Self-Publishing and Fear

I’ve had a busy work schedule recently, so I haven’t been doing a whole lot of writing. In the next week, though, I have a lot of time off, and I’ll try to use that to get back to work on The Shadowed Land.

I have to admit that I also went through one of my frequent doubtful phases. Taking the self-publishing plunge is a very difficult thing, and I’ve had a lot of back and forth on it. Mostly, it’s fear. Fear that I’ll fail completely. Fear that I’ll put too much on my plate. Fear that I’ll ruin my chances of trade publishing in the future.

But this is what I have to ask myself. Which is worse: all these fears, or never taking the chance? I believe in my books. People who’ve read my books believe in them. It can be difficult, though. If I’ve written something that’s good and entertaining, why haven’t I gotten even the tiniest nibble from an agent? It’s easy to tell myself my stuff must actually suck, but I doubt that’s really the case. The fact is agents are bombarded with hundreds and hundreds (sometimes even thousands) of queries. Standing out among these can be very difficult.

I will also admit that I’m not very good at writing queries. A lot of the appeal of my books comes from the fact that I take the common tropes of fantasy and put some new twists on them. It can be difficult to get these twists across in a query, so my books end up looking like yet another cliched fantasy story.

Then there’s the question of word count. Sunweaver is short enough, but Empire of Chains is not. Empire of Chains is about 164,000 words, and agents are hesitant to look at anything that gets over about 120,000. I’ve done all I can to make the book as short as possible. I’ve already cut 40,000 words out of it. It’s tightly written now, but agents might not see that. They’re inundated with epic fantasy submissions that are way too long because the other can’t write concisely.

By no means am I bashing the agents and publishing industry in general. It’s a very difficult job they have. They have to identity books that they think will sell, and there’s no set formula to this. That’s part of the reason that some very successful books almost never got published. Publishing will never be a perfect industry.

I’m not expecting to become a millionaire through self-publishing. That’s a foolish expectation, even with trade publishing. Many trade-published authors still have to keep their day jobs. Being an author is not a path to getting rich quick. We do it because we love it. I wouldn’t say no to becoming a mega bestseller, but I know it’s far from likely whatever route I take.

I’d be satisfied, for now, with making five to ten thousand dollars a year. That would allow me to make writing my part-time job while I’m going through school again. I know I’d like it a lot more than my current job in retail. But I’m not expecting this either, especially at first. Publishing of any kind is a long and difficult road. The challenges vary depending on which type of publishing you pursue.

But, once again, I don’t want to live my life wondering what might have happened.

4 thoughts on “Self-Publishing and Fear

  1. Hey now, don’t be satisfied with only $10,000 a year! But yeah, the gatekeepers of the publishing industry do make it rough on us just-starting-out-types. Anywho, take the chance!


  2. Hey Ryan, I’m pretty much in the same place and I’ve made the plunge to self-publish. I have a four book series and I have book one going through edits with CreateSpace. I’ve also been trying to keep up with the blogosphere and getting involved with discussion groups. Keep your chin up and keep plugging away! And if you set up a mailing list for this blog, I’d love to join up. –Steve


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s