Thinking of publishing? OK, what kind of shoes are you wearing?
... Don't give me that look, it's relevant.
Upload to Amazon or start querying for an agent?
I think nearly every first time author with manuscript in hand agonizes over this Robert Frostian choice, flip-flopping over and over again on what they were certain was their final decision on the matter, sometimes daily, sometimes hourly, and generally driving themselves insane (which is no major feat for an author, most of us have been nuts for some time).
But why is it so hard?
We seem capable of making a decision to embark on a torturous journey that will have us cranking out 300+ pages of obsessed over prose without flinching, but we can't seem to handle a simple game of eenie meenie miney mo. There's only two choices here people!
So what gives?
Well, I thought about it. Really tried-getting-into-my-own-head-psychobabble kinda thought about it, and here's what I came up with:
We authors believe, as only one who sits down to write 300+ pages of obsessed over prose could believe, that our work carries within its digital guts every possibility of becoming a runaway success.
We truly believe this - with a degree of lovable, head-shaking-for-'normal'-people sincerity. And as such, we project any unacknowledged fears of potentially being mistaken in our self-assessment onto the scapegoat of our chosen pathway to market, i.e. the decision to go indie or traditional.
We read the blogs and debate the pros:
A good agent is like that high school best friend willing to sit at the same table as us in the cafeteria when all the other letter-jacket-agents and authors have yet to acknowledge our existence. An if they land us a publisher, there's a good chance our book will hit store shelves where real live people might find it, buy it and read it!
On the other hand, no one will champion our work like we ourselves will, and we’re the only ones who truly know our audience; that they’re not a flock of commercial sheep neutered against the original creativity of our ideas, characters, plot line etc.
We debate the cons:
With a trad-pub there’ll be zero negotiating power for our first book, we’ll be relinquishing all creative control, and the book can still be shelved (in the negative sense of the term).
However, risk going it alone and, well, you remember that indie phenom, Unre Markable, don’t you? Oh, you don't? Yeah, well, neither does anyone else.
So which path to take? Where will we be the success we know we can be, the success we see inside.... (cue Lion King theme music).
Don't fret. I think I figured out how to figure it out.
The thing is, we're asking ourselves the wrong question.
Let's remember, being an Author is a career path. An insane career path, yes, maybe, if you're gonna be all dramatic about it - but underneath all the flowery descriptions of calling it a 'calling' or a destiny, or whatever - that's what it is; a career path. And the struggle of choosing the nature of one's career path is one of those classic tales that never gets old.
Since man and wo-man began entering careerland, they've asked themselves, Do I want to work for myself or do I want to work for someone else? Blog posts galore have been written to address this question and in near unanimity, they all recommend one stop thinking about which path will get them rich and start thinking about the type of person they are and lifestyle they wish to lead.
Are you a control freak; sorry, I meant someone who appreciates their autonomy? Would you rather work at all hours so that you won't have to ask the question of anyone, What are my hours? Are you willing to trade massive risk for the possibility of a massive return, no matter how remote the chance? Would you like to wear sneakers (or whatever you please) to the 'office'.
Do you prefer stability? Are you looking for clearly defined goals, of what to do and when to have it done by? Do you fancy a 9 to 5 (6, 7, 8, whatever) so that you can hang up the phone for the day, for good, when the clock runs out? Would you prefer a steady paycheck of a fixed amount with steady, predictable increases? Do you love seeing your confident expression reflected back at you in the fresh shine of your Cap Toes?
Answer these questions and you’ll know what career path is right for you.
Well, guess what? The same goes for authors.
Here's the way I see it: The odds of success for us authors are slim no matter which path we choose, (personally, I'm not looking to change any statistics here. I'm just looking to end up in that smaller statistical population the skeptics would have us believe is all but inaccessible) so we might as well pick the path we'll enjoy, and frankly, perform better in. If we hit it big in traditional publishing we'll eventually have all the control we like, and if we hit it big in indie we'll be seeing our books in stores (and maybe even on the big screen) soon enough.
So forget about looking for THE sure path to success - there is none.
Look instead for YOUR path...
and make sure your sporting the appropriate footwear for it. G-d willing, it'll be a long, prosperous and fulfilling journey.