Trad Pub vs. Self Pub: Because You Can't Have Too Many Cooks in This Kitchen

So, this writer-lawyer has to make the same decision faced by every other writer.

Do I pursue traditional/legacy/evil-gatekeeper publishing or do I pursue the independent/anarchy-laden/wild west of self-publishing?

The answer is simple.

The answer is YES.

My completed WIP, titled JEWEL, is a straight-up crime drama/thriller with enough bow-chicka to flirt around with romantic suspense. It is "commercial fiction" of the sort I enjoy reading. Two large crimes collide and cars get wrecked, shit gets shot, people get hurt, and hearts get broken. Mayhem ensues.

So, what do I owe Juliana and Ethan, my two main characters after we've been together this long through several disasters in my writer life, both man-made, and of the natural-weather variety?

I owe them my best.

And, in my opinion, that means pursuing traditional publishing with both hands and everything I can give it. Juliana and Ethan pulled me through the judging of the 2013 Claymore Award and I believe I can pull them through the query process.

The guts of my query have been winnowed from 250 to 160 words and distilled to its essence. Even the synopsis works. They both led to, and resulted from, polishing the manuscript with the best I, and my betas, had to offer (including the hilarious late night FB message session with a pro writer friend.)

All of that tidying up before facing down the fearsome gatekeepers isn't useless posturing, it is molding the project into its best form before I present it to the world. I wouldn't show my house for sale with dishes in the sink (okay, that ONE time, but they surprised me.) Why then is it acceptable to say, "Oh, all the classics have typos and errors, they don't matter!" The answer is, "it's not."

If, after I have given it everything I have, I hit a wall that is business related, not quality related, I will consider self-pub for my dynamic duo. At that time I will have a project that has been forged in as brutal a cauldron as exists. But they deserve that to be a business decision, not just impatience on my part.

The benefits I see to trad pub are:

The validation. Yup, the validation.
The businessy stuff about distribution and sub-rights.
The experience. Why zipline in Belize when I can face the jungles of querying?
The chance to build an audience that could carry into other venues.
The chance of an advance. In my situation, that matters.
The challenge.
The curiosity. How can I rebel if I have never participated?


In the meantime, what about Creighton Blaylock and Caroline Cassett? A much different couple, they were born about 150 years before Juliana and Ethan and find themselves, not on the streets of Austin in a '71 Challenger, but on the border of Kansas and Missouri in the years before the onset of the Civil War. Bleeding Kansas is every bit, if not more dangerous than a meet with smugglers in the Texas boonies.

But their story is smaller, more intimate, and more linear. They are looking for their runaway children and not even Quantrill is going to stop them. Along with way, they discover that not all Jayhawkers and Bushwhackers are evil. *eyebrow waggle*

I have on my drawing board, a series of short romances, around 25K, set in this volatile and under-served historical era. There are definitely presses for this type of work, but here is where I see the value of self-publication.

The benefits I see to self-pub are:

Abundant public domain artwork exists to create good solid covers.
These are shorter works that suit the lower price point of self-pub.
The chance to create a trickle of income while I pursue commercial projects.
Shorter works = shorter turnaround time.
Not having to worry about having "the next book" accepted.

I also have a portfolio of short stories and flash fiction that have been pubbed in mags and zines with all the rights returned to me, but with little resale value. I want to do my own collection, primarily of flash fiction after I tidy them up (I'm better now than I was then.) Another perfect self-pub project. I also have some non-fic legal-related ideas suitable for short works.

I love Hugh Howey. I respect Hugh Howey. I appreciate Hugh Howey and all the work he has done to educate and explain and enlighten. It is a clarion call to action in a new world, not a demand to burn the old world down. This is a time when options abound. As I answered one thread touting how indie is going to rule the world:

"The answer is there is no either/or separated by a moat filled with alligators chomping on the bodies of agents who have thrown themselves in after deciding to end it all. 

There are choices. It is no easier to get a traditional publishing contract now that OMGINDIES have all defected in order to litter Amazon with their word-babies. Why not go after both?"

So, until someone tells me I can't have both, I am going to pursue both.


Stephanie Faris said…
We're each on our own journey and I think it's great that writers have so many options. I've known many successfully published authors who have chosen to self-publish one or two books they couldn't get published through the traditional route. When the story has to be told, it has to be told!
Terri Lynn Coop said…
I agree 100% Stephanie! I am just getting tired of the constant trad-pub bashing and the self-pub dismissing.

It seems now you have to explain yourself for choosing to query.

Um, no . . .
french sojourn said…
Nice post as always. I love the short story…serial, and look forward to reading JEWEL…regardless which format it comes in. This debate reminds me of the Book vs. Kindle conundrum. Kindle works for me as I live in Europe. Its the words that matter, not the vessel. Cheers Hank