But does the Dark Side really have cookies?

So I have this story. It’s finished, unlike virtually everything else I’ve touched in the last five years (there’s a rant for another day). It needs some editing, but it’s a whole product to start from, at least. And I love the story, and people I trust who’ve read it love the story, and we’d all like to see it published. My agent, sadly, does not love it. She declined to take it on.

Meanwhile, I’m seeing more and more writers making a go of their writing careers through self-published ebooks (everyone seems to agree that electronic is the way to go, you can’t make a profit with print copies, they’re just too expensive to produce). People with large, devoted fanbases and reliable income streams via their writing, and that’s—good gosh, that’s the dream, isn’t it? Sometimes they’re even supporting themselves 100% with their writing. I’m sure for every success, there’s a hundred failures, or a thousand, who knows. But the successes are compelling.

What this boils down to is that I’m very seriously considering self-publishing my second novel.

I have very mixed feelings about this. I know I’ve absorbed a certain amount of the cultural judgment of self-publication. The plain fact is that an industry without gatekeepers allows some really awful dreck to get out there into the world and make a bad name for the rest of us/them. Part of me has always been fiercely proud that Secondhand Shadow was published by a REAL publisher, however tiny. But what did that get me, really, other than bragging rights? They paid me instead of the other way around, yeah, but they sure didn’t pay me much. I got no marketing, no real support. This makes me start thinking that maybe I might as well do it myself and get a bigger cut of the profits.

Am I selling out, doing something artistically distasteful purely in exchange for money? I don’t think so. I think it’s my own reluctant attitude that’s outdated. The publishing industry is undergoing (or even, has undergone) a sea change that makes the “middle men” of agents, editors and publishers something that’s no longer strictly necessary. I admit I look at others’ success and I want it. I want to actually sell books and have people read them. I have to make money to live, and I want to do it with my writing. (Of course it’s the rare bird that can drop out of the conventional workforce entirely. Right now I’d settle for enough extra money that I can go out to dinner without worrying all night about the cost.)

Money might be a factor on this side of the equation, too, though; self-publishing involves a certain amount of investment. Not, thank goodness, as much as it did, back when writers had to buy paper copies of their book and hope to sell them, but apparently costs like editing, cover art, formatting—not to mention promotion—can add up. There’s a lot of variation, but hundreds of dollars, definitely. And I don’t have that. So we’ll just have to see. First step is to get the manuscript itself into as good a shape as I can, and then get other eyes to look it over and go through the process again. The rest I’ll just keep simmering in the back of my mind, and see what we can come up with.

Word Warrior

Today we talk about how I am a turtle at WORD WARS!!!!

So Word Warring or Word Racing, if you didn’t know, is when two or more writers sit down simultaneously to write for a certain period of time (15 minutes, maybe, or half an hour), and whoever writes the most words is the winner. Winner of nothing more than bragging rights, of course, in my experience — but I’ve found it to be a very valuable tool for making me focus and actually Make Words instead of staring at the screen (or worse, ending up on Tumblr).

Early on, though, I had to resign myself to very seldom getting those bragging rights. Previously-mentioned-writer-friend Deni, my most common Word Race partner, inevitably leaves me in the dust. Her ability to just sit down and spill words in all directions never ceases to amaze and sort of alarm me. It’s like watching someone tear their car, pell-mell and whooping, down the same rutted, potholed road you just finished picking your way carefully through, probably still picking up a nail along the way.

Tortoise and the hare, that became our joke. She might win every battle, yet lose the war–because she tends to zero out between sprints. I plod along more steadily, writing a few words a day, never very many, but always a few. It works for me. I’m fine with that.

And then — and then!!! A couple weeks ago, I was hanging out in a chat room with several other writer friends, and they invited me to Word War. “Sure,” I said, “just don’t expect too much from me. [baymax voice] I am not fast.”

I won handily. Over and over.

And no, I wasn’t writing any faster than usual. But apparently it’s less that I’m a tortoise and she’s a hare, and more that I’m a NORMAL PERSON and she’s…