Options: Knowing the Best Choice

I like options. If I don’t feel like a strawberry margarita, then I can order the beagle to mix up a peach one instead. The same can be said for publishing. Instead of one-stop shopping with commercial publishing, authors have a smorgasbord of choices in which to get their work out to readers.

Recently, I explained to an author that, while I love his writing, the story wasn’t right for us. He wrote back and said no problem; he’d probably just do it himself. Normally, this would make my throat constrict, but he’s achingly experienced and achingly talented, so I have no worries that his endeavor will be a successful one.

In short, this is an author who’s making decisions based on Knowledge, Talent, and Experience, and I adore the fact that he has options. So let’s take a look at those three elements

Knowledge

Years ago, we were car shopping after totaling our car in a horrible accident. The hubs did an amazing amount of research on the various cars he was interested in. He looked at mpg, engine performance, repair frequency. He looked closely at what professional car dudes had to say about each car. This knowledge helped him narrow down the decision. Then he went out and test drove the cars, and decided he loves the Infinity, which has been as loyal and faithful as a puppy.

It’s the same when making publishing decisions. Which option is the most appropriate for you? Obviously, most authors want the brass ring; the Big Six book deal that swells their bank accounts along with millions of adoring fans. At some point, authors need to climb down to terra firma and look at their books without the rose-colored glasses.

Rejection is the great equalizer because it forces authors to come off the mountain of High Hopes.

Case in point; an agent bud of mine has a client with a great book. She queried it out, and a trade press jumped on it and asked for pages. The problem was, the client has visions of the Mega Deal dancing in his head and wanted to wait for that Big Gun pickup. It’s a terrific book and an important book, but it’s not a blockbuster book and, therefore, wouldn’t get nearly the same kind of press, editing, and promotion that the smaller indie press could provide. That book would have been their #1 title for the season, whereas, it might be barely midlist with a Big Gun.

My agent bud was smart and explained the situation to the trade press. They agreed to wait until all the other Big Gun publishers responded. The author was shocked that not one of the Big Guns wanted his book. Because he had no knowledge of the business, his expectations were out of whack. The rejections brought him down from the mountain, and now he’s looking forward to working with that trade press. Wisely, the trade press didn’t want him until he was ready. Nothing’s worse than working with an author who feels like signing with you is a consolation prize.

That author is lucky because he has a good agent guiding him through the query landmines. He’s gonna be more than OK. But what about the unagented author? They are particularly vulnerable when it comes to rejection, so they read the articles from JA Konrath, or his supporters, and believe that if Konrath did it, hey…so can they. So they slap up their DIY e-pubbed book and await their fortunes.

Thing is, Konrath is in an entirely different reality from the unknown neophyte. He based his decisions to go DIY on his knowledge of the industry and what each option could maximize the most success. He also had an established readership when he made the jump to light speed. He knows how to promote and keep himself in the news.

Do you? If you buy a car before knowing anything about it, how do you know you won’t end up with empty pockets due to repair bills?

Talent

I’ll admit that talent is as talent does. It’s subjective, and people will buy books for all kinds of reasons. Look at Fifty Shades of Gray. It’s selling like hotcakes in spite of the general consensus that it’s poorly written. So talent comes in all shapes and sizes.

But there is a fine line separates the Shades anomaly and just plain unsellable and unmarketable drek. And this is what mostly populates the  DIY e-pub world. Authors, who have little knowledge of the industry, receive lots of rejections and decide to simply slap their book up on Amazon as an e-book…when they should be looking at their talent.

Having options is a slippery slope; just because you can doesn’t mean you should. If you never stop to consider your talent, then you’ll continue to write really lousy books, and I’ve seen this so many times that it hurts my heart. We’ve sadly become a people of instant gratification who believes everyone is entitled to whatever they want without having to work for it.

It’s a load of yak droppings. Without standards, how does one gauge excellence? Not everyone deserves to be published, and just because these marvelous options exist doesn’t mean everyone should run to their nearest computer to upload their very green book to Amazon Kindle. DIY e-books (and their physical counterparts – CreateSpace) have been overrun by egos rather than talent, so what constitutes talent has been diluted…hello Fifty Shades of Gray.

On the other hand, if you’re like my author friend, whose talent has been verified many times over via his commercially pubbed books and his sales, then having options for a less-commercial book is like a gift from the Great Cosmic Muffin. And this is where I salute the options we have today. Not every book is commercially viable for a trade press, but that doesn’t mean it’s not marketable. It just means that it’ll appeal to a smaller audience who will love and appreciate a great little book.

Huzzah! Long live talent.

Experience

Absent the hard lessons of experience, it’s difficult to have realistic expectations. Sure, you can research ’til the cows come home, but you haven’t actually lived it, so you still have room for out-of-sync hope.

Experience is what told my author friend that his choice of going DIY with his book was a good one. He knows where the boogie man lives and where Sweet Street is. Furthermore, he has the experience to know how to get to Sweet Street. There is no better teacher than experience. But in order to gain that experience, everyone had to start out as a newbie (opposed to noob) at some point, right?

That’s why Knowledge and Talent are your best guides. When you have those two buddies in your front pocket, you will make decisions that will enhance your writing career, not detract from it. They are the doting aunties who whisper in your ear, telling you that DIY or CreateSpace isn’t a wise choice for you. Yet. Maybe at some point down the line (like my author friend) it will be, but you aren’t yet dry behind the ears.

Take it slow. Open your ears. Fire your ego. Attend writer’s conferences. Ask lots of questions. Research. Visit good writing sites. Join a good writing group who will be kindly honest.

Knowledge, Talent, and Experience are your allies in this crazy industry. Publishing options can be a thrilling experience or a horrendous nightmare. Be sure to analyze which is your best choice.

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