I’ve been asked why I have chosen to forgo even the attempt to pitch my novel to be traditionally published.
I had lunch with a couple of agents at the most recent writer’s conference I attended, and when one asked for me to give her a pitch, I simply said “No thank you.”
I don’t need an agent, because I don’t need a publisher. The only thing a publisher can offer me that I can’t do, or have done, for myself is to give me the street cred for belonging to a once prestigious club.
Advances are at an all-time low, most of their editing staff is gone, marketing support is all but nonexistent, and they take the lion’s share of the profits. To top it all off, if I sell to a publisher I lose any say for the title and cover art. I have to work with whatever teem the publisher provides. My novel has to pass through and be approved by a panel of “experts” before being put on a shelf. Really? Art by committee?
Fuck that. This is my art, my love, my story, my vision. I don’t need a bunch of people sitting around a desk to tell me if my novel has marketability. What the hell do they know about marketability anyway?
Only 10% of what they sell makes money. That means that they are wrong 90% of the time as to what readers want. Not only are they wrong with what they do buy, they often miss the mark on what to not buy.
How many times did Harry Potter get rejected? Here is a list of 20 famous authors and how many times they were rejected.
Look, I get it. It must be immensely difficult to try to guess what people want. Publishers are trying to predict the future, and like palm-readers, fortune cookies, and telephone astrologers, the best they can do is give some vague advice and hope they get lucky.
They say they are looking for the next big thing, but in reality they are looking for a copy of the big thing that sold yesterday. They are running so close to failure that they can’t afford to take a chance on something new or innovative.
My biggest problem with publishers, the thing that really gets my blood boiling, is that Publishers have conflated their “authority of position” for “authority of knowledge.” Just because they have the power to say what gets on the shelf doesn’t mean they have the knowledge of what gets bought. In fact, the evidence plainly shows that they do not.
That isn’t to say I’m doing it all myself. I may be a control freak when it comes to my art, but I’m not stupid. I know full well I don’t know everything. Joss Whedon, Christopher Nolan, and Peter Jackson didn’t do it all themselves. They hired a kick-ass crew of special effects artists, cinematographers, etc. to help achieve their vision. But through it all, they were at the helm.
As am I.
Self-publishing is expensive, and scary. An editor can cost 3-6 dollars a page. Cover art can be anywhere from $100-$1,000. That’s for starters. And the time and effort it takes to find the right people to work with is daunting.
When I’m asked by other authors if they should self-publish, I ask them if they are willing to bet $5,000+ on their novel. Are they willing to risk thousands of dollars on their story? If you believe in your art enough that you are willing to throw down that kind of cash, knowing full well that you may never make it back, and you have the time and drive to put in the work, then I say go for it.
If you aren’t, what makes you think a Publisher will?