Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Hey all – I apologize for running late yet again with my blog post. I had a bit of mini-meltdown yesterday when I got caught up in the Hoarders marathon. After a few episodes, I totally started panicking about the dirty dishes in my sink…about the stack of mail on my kitchen table… that pile of clean clothes on my bed that I hadn't folded yet… OMG… is this how it all starts?? Even worse – I couldn't make myself turn away. I'd tell myself, just one more episode, Jen. One more, and then you'll go do something constructive. Yeah, didn't happen. I watched on and off…more on than off…all day. Needless to say, my refusal to do anything only added fuel to the small bonfire I had going.

By the end of the day, I was convinced I was a mini-Hoarder in the making!

*sound of major panic*

Okay…okay… I'm okay today, but yeah, my need to clean is overwhelming at this point. I'm not even staying at my apartment at the moment, and I still feel the need. I have a feeling I'll be making several trips over to clean. That place will be spic and span, with no one over there to enjoy it. LOL. Oh well – it will be great when I get back. (And for the record, it really isn't that bad. I know this. Yes. I know this.)

So…on to my topic. Self-publication.

I'm not really sure why I feel the need to talk about this. It's been on my mind for a while, though, so I guess it's as good a topic as any. The reason it comes to mind is that I can't tell you the number of people who have ventured into self-publication recently—both friends and strangers—goodness, it seems like everyone is heading down that road. I will admit that I don't know much about the why's behind this surge, but as always, I have an opinion about it all. (Someone recently put forth the expression – What would Hendren do? Gotta tell you. I liked it. (g)) So yeah, what would Hendren do?

To put it succinctly: Hendren wouldn't self-publish.

Now…I have my reasons. And honestly, I don't want to take away from anyone's decision to self-publish. Each of us has our own journey to make. What one writer decides to do isn't necessarily the right decision for anyone but him/herself. The fact that we have so many options—the traditional route with a large OR small publishing house… epublishing…self-publishing…free publications on the internet—is what makes writing at this particular point in time so very, very exciting.

That said, I do have my reasons as to why self-publication isn't something I would want to explore at this particular time.

First and foremost, I know myself too well. Too, too well. If you've finished a novel, you're going to know exactly what I'm talking about. Take a moment with me to reminisce, or imagine—whichever the case. You've started a book—it's beautiful, it's shiny—you're in love with your characters, your story, the experience of putting words to paper. You experience that high—you know the one. Pure elation at having created something from nothing. YOU ARE A GENIUS.

Then…then reality sets in. Holy shit! This is work. And hot damn, it's HARD. You want to give up. Who the heck were you fooling in thinking you could write a book?! This is madness. You should quit—erase your files, burn the hard copies… get out NOW before anyone finds out what you're doing and you make a complete fool of yourself.

But no, you push on…you stay up into the wee hours of the morning…you skip out on social events with friends, you feel ragged, burned out…you're unable to do anything but eat, sleep, and breathe your story. YOU MUST FINISH THIS DAMN THING OR BY GOD YOU WILL DIE TRYING!!! It isn't a labor of love at this point. It's a BIG OLE monkey on your back and you must make the pain end.

Then one day…miraculously…you finish! You type the words 'the end' and, if you're like me, you have a little Joan Wilder moment when you cry—partly in relief, partly in delirious happiness. You're like a new parent staring at a pile of perfection in your hands. Your book is PERFECT. There's never been a more perfect novel in all of history. You are a GENIUS and this book is going to be loved by all who read it.

Now…had I set out with the idea of self-publication when I reached this particular point in time, I can guarantee with every fiber of my being that I would've put that baby out there the very next day. Screw edits…screw revisions…I would want to get it between two covers ASAP so the world could see the brilliance that is me.


Time out, people. Doing something like that would've spelled HUGE disaster. Guarantee it. My book—that perfect baby in my arms—was a big ole' pile of dog poo.

So yeah…number one reason I wouldn't consider self-publication? My inability to think clearly during the headier moments of the writing process. There are days when I think everything I touch is brilliant. Then there are the days after that when I realize it all needs A LOT of work. I could very easily get caught up in the "good" days and wind up putting out a bunch of turds.

Related to this, I NEED someone to act as a go-between. Someone who will remind me that while my work may be GOOD…it still isn't GREAT. Someone who will work with me to make my books shine. Yes, I want/need an agent. Someone who knows the business, someone who gets just as excited, if not MORE excited, about my work than I do. I know the whole 'agent' thing can be scary. They're essentially gatekeepers who have a tremendous impact on the books hitting the shelves today. And boy, are they difficult to impress. That said, you'll never meet someone more enthusiastic about the publication business. They love good stories—they get excited just like we do when they come across a story that sparks their imaginations. Just think about how excited you get while talking about a book you truly loved. (I get GIDDY, and I want to tell everyone to read it.) Agents get to do that For A Living! An agent is your greatest advocate…your greatest critic…a partner who wants you to succeed. And by God, they're not going to let you ride your Joan Wilder high into the land of 'this book could've been great with a little editing…'

I need a back-up team. I need people who will comb through my book and find all of my grammatical snafus – people who will catch glaring plot holes or inconsistencies...people who have read Strunk & White…and yanno, understand it.

