The Fork in the Road

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Happy February!

So, January, that longest and most depressing of months, is over. All right, I know it isn’t actually the longest month – well, not on its own at any rate – but it feels like the longest, doesn’t it? Having said that, it seems to have flown by this year. I can’t actually believe a whole twelfth of the year is done already. Why do I bother to put the Christmas tree away?

Anyway, with February here again I looked at my schedule – you know, the one I told you about in my Tick, Tick, Tick post. You did read that, right? Of course you did. So I looked at it and realised that I had scheduled February as the month in which I would finish editing my novel and send it off to a writerly friend to proofread, and also to a couple of other people who read novels in the same genre and who could give me some (hopefully) useful feedback.

The novel has already been critiqued by the NWS and I have been re-writing some parts to accommodate the changes that the reader suggested. I have also been trying to cut the length down. As regular readers of this blog will know (whoever you are, thank you so much!) word count has been a bugbear of mine throughout this entire process. When I sent the typescript in to the NWS it came in at just under 120,000 words. Now, the NWS seem to think that is acceptable as 120,000 words is their cut off point. However, I know from reading submission guidelines for various publishers that a more acceptable limit is 100,000 words, so I am now trying to be ruthless and cut, cut, cut!  It is far more difficult to do than I could ever have imagined and having got the story to the point where I am actually happy with it as it is I am struggling with this aspect more than any other.

I suppose that’s what got me wondering about the lengths of other books I have read lately, and that’s when I noticed how many of those books are actually not subject to any real word count limits from publishers because they have been self-published. Really, it was quite extraordinary when I looked back over my reading list to notice that fact. I have read at least as many self-published novels as traditionally-published ones over the last couple of years, and what’s more, I have thoroughly enjoyed them. In fact, every single one of them has been given a four or five star rating. Now, I may just have been very lucky there. I do appreciate that there are a lot of self-published novels that are truly appalling for many reasons, and I know that that fact has given self-publishing a bad name in some quarters. However, the fact remains, I have read dozens of them and found the vast majority of them  to be well-written with great plots, appealing characters and few, if any, typos.

Which brings me to my point. You knew I’d get there eventually, didn’t you? Should I even think about self-publishing? The truth is, I am a bit of a control freak – okay, I’m a lot of a control freak – and I can’t deny that the idea of controlling everything about my own novel is hugely appealing. To be able to decide on my own publishing timetable, choose my own cover, not worry about the word count so much (within reason, of course), and take charge of my own writing career seems highly desirable to me. I am quite drawn to the whole idea of it.

Obviously, there are downsides. There would be no publisher behind me helping me to get my book “out there” for a start. The marketing would be entirely down to me and there aren’t enough hours in the day as it is. On the other hand, my understanding is that even traditionally-published authors have to do a heck of a lot of marketing themselves. The technical side would take some grappling with, too. I wouldn’t know where to start publishing my book to Kindle, let alone getting it in actual print. Then there’s the cover. I can see that Amazon have a selection of covers to choose from, but traditionally published books have such amazing artists and cover designers and some of the covers I see are so beautiful. To match up with that would take a lot of doing. Then there’s the financial outlay. Publishing to Kindle may be free but a decent cover wouldn’t be and if I wanted to hold an actual paperback version of my novel in my hand it would cost a small fortune.

I can quite see the appeal that being traditionally-published has, too. It’s what we dream of, isn’t it? Getting “the call”, being told that your book has made the grade and you are going to see copies of it on the shelves! It’s what validates you as a writer, isn’t it? Surely, if a publisher accepts your novel then you have made it? You really do have what it takes to be a writer, and you can never get that same satisfaction from self-publishing. Or can you?

I don’t buy the argument that people only self-publish if they can’t get a traditional deal. I think more and more writers are heading down the indie route as a matter of choice, and some are making extremely successful careers for themselves. The question is, what’s right for me? And, at the moment, I really don’t know. As the month of February ticks on, I know I have some decisions to make soon. I can’t hang onto this book for much longer.

So, dear readers, what are your thoughts on this? Have any of you gone down the self-publishing route? Did you regret it or did it work out really well for you? What were your reasons for doing so? Are you a traditionally-published author? What are your thoughts on having a publisher behind you? Would you ever be tempted to self-publish in the future or are you very happy to stay as you are? This wannabe could really use your advice!

Have a great week xx

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