I keep flip flopping between these two thoughts:
“I definitely want to go the traditional publishing route. Working with an agent and a publisher would be so much fun!”
“I am definitely going to self-publish because it’s such a viable option now and I could have control over every part of the process. It would be exciting to do it all myself.”
Right now I’m on the second part of the flip flop. What changed my mind?
I was making a writing schedule for the next two years to plan out when my book(s) would be finished and when I could reasonably expect them to be ready for publication if I put myself on deadlines. This is something I’m always doing and redoing. It’s a way to procrastinate from writing, actually. Even though it usually ends up getting me to think “Oh wow. I better get to it, then.”
When I got to the part where I submit my finished and polished and edited novel to an agent, I started writing up all kinds of schedules for when to start writing my next book and when I would do each round of submissions. And then I hit a problem. I couldn’t determine with any certainty when, or if ever, I would land an agent and a publishing deal. And it made me stop to think about all the rejection letters I’ve gotten on my previous project, and what that whole thing felt like.
I was never very disappointed with any particular rejection letter that I can recall. I expected to get at least some rejections. That wasn’t what made me stop and cringe at the idea of going through the process again. It was the idea that I would put lots and lots of work into seeking out a traditional publishing route, and not be guaranteed any results. For my last project, I spent hundreds of hours writing and tweaking queries, personalizing them after researching each agent I was submitting to. I felt really good about having done everything I could to put my best foot forward, including writing a really good novel. But it just never worked out.
Now I am a mom of a toddler, with another one on the way, and I can see my writing time slipping away as I make writing schedules and have to completely block off two months because of giving birth and recovering. So the thought of putting the precious hours I manage to carve out for writing towards marketing and the fact that they may not even pay off makes me kind of sick to my stomach. And not because of the pregnancy either.
Part of the reason I wanted an agent so badly is because I am obsessed with the business side of writing. I think I would actually enjoy being an agent much more than being a writer. (But there’s no way for me to get an internship with an agency while living in Minnesota. Grrrr.) So I really wanted to work closely with one, see them in action, be fascinated by all the wonderful strings they pull and things they do to make writer’s dreams come true.
Well, if I can’t become a literary agent, what better way to satisfy my desire to get in on the nitty gritty of publishing than to self-publish? Plus, in the end, I am guaranteed a result of being published. No promises on how well the book will sell or how many road blocks I will come up against that I will have to solve on my own. But even with traditional publishing, there are no promises.
So that’s where I’m headed, as of today. There may be something along the line in the next few months that makes me want to go back to traditional publishing. Maybe I spot a new agent who is directly looking for what I am writing. Or I start to doubt myself and my abilities to get my own work out there. Or the thought of writing a query letter and sending it off to lots of agents suddenly sounds appealing again.
I know I said I don’t have much time to write. Who does with kids? And that may prove to be the deciding factor since self-publishing takes a lot more time on the author’s part than traditional publishing (or so I’ve been told). But…I still think I can do it. I would rather put in three times the amount of hours than it takes to go the traditional publishing route and know I’ll have something to show for it than put in less time and have nothing.
If anyone has any ideas on how someone from Minnesota could become a literary agent, I’m all ears. Why are there no agencies in Minnesota and why are they all still in New York (and other major cities not near me) when we have such a thing as telecommuting?
(The obvious answer is that one can become a literary agent simply by saying “I am a literary agent” and putting together a website and then waiting for clients. But the thought of doing that scares me because…I would be in charge of people’s dreams and I know what it’s like to be the writer with a dream, hoping they put their trust in the right person. I’m pretty sure I would need an internship or some equivalent to be able to do it right.)