September 30, 2011

publishing battle swaperoo

Some of you may remember a post I did a while back about choosing to self-publish rather than go the traditionalroute. In that post, I talk about my evolving perspective of the publishing industry. I concluded with self-publishing because “in the eye of the reader, [the mode of publication] doesn’t matter.” They just want a good book.

Now, the problem with this line of thought is the fact that it takes a lot of work and even more luck to get a self-published book in front of a reader. If I have any insight into the everyday reader’s mind, they choose books based on a) recommendations from friends or Amazon, b) randomly stumbling upon it in a book store, or c) searching for a specific type of book.

Most readers choose books based on word of mouth. When a friend is reading a book, or two friends, most people who enjoy reading don’t want to be left out of the discussion. Why do you think Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games have done so well? People talked the books up to their friends.

But how did they find the book in the first place? Maybe another friend recommended it to them. Maybe Amazon decided that they’d like it. But what about the person that just finds it in a bookstore? I’m one of those people that go to Barnes&Noble, grab a coffee, and browse. I never buy anything, knowing that I can get the same book for almost half the price online. But, I like looking. I like searching for something new to read, waiting for something to grab my attention. On my latest trip to the bookstore, I found several books that caught my interest, and I plan to read the Nook samples soon: Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine, a weird steampunk circus novel; Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George, a Cinderella retelling; Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny, an epic science fiction dystopian where the world is ruled by the Hindu pantheon; The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, about (you guessed it) a circus that appears at night; and The Map of Time by FĂ©lix J. Palma, a Victorian historical fantasy with H.G. Wells at center stage.

Now, I probably wouldn’t have found any of these books on my own. It took a decaf Pumpkin Spice Latte and an hour at Barnes&Noble for me to stumble upon them. With the exception of The Night Circus which I heard about from a friend.

Now, if any of these had been self-published, would I have found them? No. Bookstores don’t stock self-published books. And as far as I know, Amazon doesn’t recommend self-published books. And here’s the kicker, the majority of people who read don’t read self-published books. Why? Because they find their books at bookstores. Maybe, for every hundred readers, there’s one that just happens to search for a certain type of book, and they find a self-published one. They like it. They recommend it. But for every one of those readers, there’s ninety-nine others that will never find that book. That number is increasing with the increase of e-reader sales, maybe to one in twenty.

So, I did want to self-publish. Some people find success in it. They sell a ridiculous number of books and find a fan-base. But for every writer who succeeds, there are thousands more who don’t. The same can be said of traditionally publishing. That’s just the way it is. And I think that the people that would find success in self-publishing would find success in traditional publication, and vice versa.

I have a secret I’ve been keeping from you. Just a few weeks after I finished the first draft of The Clockwork Giant, I participated in WriteOnCon. The day before the conference began, I received a partial request from an agent. I sent it, figuring it couldn’t hurt anything. And then I got a full request, which has never happened before ever. The agent ended up not offering representation, not because my writing was bad, but because it ended up not being a book they could get behind. After reading the email for a fifth time, I realized that another agent might.  I realized that I have a really good chance at getting traditionally published. I have a really good chance of getting my book in bookstores, in front of readers.

But you know what, if it doesn’t pan out. If I don’t get a writing contract with this book, I’ll self-publish. It isn’t failure to self-publish when you’ve exhausted all other avenues, like so many people think it is. Self-publishing is just another way to publish a book, a harder way, but still a part of the industry. Just because a hundred agents don’t decide to represent your book doesn’t mean it’s bad. It just means they didn’t want to represent it, for any number of reasons.

So maybe I’ll end up self-publishing. Maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll get lucky and land a publishing contract. We’ll see. First, I need to tackle revisions.

How do you find books to read? Do you rely on recommendations, or do you seek out books? Do you read more self-published books, or more traditionally published books?


  1. 1) I don't know if they're self-published, but I know Hastings always has a section dedicated to local authors.

    2) If you aren't following Michelle Argyle, you should be. She self-pubbed her novella Cinders and got it circulated by blogs and such, and then she landed a deal to get all her fairytail novellas published together by Rhemalda Publishing.

    3) Congrats on the request! Very awesome. :D

    4) I have only heard of a couple of those books, and Night Circus is supposed to be amazing. Excited for that one.

    5) In answer to your questions. I browse. A lot. Hastings and Goodreads mostly, but on Goodreads half the books I browse (at least) are books that people I've friend-ed have read or are reading or have suggested I read so it's like a package deal haha. So if you don't have Goodreads, I highly recommend getting one. I'd friend ya!

    6) This comment is getting really long.

    7) I had to end on a magical number for some reason. My apologies. Great post, thanks for sharing. Have a wonderful weekend!

  2. I find books all kinds of ways. I stumble upon them at the bookstore. I buy online when I do searches for "YA paranormal romance" or "YA dystopian" and these searches bring up traditionally and self-published options. I visit Smashwords because I like to support indie writers. I just bought Finding Fiona by Emily Ann Ward after she posted the news of self-publishing it on her blog, Realm of Words. The blog Literary Rambles showcases agents and authors and I find some interesting titles that way as well.

  3. Hey, congratulations on the request, that's so cool!

    I've only actually read one self-published book—a middle grade fantasy written by my cousin's husband. I was surprised at how good it was, given that I didn't even know the guy was a writer. But, like you say, most of the book recommendations I get are for traditionally published books. I wouldn't mind reading more self-published books, but I just wouldn't know where to start.

  4. I usually rely on friend's recommendations or book clubs. Now, I'm not a member of any book club, but if I was in one, I would read their books. There's a sci-fi one in fayetteville, me, you and aaron need to join. Ok, it's settled.

  5. Hooray for the interest!

    Just to play devil's advocate, or whatever, I could say that Amazon/brick and mortar stores don't have self-published books because they are still stuck in the traditionally-published mode.

    (I've never read any self-published books because of the bad reputation they tend to have. One of my former neighbors published a book, and after my mom described how horrible it was, I knew it had to be self-published. No publishing company would have as many typos and other errors.)

    Anywho, I find books to read in various ways. In the past, I've found a book in the library, and if I like the author, I'll buy his or her books. I also listen to friends' advice. Recently, though, I put a bunch of small-press horror anthologies on my Amazon wishlist because my stories have all been published by small presses, and I wanted to support them.

  6. I'd say that's a very healthy attitude to have. And congratulations on the requests. I hope The Clockwork Giant is available soon, no matter which route you take.