traditional publishing

Figuring It Out

Sometimes I think it’s easy to convince ourselves what others want is what we want too. Sometimes it’s extremely difficult to see that what we truly, deeply want is something we’ve been fighting all along. For years, I’ve convinced myself publishing my own work was a secondary choice — something I was only doing because my publisher closed their doors and I had no other choice. It was so much easier to believe that “truth”, especially in a writing community where Indie-publishing isn’t exactly put up on a pedestal.

For so long, I’ve prefaced all my publishing conversations with, “Oh, I was traditionally published, but my publisher left the business. Not my fault.” That helped me keep my chin high. I was respectable if others understood that my work was previously validated by the traditional publishing industry. I was a Real Author at that point.

But here’s the problem: I ache for respect — from my family, from friends, from complete strangers. It’s a natural thing to crave, I suppose. But I’ve let that desire overtake so many things in my life. I’ve let it fester so deeply that I’ve mistaken it for what I thought would make me happy. But it’s not what will make me happy. Respect from others cannot replace the gaping hole I’ve dug for myself — a hole filled with shame and disrespect … for myself.

2016 was an eye-opening year for me. I went through some tough changes that have nothing to do with writing and publishing. But those things have helped me see one very important thing: nobody can escape themselves forever.

I can’t count on my fingers how many friends have told me my eyes light up every time I talk about publishing my own work, and how depressed and miserable I look when I talk about querying for an agent and finally getting a publishing deal like everyone else around me. I’ve constantly battled between the two worlds. Which one do I embrace? For a long time I thought I could embrace both. I would continue to query for agents, and if those books failed, I would publish them myself.

But the truth is that I’ve only wanted to do that so people would respect me for trying to jump into the traditionally published world — a world I’ve convinced myself will make me deliriously happy if I’m ever lucky enough to be admitted. The other truth is that I’ve completely ignored the fact that most people don’t respect you for your accomplishments and supposed success. They respect you for standing by what you believe in, for being YOU instead of trying to be something you’re not. True success is nothing but a side effect of that.

So, yes, it has been far too easy to convince myself what others want is what I want too, and it took some very difficult changes for me to realize that what I want right now is something I already have. I was just too stubborn to see it until now. And what I want might change in the future, but that’s okay. For now, I’ve got to embrace what I have. Here’s to hoping you can embrace what you have too, no matter what it is.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in About Me, All Things Publishing, Self-Publishing, 6 comments

The Absolute Truth About Self Publishing

Selling four books a day every month might be a dream come true for one author and totally suck rocks for another. Some hire professional editors and some don’t and still manage to produce beautiful, quality books. Some make it to the NYT Bestsellers list and a lot don’t. Some are lucky enough to make a living off their books, while many work other jobs on top of the writing. Some get business licenses, hire website designers, and attend every writer’s conference known to man, and some don’t. Some design their own covers and some don’t. Some use POD printers, while some use printing presses. Some hit it big off their first book and some sell steadily and never hit it big. Some say pouring money into it will get you more money, while some will swear to you that marketing does nothing. Some only self publish and have no interest in the traditional route, while some do both. And the absolute truth about it all? There is no absolute anything when it comes to self publishing. It’s just like any other business (and any other form of publishing, for that matter). It’s hard, it’s easy, it’s rewarding, it’s disappointing. Whatever it ends up being for someone, it should never, ever be compared, belittled, or shamed. Because it’s different for every single author. There is no best way to do it. No guaranteed way to do it. And that’s kind of the beauty of it all. After all, some say self publishing is for those who give up. I think it’s pretty obvious it’s for those who don’t.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Self-Publishing, 25 comments

The Biggest Lie in Publishing History

Last week I wrote a long, emotional post on my private blog. I put up that post on my private blog because I was afraid to talk about those feelings in public, and I was afraid to say that I’ve been unhappy lately. After days and days of stewing and whining and crying, several events have led me here to my public blog to talk about the biggest lie I have ever believed. It’s also the biggest lie I think every writer believes. This is not the post I put on my private blog. That one still seems too raw and close to my heart to let out into the world, but this post contains a few raw things, as well, so read on if you’re interested.

There are a lot of things published authors don’t talk about publicly – usually traditionally published authors. I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed in my years of blogging that once an author snags an agent, the focus of their blog usually changes. Once they sell a book, it changes even more. Once their book is close to its release date, they start to seem distant. They talk about publishing a lot. Their posts contain carefully planned honesty. Something seems like its missing, and more often than not, that missing piece is never shown after they are published. A sort of veil goes up. A wall, even, and thus we come to the division between the published and the unpublished. Even worse, there is a division between the self-published and the traditionally published. But this isn’t really a discussion between self and traditional publishing. It’s deeper than that.

