rejection, traditional publishing may not be for you. However, that doesn’t mean you can take short-cuts in your desire to self-publish your book. Self-published books require the same level of editing, proofreading, outside review and due diligence as traditionally published books, if not more.

Marketing platform. Some self-published authors are not great writers, but they sell tons of books because they are expert marketers. Social media guru Jane Friedman has cautioned self-published writers not to publish their books until they have built a substantial platform. This calls to mind the axiom, “If a tree falls in the woods and there’s nobody around to hear it, does it make a sound?” A writer with a strong platform and lots of followers on social media is in a good position to self-publish.

Productivity/staying power. Are you a one-trick pony or do you have many novels in you? A lot of people wonder how Amanda Hocking achieved her astounding success at self-publishing. She worked extremely hard, pumping out novel after novel. She was prolific at writing and platform-building. Writers must ask: am I in this for the long haul? Am I willing to put my heart and soul into this? (Sorry, I must have turned off the cliche-checker today).

Self-publishing is a choice, but it is far from an easy one.

What considerations do you weigh when you are thinking about self-publishing?


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Linsanity! Lessons for Writers

By now, most Americans have heard about basketball star Jeremy Lin. He was signed to a contract by the New York Knicks last December after being cut from two other NBA teams, the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets. Lin was assigned to the Knicks’ NBA Development League (D-league) team, the Erie BayHawks. On January 20, he scored 28 points and handed out 12 assists for the BayHawks. The Knicks called him up shortly after that.

At the time, the Knicks were reeling. Knicks stars Carmelo Anthony went down with an injury and Amar’e Stoudemire left the team on bereavement leave after his brother’s death. Guard Baron Davis, brought in to bolster the backcourt, was still recovering from a serious back injury. Out of desperation, Coach Mike D’Antoni inserted Lin into the starting line-up. Lin sparked a five-game winning streak with his inspired play and won the hearts of New Yorkers, who are among the most discriminating basketball fans in the world. Within days, ‘Linsanity’ swept the nation. In a nationally televised game, Lin led the Knicks to a win over the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks.

Okay, that’s great, but what does Lin’s meteoric rise have to do with fiction writers? In a word, it teaches writers about perseverance. Lin has been told for his whole life that he was not good enough. Coming out of high school in the Bay Area, Lin received no scholarship offers. He sent his resume and a DVD to a number of Ivy League and Pac 10 schools. He got two offers, from Harvard and Brown. He chose Harvard, but Ivy League schools don’t offer athletic scholarships. When they saw him, Harvard’s coaches were not impressed. Lin steadily improved over the course of four years at Harvard. In his senior year, he averaged 16 points and 4.5 assists per game. He was a finalist for the prestigious Bob Cousy Award. More importantly he graduated from Harvard with a 3.1 grade point average and a degree in economics.

He was not drafted by any NBA team, but won a contract as a walk-on with the Warriors. He was assigned to the Warriors’ D-league team three times during his rookie season and the Warriors placed him on waivers the next season. The Houston Rockets claimed Lin, but they already had three guards signed to contracts and when they had an opportunity to sign another player, the Rockets cut Lin loose.

The Knicks claimed Lin off waivers on December 27, 2011 when rookie guard Iman Shumpert was injured. When he was called up in late January, Lin was so nervous about being cut he asked the team chaplain to say a prayer for him.

Why do I mention Lin’s many stops on his way to fame with the Knicks? He could have quit at any time. With a degree in economics from Harvard, Lin was surely looking at a promising future, but he never gave up on his dream of being a professional basketball player. Imagine playing for three different teams, being sent down to the D-league four times in two years, and still not giving up?

Lin is an inspiration to all, but his journey should provide hope to all writers. Pursue your dream with the same passion and determination Lin has shown. You never know.

Who has inspired you as a writer?


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