People who know what a gerund is.

In short, I need an editing team – an editor, copy editors…the whole she-bang. I can guarantee my "finished/polished" novel would be a big ole' hot mess, despite my best efforts. This doesn't even begin to highlight all of the people involved on the publishing house end of things—I certainly don't know them all. But these people publish books for a living – they know the business better than I ever will. Having them backing me would be an amazing blessing.

I have to admit that even if I were somehow magically able to control my Joan Wilder highs, even if I could somehow gain the knowledge necessary to make my work completely salable on my own, I'm still not sure I would self-publish. Why? Frankly, I think it's a little too easy.

Okay, I know, I know… finishing a book is not easy. NO WAY is it easy. But packaging up a book on your own and slapping it up for sale IS. And well, it kind of seems like everyone is jumping on that particular wagon as of late. Again, I'm not an expert, but I think we're going to see a massive influx of self-published books…and to put it bluntly, we won't know which end is up.

Think about it. Imagine yourself walking into your local bookstore. I don't know if this happens to you, but sometimes I feel like I'm on sensory overload. There are just SO MANY books on those shelves. So many choices…not enough time or space to house them all. Who do you go for when you're browsing? Simple… you go for the writers you know and trust. And if you're not looking for them, you're going for writers you recognize by name alone. Writers that have been recommended by friends. And if you're like me, you do the exact same thing when you're online. I get SO frustrated browsing on the internet… the pages upon pages of books…I skim, I don't pay much attention to writers I don't know well…and well, I again go for the writers I recognize.

Unless I KNEW the writer, I can't guarantee I would ever go for a self-published book. I know some people hate cover blurbs, but yes… I want to see them. I want to read reviews by people/sources I can trust. I need SOMETHING that lends to the idea that I'm not shelling out my hard-earned duckets for a big pile of dog poo. And yeah, I know that even with all of these green lights I may still not love a book—it's certainly happened enough times. That said, I'm still more willing to take a chance on an author who has the thumbs up from the publication establishment as a whole. Perhaps this will change in time, but I have to keep it real. This is where I'm at.

So..yeah, I'm curious about what you think. Would you/have you self-published? Why did you choose to do that rather than take the "traditional route"? What are the pros/cons from your viewpoint?

Your girl, Tuesday (just barely!), OUT.





  1. Great post Jen. I'm still on the fence with this, but that's mostly cos I'm a big chicken: I don't think I could market my own YA to kids without having a traditional publisher back me up. I just don't do public speaking! Otherwise, well, I might have hired a professional editor and published The Face of A Lion on Smashwords, etc. months ago.
    Just linked to this in my own wrap up of the issue...

  2. Great post, Jen. I agree with the lot.

    I guess the question it all comes down to is what you want the book to achieve. Do you want it on paper to make money? Self-publication is most assuredly not the way to go, if that's the case. Do you want it to reach an audience? Unless you have a particular niche in mind, I think self-publishing is unlikely to reach a broad or extensive range of people. Do you have a burning conviction that your work is good enough for the big leagues, but it's just being overlooked in the slush pile for reasons not your fault? If so, you'd better have a bloody deep wallet and a lot of time on your hands.

    One of the only self-publishing stories I can think of that turned into big success was Australian author Matthew Reilly, who borrowed money from his family to print 1000 copies of his first novel, Contest, and personally lobbied local bookstores to stock it. Four years later, the big leagues finally sat up and took notice, and Reilly is now a multi-million selling author of dozens of thrillers. What's even more amazing is that he was only 19 at the time he self-published the first book.

    These stories are a real rarity. I worked in a bookstore for four years while I was studying, and I don't even need one hand to count the number of successful self-published books I saw in that time. There were none.

  3. Great post, Jen. Your observations are spot-on.

    Another self-publishing success story is that of Christopher Paolini, author of the Inheritance Cycle of books - ERAGON (made into a movie by Fox), ELDEST and BRISINGR, with the fourth book due out later this year (I think).

    Paolini was only 15 year old when he wrote ERAGON, and self-published with the financial backing of his parents - and then went on a massive, exhaustive, book promotion/selling tour. Something like 135 schools and libraries. The book gained a bit of momentum, was picked up by a few stores, and was eventually spotted and picked up by the Knopf publishing house.

    So yeah, as Claire said, for self-publishing to be a financial success you need to have a pile of money to throw at the project and scads of time to promote it ... and I'd add you also need to have written a decent book in the first place. Oh, and then run into a little bit of luck.

    Very hard to do, in other words,

  4. That's just it - it's all the marketing that has to be done... I don't think I'm up for doing that all on my own. Not to mention, I'm a writer, not a bookseller, shipper, accountant or what have you :-) It's work enough to concentrate on the writing and editing.