I may be generalizing, but these divisions are painfully real. It’s how I’ve seen it. It’s nothing against published authors, no matter how they’re published. Heck, I’m a published author with one self-published book and one traditionally published book which is at that close-to-release-date point. Have I put up that veil? That wall? You bet I have. Except, in this post, I want to knock part of it down, even if just for a moment.

I think most writers go through a cycle. There’s the newbie phase where everything is about the book. Everything. There’s a sort of numb-like happiness going on. Ignorance is bliss, I might say. Then that writer moves into another phase, and that might include a second book or a third, or maybe they’re still on their first, but they become aware of other writers – even more, they become aware of publishing. It’s a vague thing in the background – a glittering aspiration that’s not even considered a reality yet. Then the worst phase hits. The writer feels the need to get published. They feel like they’re ready. This is where the DREAM enters in, and where trouble starts. Some writers are blind to where their writing lies, if it’s truly ready for publication, and some writers seem very aware of where their work stands. Either way, most writers themselves (whether their work is or not) are never ready for publication. It’s pretty much like becoming a parent. Nothing ever truly prepares you for that. Then there’s the next phase, the phase I’m in, and that’s actual publication. This is where the huge transitions take place. This does not include getting an agent. That was in the previous phase. No, I’m talking about actual publication, whether you’re going at it yourself or through a publisher.

I’ll be honest. Self-publishing was a transition, but it was not the same as traditional. There are many factors, but the main factor being that everything was literally coming from me. Even if I had hired editors and cover artists, etc., it was still all through me. My business. My decisions. Nobody was relying on me, and if I failed, it only affected me and maybe a few other close loved ones. That’s it. Traditional has been monumentally different because it’s not just me. It’s a lot of other people, and the book is larger distribution-wise, and it’s permanent. So, now that I’ve explained that, I can say that at least for me, traditional publication has been a completely different emotional ride. In a lot of ways, it has been harder.

That aside, I must get into the main point of my post, which is the Big Lie. Remember that DREAM I mentioned above? That dream is part of the lie. It also can’t be avoided, in my opinion. If you desire publication, you’ve most likely faced the DREAM head-on. For a lot of authors it includes grand things like a large publisher, world domination (*cough* I mean foreign rights sales), a hardback debut, a perfect agent to guide you through everything, and a large amount of cash, whether that be in an advance or through sales or, of course, both. It also includes recognition, respect, and the ability to keep publishing and writing successfully according to the world’s standard of success. Well, don’t let go of that beautiful dream because no matter what anyone tells you, it IS possible. I’ve seen versions of it happen to a lot of authors I know. However, the dream isn’t the complete lie because it can certainly happen. There’s a version of this dream in the self-publishing world, as well, and it also contains Big Huge Things that happen to only a small percentage of authors.

The problem with the DREAM? It relies on outside forces to make you happy, and as we all should know, that’s a problem. If you hang your hopes – even subconsciously (and that’s very easy to do) – on that dream making you happy, EVERY SINGLE THING that does not meet that dream is going to shove you down flat on your face and mess with your head and your happiness.

So, what’s the lie? The lie is that once you reach a certain point in your writing career, you will be happy. When you finish your book, you’ll be happy. When you get a full request from an agent, you’ll be happy. When you get an agent offer, you’ll be happy. When you sell your book, you’ll be happy. When you make more than 50 sales a week on your self-published novel, you’ll be happy. When you get a large advance, you’ll be happy. When you you get an offer from a publisher on your self-published book, you’ll be happy. When you get your first gushing fan mail letter, you’ll be happy. Get the point?

The truth is, I think we all fall into this terrible trap, not only in our writing careers, but our lives in general. You have fallen into it, you are in it right now, or you have been there or are about to go there. It’s like a required stop, it seems. As for writing, though, unfortunately, I have to tell you that debuting a novel is not super fun. In fact, the stress, the emotional strain and drama and pressure, pretty much sucks the life out of most of the excitement I had going. I’ll even admit that on some days I would just take it all back and not publish at all. Putting Cinders, my self-published novella, out into the world was exciting, and I wouldn’t change that experience. It was scary and difficult, but it was exciting, and the excitement won out. Putting out Monarch…well, that has been different. It seems the more I learn about publishing, the more disappointed I am in any dream – because even if I met all those things the dream can offer, I would still be disappointed. How can I say this? Because I have some close friends who are published authors, and they are all on completely different paths – big paths, small paths, even the dream path, and every single one of them has admitted their disappointment in one thing or another, usually with a lot of pain in their voices.

