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 Félix 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?