Friday, November 13, 2009

On "Picking up the Marbles and Going Home..."

We all know what the phrase means, but how does it relate to self-publishing?

Publishing is a tough business. Yes, it is a business. If all we wanted to do was write and create magic using words as an art, then why do we need a "business?" Surely, if you want to write and then share your art, you could offer it via your web site for free. You certainly don't need to publish it or get involved with the harsh and cruel world of publishing. If you want to make a little change from your art, why not install a "Donation" button on your web site and ask readers who enjoyed your story to offer a little for the pleasure of reading it for free. It could work and you could bypass publishing completely.

But most authors want a "book." A book that is considered "published" and available on the great and mighty Amazon. We want to feel as if we've arrived as an author and only by having an honest-to-God, "real" book listed on Amazon will we feel accomplished.

And what about self-publishing? What makes the self-published author feel as if they've "arrived?" Large sales? High rankings on Amazon? Having everyone talking about your book? Landing a "real" publishing contract from one of the "real" publishers? Getting fan email? Having to turn down blurb requests? What makes it real for you?

And what about the times when writing and publishing begin to tear you down? The work involved in self-publishing is hard and long. Never ending. You are basically going at it alone. Personally, the freedom of going it alone is what attracted me to self-publishing. But what about the times when no matter how much time you spend online promoting or sending out review copies, your books get little to no sales and little to no notice. You blog and blog and no one shows up at your blog. What then? No, you don't have the funds to hire publicity agents. It's only you. Will you remain a happy writer? Will you continue writing when no one is buying your book or talking about your book? Is the love of writing that strong in your physical and emotional psyche to stand up to that kind of frustration and disappointment?

I may be off-base here, but I believe we are fooling ourselves if we think we are writing only because we "cannot not write." We write because we are storytellers. As writers, we are writing down our stories. But what is a storyteller without a listener? A writer without readers?

At what point do you pick up your marbles and go home?


Anonymous said...


I think this is a very good blog. It takes a very special kind of self-starter and self-sustaining person to self-publish. I never could do it, despite having skills in probably most of the areas needed: marketing, design, editing, and layout.

Success means different things to different people. As you say, we authors can write anything. Being read is where most of us find our fulfillment. The number of readers, or segment of readers, we want to reach to call ourselves a "success" seems to be where the measuring stick differs for each of us.

I am "old fashioned" I suppose. I am more happy with the print sales of my first novel than with expanding into publishing via e-book sales. Wave of the future or not, I have a library in my home full of books I treasure. I want my work to be treasured like that by someone else. So I will always want publishing options that give me print sales. So, yes, I could self-publish, POD printing through Lulu, or iUniverse, or similar. But though I have editing skills, I feel that an editor has an idiot for a client if she is editing her own work. And spending all that money up front to pay for an outside editor. I like the "outside" part. It's the up front money I dislike. Being part of a publishing house, I get a skilled editor, and the publishing house pays her. I don't have to worry about that side of the business.

That is probably the bottom line. I go with a traditional publishing approach for my work because I want to worry (mostly) about what I am writing, not so much about all the parts that went into getting it into print. I like having input -- that's why I like the publisher I am with over others -- but I don't need to control every last minutiae to feel I'm producing a book I can be proud of.

Anonymous said...


It's a problem a lot of authors face now and some of them probably won't admit it, even to themselves.

Nobody's book gets much attention or makes much money -- unless you're Sarah Palin or some other famous or infamous person.

Self-publishing is a back breaker and can be a heartbreaker unless you have a tough hide and a sure sense of your worth.

But look around you -- who's on the road these days, beating the bushes and often at their own expense? Just about everyone.

I'd guess that when it all sifts out, 95 percent of authors are in the same boat in one way or another.

Do your thing. Do what makes you happy. Just don't plan to make a living by writing fiction.

Pat Browning
Author of one mystery, ABSINTHE OF MALICE, with 2 more in progress. Very. slow. progress.

Patty G. Henderson said...

Thanks, Lara and Pat. I'm a writer who's always gone through lots of angst and constant reflections over my art. I continue to consider writing part of the arts. While meditating, I try to open myself to the joys and not the negatives. I am curious what other writers feel deep down regarding their writing and their part in the success and or failure in the publication of their books.

Pat, when I first started writing my first novel, I had fairy dust in my head and stars in my eyes. I was going to be a popular author in my niche and be able to write full-time. Most of us come down to reality fairly quickly. Others are more stubborn. LOL. In any case, my idea of making any kind of money off writing has long gone.

I guess I've come to the point in the road where if I want to write, I will. If I don't, it won't bother me one bit.

Again, thanks for posting. I loved hearing both your thoughts.

JAD said...

Patty, you likely know what I'd say; I hate to see you quit writing, because You are Good, and to heck with what anyone else thinks. But I totally understand too. I get frustrated, and you know how frustrated I get at the seemingly 1% acceptance rate in the publishing industry. I certainly don't have fairy dust in my eyes, but heck, you can't get in the door if you don't knock on it. But I would write, even if I wasn't tossing stuff out to publisher after publisher. I hope you don't lose that similar drive, whatever you decide to do.

Patty G. Henderson said...

Don't worry, JAD, I will continue to write, at whatever pace I choose, if only to beat back deterioration of the brain cells that oncoming age brings. LOL. Writing keeps the brain active. Like garlic against the vampire. It protects you from getting senile too early. LOL.

Seriously, my post was to get some writers, especially self-published writers, to talk about their feelings on writing, publishing and the struggles and joys and expectations of the whole enchilada.

I would never, ever, go back to signing a contract with a publisher....big or small. I don't want the constraints. I write when I want, what I want. I don't have the stress of meeting word counts or setting sales quotas for publishers. I also choose, 100%, what goes on my big the type in my books and I also keep all my rights. LOL. When I elected to self-publish, I yanked that monkey off my back and I don't regret it.

It does get tough in the trenches sometimes and you run the risk of questioning yourself and your books, but I think most authors do that regardless of whether they are self-published, contract published or still in search of a publisher.

Thank you for your enthusiasm for my work. It's greatly appreciated as is your post.

Anonymous said...


I'm glad you read my posts on Murderous Musings. The 3 authors I quoted really got down to the nitty-gritty of their self-publishing experiences. They let it all hang out,as we used to say. (Do people still use that expression? I haven't heard it in ages!)

Best of luck with your new book.

Pat Browning