The bottom line of the lie is that publishing will make you happy. It will not make you happy. It only makes things harder and more complicated to find happiness in your writing career. You’ll have brief stints of elation. I have, but in the end, it’s all fades away like a rainbow. If you want happiness in publishing, you’re going to have to look beyond publishing, I can promise you that. It’s just like marriage or having a child or landing a dream job. Just because you find your true love and get married, that does not mean you are set for life in the happiness department. It requires constant work, constant reevaluation, and constant positive thinking despite your circumstances.

One of my favorite quotes is from Scott Hamilton’s book, The Great Eight. He sure went through a lot of crap in his career and in his life in general, but in this book he talks about how he has found lasting happiness in his life. One of the key things I’ve found is this:

Many times people get tied to the disappointment of what failed rather than focusing on the success that awaits them in the next opportunity.

Using this as a base, I’ve found that no matter where you’re at in your writing career, there is always more opportunity when things don’t go the way you dreamed. Part of what makes writers amazing is our ability to be creative, and we should let that seep into every aspect of writing, including our publishing path. I’m not with a huge publisher, so there are a lot of things that I could let disappoint me in the choice I’ve made. I don’t get a hardback debut novel. I don’t get an advance. I don’t get thousands of dollars poured into marketing. I didn’t even get my book mentioned in Publishers Weekly. Woe is me. Poor, poor me. I should be disappointed. I have friends who have SO much more than me. They got amazing deals, thousands of dollars, beautiful hardback books with pearly jacket covers and embossed titles, even paid book tours. And as I’ve already admitted, I’ve felt a lot of stress in this huge life transition of writing as a side hobby to writing as something very serious. The thing is, taking something too seriously that is supposed to be fun will kill you in the end. So I’m not going to do that anymore. I’m going to remember the essentials, the basics of why I’m here doing any of this – TO GROW. It all comes down to that, doesn’t it?

I think one of the most important things in life is to allow ourselves to grow. Every choice we make, every step that helps us evolve into a better person, a better writer, a better friend, is something we should embrace and enjoy, no matter how difficult it is and no matter where we are at on our personal path. Publishing your novels will not bring you happiness, but embracing the changes (good and bad!) that it will bring into your life no matter where you’re at in that journey, will bring you happiness. Understand that your dreams will change as you grow, and you must learn to change with them. Failure belongs only to those who stand still as opportunities pass them by.

**follow-up on the publishing lie**

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in All Things Publishing, 77 comments

Then If That Fails, I’ll Self Publish

I have a few strong opinions about the self-publishing vs. traditional publishing thing going on right now since I’ve traveled a little bit down both roads. I usually try to avoid hot posts like this that are following a trend. I hate following trends. Still, I get sucked in sometimes, and since I have heard many writers – in person – admit they are considering self-publishing, I’ve got to say some things here that weigh heavily on my little heart. So here are my two cents.

Also, none of this is aimed at anybody. It’s just my opinion, pure and simple.

(1) self-publishing as a last resort isn’t smart

You’ll end up sorely disappointed in everything. Your book. Your sales. Yourself. LAST RESORT means it was a LAST RESORT. Think about that. You’ll always have that other resort – the BIG dream you had hanging over your head. Those big dreams don’t just vanish when you click the “publish now” button in CreateSpace or wherever you decide to take your book. Go read this post and decide if you still want to publish as a last resort. In it I give my one main piece of advice to anyone considering self-publishing.

addendum: I just want to say here that some writers do publish their work as a last resort, and that it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Why? Because some work simply doesn’t fit into the market, and querying or going on submission made that very clear for that piece of work. Period. Still, I think an author should be certain about this before they make their decision.

(2) you will not end up with a two-million dollar contract

Repeat that to yourself. Over. And over. Your chances at ending up in the same boat as Amanda Hocking? Yeah, close to nil. That’s like you ending up like J.K. Rowling with traditional publishing. Shooting for the stars is great, but stay realistic or you’re never going to be happy with where you end up.

(3) you will probably not end up with any contract

It could happen, yes. It’s true. I ended up with a contract for Cinders (to be published as part of an omnibus), but that was after I secured a contract with my other novel through the traditional route of submitting a manuscript and having it accepted. Yes, your amazing under-appreciated novel could catch the eye of a publisher, but considering how often this happens compared to the percentage of those who self-publish, it’s unlikely. I’m just saying don’t count on it.

(4) self-publishing – to do it professionally – costs money 

That’s right. MONEY. The grand total I have spent on Cinders: $1,400. Yep. You got that right. I didn’t have to spend that much. I didn’t plan on spending that much, but between giving away free print books, book tour gifts, printing bookmarks, business cards, postage (postage is ridiculous), cover art expenses, release party expenses, etc., it adds up. You might think you can do it for free, and maybe you’re smarter than me and you can, but publishing is a business. Businesses cost money to start. Why people think self-publishing (and being professional about it ) should be any different is beyond me.

