I’ve been thinking about novel writing lately. You can blame Jonathan Blundell and the little video chat we did a few days ago about my post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel, Least of These. You see, I’ve written three novels. Two have been self-published as rough drafts and one has seen a few re-writes and I’m wondering what to do with it.
Last night I pulled out my non-sci-fi novels and started reading through the first chapters. I liked what I read. I saw a few things here and there to improve (I’ll probably always feel that way), but I didn’t have that impending sense of way too much work to do to find anything salvageable. I enjoyed what I read, perhaps out of nostalgia for my own creation, but I also thought it was pretty good.
But the question I kept coming back to is what do I do with these novels?
I’ve read enough about the publishing industry and I’ve learned enough as a writer and editor to know that I can’t just fire off manuscripts to publishers and wait for a phone call. I have to pick a genre, I have to craft my book so it fits that genre, I have to research markets and publishers, I have to package and sell my novel so it fits those genres, markets and publishers just right—fits enough to sell, but stands out enough to sell.
And I’m the guy who doesn’t have time for that. I barely have time for the work I do have, nevermind creating more.
And so in our technological wonder world I think about self-publishing. I’ve already done it twice. Is it enough to just throw these creations out as self-published efforts and let them live and die there? It seems better than sitting on my harddrive, better than nothing. But it’s also lonely. My first self-published novel in 2004, Downtown Dandelions, sold something like ten copies (I think my parents bought five of those). Least of These has sold two. Admittedly both of these efforts are rough and involved minimal marketing. Clearly it can’t be about the numbers.
I like that self-publishing is easy and cheap. It gets the book out there quickly (I published Least of These in three days). But I can’t help but wonder if I’m resigning my creations to a lonely, quiet death?
This morning I woke up and remembered that publishing is lined with stories of rejection. Everyone who ever found success had to pile up the rejections, from Stephen King to Madeleine L’Engle. And that makes me wonder if I need to give it a go. If I need to rack up my own pile of rejection slips. Or would that just turn me into another hapless hopeful adding their manuscript to the slush pile?
Am I lazy or undisciplined or just another busy guy?
I don’t know if I need to play the system and work the marketing angles and rack up my rejection slips. Or if I should just throw my work out there self-published and unheralded and move on. If people find it, great. If not, no big deal.
Like most writers I write because I love it. I yearn to tell stories and that’s why I’ll probably do NaNoWriMo again this year. Success isn’t so important—as cool as it would be, I don’t have delusions of becoming a professional novelist. But anyone who writes also wants to be read. Like the proverbial tree falling in the forest with no one around to hear, if someone writes a novel but no one reads it, does it matter?
I’m probably just looking for easy answers. And there are none.