I've been reading lots of stuff online about self publishing Vs traditional publishing and I thought I would just put my own, incredibly unimportant*, oar into the water. Also, would stress this is strictly my own opinion written more to clarify my thoughts than anything else.
Now, in the interests of truthfulness I better admit I have self published some stuff. And in the interests of plugging it here's some links – Interment and The Social Diary of a Ghoul- but we'll come back to them and the why's and wherefores later.
I write because I love to. That's the be all and end all of it. There is no other reason. I have ideas and people in my head and I want to share them - give back some of the joy I've had from books. However, there are some problems with this and it's the genesis of those problems that are the reason I would never self publish a novel.
I don't think I'm very good.
At a standard? yes. I have a rudimentary understanding of grammar and a decent vocabulary but what I do is never right. It never matches the picture in my head and I'm honest enough to know that when you write something, of any complexity at all, it's easy to miss stuff. That's not because you're a bit dim it's because, as the writer, you know everything backwards. I might know that 'The Dagger of Misanthrope the Great Unpleasantness' has a magic power that will make my hero grow a massive leg when it's needed in chapter eight but the reader doesn't. It's all too easy to overlook things like that, the little details.
Also, I don't actually know if my characters come across as I intend them to. Beta reading helps, to some degree, but over time beta readers become friends and then there's always that thought in the back of my head – 'are they just being kind'?
For that reason, whatever it might cost me financially to have a professional editor challenge me on what I'm doing and make me think in new ways of doing it is worth it. It can only make me, and my book, better. I cannot imagine anything worse than becoming complacent. Thinking 'I can do it' is at the same time a goal I want to reach for but one I never want to arrive at. And for me to put out a novel myself is akin to saying I think I have it down pat. I don't, probably never will.
Then there's the myths I keep reading, the 'old boys network' and 'publishers aren't looking for anything new.' To be quite frank, bollocks. A major publisher looked at my novel after looking at my blog. No agent involved, you don't get to work in acquisitions with these places unless you love the form. They are out there, they are actively looking. Now, I hear you saying, 'looked, maybe, but they didn't take it did they?' And you're right, no they didn't. But they explained their reasoning, were very complimentary about my writing and left an open invite for the future work. That project just didn't happen to be for them**
Another thing is this: VALIDATE ME. You might think it's weak, it probably is. But the fact someone is stepping in and saying, 'yes, we reckon this is worth paying for and pushing, you just keep on writing RJ,' would be a massive thing to me. I have no training in this, have never been to a workshop, don't go to cons to network and have had to re-teach myself grammar from scratch. I am just a chap sat on my own trying to write a thousand words a day.
Which leads me back to the couple of things I have published. One I was pushed into doing by a friend, the second was nominated for a literature award so I know it has a little merit. Also, they're not novels and are things I'm pretty sure have little to no traditional market.
Lastly, business. I have a two year old boy, he has better business sense than me. On top the fact I'm really, really ill and have very limited amounts of energy then the work a trad publisher would do becomes entirely worth it.
So, those hurried scratched down amid coughing and sneezing thoughts are why I will toddle on in my venture to find a trad publisher/agent. If you're self publishing, good luck to you, I think you're brave but it's not for me.
*was going to say 'incredibly small oar' but it felt like I was insulting myself somehow
**Which is a fair thing to say, I wrote it knowing it was probably a love it/hate it thing.
(Apologies for any errors, am dying of cold.)