It’s Called Traditional Publishing

Yesterday’s Quest 2017 prompt has had me stumped. Here’s what Desiree Adaway asked:

How have you allowed a system, institution, or tradition to hold you back? What will you do to make sure this does not happen in 2017?

It’s a good question. It’s a good question because it is so harrowing to answer. Looking at assumptions and ingrained beliefs is hard work. These are blind spots. Looking at at the systems, institutions, and traditions that I participate in, some are bigger than others.

I have already said that I believe looking at and unpacking our cultural shadow is a huge need right now. But it’s often a process of peeling back layer after layer of understanding over time. I’m not going to be able to tackle those beasts today. I don’t have it in me. I’m going to go after the smaller, easier prey.

Traditional Publishing

As many of you know, Salvaged was trunked after I did over a hundred agent queries in 2015. I had a few full manuscript requests, and I got some good feedback about the book. But I didn’t feel up to editing it again, and I wasn’t sure it was something that ever really needed to see the light of day. I didn’t feel compelled to revisit the world where it was set. Salvaged was well on its way to being that embarrassing first novel most authors hope no one ever reads.

Then, this fall, the premise of a world where fake divisions between “Us” vs. “Them” is used deliberately for social control became vital and necessary.

I failed to traditionally publish my book. And I strongly believe my book needs to go out into the world.

My Original Reasons Are Still True

I chose the traditional publishing route after careful consideration.

  1. My tangible definition of success is to see my book in the wild. On a bookshelf at a bookstore, in someone’s hands at the airport.  To meet that particular definition of success, the trad-pub model is still the best way forward.
  2. I wanted the marketing and branding engine of a publishing house behind me. I’m an internet marketer. I’ve done this on shoestrings, and I’ve done it for massive companies. Having a big ol’ brand to swing around makes life easier.  Also, I don’t want to spend more time marketing than I do writing. Being self-published demands more entrepreneurship and business-time than being an employee of a larger organization.

But the gatekeepers have declined my work. Now what?

I took their feedback and I hired an editor. She sent me the manuscript bleeding with track changes last weekend. I haven’t opened it yet.

I’m Still Resisting Self-Publishing

I really think that Jeffrey and the Tracking Wonder team are onto something when they talk about the merits of “Do-it-Together” over “Do-It-Yourself”. I see the lure of self-publishing. Just format it, upload it, and voila! A book!  And I know better. As empowering as that would be, I don’t just need it to have an ISBN, I need it to have readers.

For me, the next right step is to try for smaller publishers that accept unagented work. I had held off on that originally because it’s bad form to submit work to both agents and editors at the same time.

Self-Publishing isn’t ruled out completely. I just want to try this other thing, first.

A Tradition I’m Buying, and One I’m Not

In some ways, by wanting to go through a publishing house, I’m still buying into the larger traditional publishing model.  I guess I don’t see it as holding me back, really.

The tradition / institution I do reject is that of fierce independence. There is a cultural institution that glorifies the DIY bootstrapper. The thing is, that person doesn’t exist. Though we’re supposed to want to be independent and self-made, no one truly is.

I’m not going it alone. And I don’t have to.

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3 thoughts on “It’s Called Traditional Publishing

  1. Received from Seth Godin this morning:
    No one knows anything
    About twenty years ago, Permission Marketing was getting ready to go to the publisher. We sent a copy to Jack Trout, co-author of the classic book, Positioning.
    Surprisingly, Jack replied with a long letter, letting us know that my book was based on a fundamentally flawed idea, that it would never work and we’d be better off not even publishing it. Not something most authors want to hear.
    The good news was that the book went on to become a bestseller and, even better, it transformed the way many organizations engaged with email and with consumers. It led to a market that’s now worth billions of dollars a year.
    The lesson from Jack’s note was simple: Since no one is sure, since no one can guarantee that it’s going to work (or not), all we can do is our best work. All we can do is share our ideas with generosity, speak up and shine a light.
    Critics can share their experience and they can point out what doesn’t match their expectations.
    But it’s up to you, the person on the hook, to choose to care enough to share your project and your vision of possibility, regardless.
    Everyone has an opinion, but no one has a guarantee.

  2. Pingback: New Year’s Rituals | Alicia K. Anderson

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