Even if you stick with e-book only, you’ll still have costs. I highly suggest hiring a professional editor. I also highly suggest paying for a service to convert your book to digital format if you’re not familiar with such things. Plus, you’ll still need a cover, and most writers I know are not artistically inclined enough to design their own professional cover. I did all these things myself, but if I was going to self-publish as a career, you bet I’d be paying for these services.

(5) self-publishing because you’re angry or because it’s a hot trend, isn’t the wisest course of action

If you’re deciding to self-publish your book because deep down you want to stick it to the traditional publishing industry, or because you’re upset that nobody gets you or your writing, or because you see everyone else doing it (mainly huge traditionally-published authors who already have a following and back list), you’re doing it all for the wrong reasons.

Why did I self-publish Cinders? Because I knew it was right for that book. Period. I wrote it to self-publish it. I had no idea I’d write two more novellas at the time. I hadn’t ever tried to traditionally publish or query or seriously get an agent at the time, either. I did it for the pure love of the craft.
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I think I’ve said all this stuff before. I loved self-publishing my novella, but it was a lot of freaking hard work. Notice I’m not self-publishing my other two novellas now that I have a traditional publisher. This is not because I don’t like self-publishing, nor because I think traditionally publishing is inherently better than self-publishing. It’s simply because I could not do both without going crazy and killing myself with the stress and work. If that doesn’t tell you something, I’m not sure what will.

I feel like it’s important that writers don’t delude themselves about why they would pick self-publishing over traditional publishing. Both are something to take seriously, and both are something you can’t do well without a lot of hard work and talent and sacrifice.

How do you feel about all this recent squabbling back and forth between which is better? Do you think it’s purely a personal decision? Are you considering the self-publishing route?

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Self-Publishing, 37 comments

There is No Going Back Once You Publish

I often wonder why writers are in such a frenzy to publish their work. I say frenzy because that’s exactly what it feels like. That’s how I felt before I put my little novella, Cinders, out into the world, and that’s what it feels like as I visit blogs and talk to other writers. Going to my first and only writer’s conference so far was like a writer’s version of publishing-heroine. A chance to get noticed! Learn more about writing! Make important connections! Get one step closer! The tension, euphoria, and energy in the air was so thick I wasn’t sure I was going to make it through the day. I was exhausted when I got home. I was high, too, because I had the chance to meet an agent who currently had my partial of MONARCH. I thought for sure she’d request a full later because I stood in line and shook her hand and introduced myself. Yeah. No full request.

I have a friend online whom I chat with sometimes on facebook. She’s such a sweetheart. She’s also a new writer and she’s asked me a few times about self-publishing and what it entails. She’s on her first book and I finally decided to be completely honest and forthright with her. I told her to stop worrying about publishing and just finish her book. She didn’t seem upset by what I said. It’s simple advice.

Cinders is my fourth book. When I wrote my first book I would have given anything to get it out there. I think I would have chopped off my right arm if it guaranteed me a publishing contract. That was a long time ago. I didn’t make the decision to self-publish Cinders lightly, but at the same time I’m not sure I realized exactly what I was doing.  

If there is one thing I can say to anyone considering publishing anything, traditionally or self, it’s this: There is no going back.

Like having a baby, you can’t send it back. In fact, it’s even more permanent than a baby! You can’t put up a book for adoption. It’s yours and it always will be. You wrote it. Even if you move on and start writing under a different name that book is still out there. Even if it’s no longer being sold or printed, even if you pull it off Amazon, people have still read it or have it on their e-readers or bookshelves. You still loved it enough at one point to put it out there.

Dorothy Howell has a guest post today up on Marilyn Meredith’s blog. It’s about knowing what you want before you publish. It’s an amazing post. You should go read it. She talks about making these very important decisions before you even finish your book. You must know what you want! I don’t regret putting Cinders out there, but because I wasn’t absolutely 100% sure of what I wanted, I start to fear for my own happiness based on sales and popularity and reviews. It’s a bad place to be for me because I want to be happy for how things are now. I’m getting back to that place, but it’s difficult.

I can’t stress enough…there is no going back, especially on your expectations. Don’t be in a hurry. Don’t get frenzied. Even if you feel like your clock is ticking, take your time and make sure that what you finally do put out there is really what you want, how you want it, and when you want it. Believe it or not, this usually means writing more than just one book, and this usually involves years of patience and work. Many of you are already sure. Many of you aren’t.Wherever you are at, whether you are going to publish traditionally, independently, or with a small publisher, step forward with caution. You don’t want to hit rocks at the bottom of that dive.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Self-Publishing, 20 comments