October 19, 2011

Decisions, and publishing, and why I'm in a muddle...

Ok, I swear, I'm not trying to be all kiss-the-teacher's-butt here. I just really want to talk through an issue for a few, and my teacher happens to be the launch point.

(For the record, it feels REALLY WEIRD to say/type the words "my teacher" again.  Seriously. It's been nine years since I last had a teacher.)

Anyway, the teacher of the class I am taking is the fabulous Jenny Milchman, and one reason I call her fabulous is because she uses her own blog, her own real estate on the Internets, to allow other authors to post about their "Made It Moments."  You know, those moments when they looked around and said, "Man. I am writer. Hear me roar."  She's been adamant that you don't have to be a traditionally published author (i.e. agented, published by a big-time house with a big advance and tons of royalties) to have "made it," and today she stood by that statement by posting a Made It Moment for a guy named Scott Armstrong whose first book, independently published via Create Space, comes out today.

Did you hear that? He published his own book with the help of a company based right here in Charleston.

Not only that, but he started his book in early November, 2010, because someone (in his case, his daughter) challenged him to participate in NaNoWriMo.  Sound familiar? Yeah, that's because his story is also mine.

But here's the place where we diverge. He self-published.  He's going to start making money from his writing TODAY.  He's a published author TODAY.

Me?  The first time I finished my book, I immediately tried getting published via the traditional route, got nowhere, and realized deep inside that my book wasn't ready.  And I've been adding and editing since July because of that realization, working hard to make my book something of which I'll be extremely proud.  Because really...I wasn't, back in July, proud at all. But I'm getting there now.

And here's the other thing.  Even back in July, my book wasn't terrible. I've had people read it and love it who have had no visible reason to lie to me about their enjoyment. It would have probably sold some copies, and I could have moved on.

Scott's story really COULD have been mine. 

This is not to say that his book isn't as good as mine or that I work harder or anything. His book is amazing, I'm sure, if Jenny allowed him to post on her site.  I'm just...struck by the parallels, and wonder what compelled him to go directly to the independent publishing route, and why I feel compelled to go the other way. 

And I do still feel compelled to go the other way.  I want an agent. I want an editor. I want a publishing house to support my work.  Even now, even though I know exactly how slim my chances are to get all that.

It's all sort of thrown me into a bit of a muddle this afternoon, to be honest.  

Because...that could have been me. I could be a published writer by now. But I made the choice not to be.  I'm still making that choice daily.

Isn't that bizarre?


Jen said...

Think of it this way: the route you've chosen is forcing you to be in contact with more people. If you hadn't tried to find an agent, would you have found your teacher? Ideally you'll connect with other writers, too, somewhere along the line. Maybe you'll even connect with some astute readers; they can be a great resource. You'll have some hopefully inspiring, provocative back-and-forth.

Even if you do eventually decide to self publish, the book you publish will have been tested more as a result. YOU will have been tested more as a result.

Also, think of it this way: muddled things are important parts of some cocktails. Delicious, swanky cocktails. Cheers!

jennymilch said...

Hiya, Teach here.

Ha ha ha--just had to get that in--you are so nice to say these lovely things, Leah. I'll say one back--Leah is a terrific student *and* writer. Whatever way your book comes out, I have a feeling it's going to do really well.

My feeling is that there is no "right" publishing (or, for that matter, writing) path. There's what works for one particular author at one particular time and on one particular book. This might change at any time.

If we tap into our writer's gut--the same thing that led us to the story we wrote--we will know if we should continue on the path we're walking (sometimes plodding :) or if we should make a change.

And we really can't go wrong that way.

Leah said...

Cocktails and guts, all in the same comment string. Love it. :)

Thanks girls. I mean, Jen and "Teach." Haha

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