I’ve posted a few times about the completion of the first draft of my third novel, currently titled Gram & Me. I had high hopes of editing and polishing and maybe even securing an agent by this summer. Many revisions later, I continued to receive “no thank-you” from agent after agent, some with brief notes about why it didn’t work for them, others strictly form replies. I’ve had the novel professionally edited and critiqued by numerous people along the way. So many say “your writing is strong, but….” The “but” part differs from one commenter to another. I planned to just bite the bullet and self-publish by this time, but how would that get me any closer to what a novel needs to appeal to the traditional publishing world (whose gatekeepers are agents)? I’m always in such a hurry to move to the next step. And it’s hard to keep responding “not yet” to the questions of friends and family about when the book will be out when none of them really understands the challenges of the publishing world.
So I’m faced with a couple of choices. I could just go ahead and self-publish. The book would be out by fall, in plenty of time to promote heavily for the holidays. I’m proud of the story and my writing. I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from early readers. But…. How long should I continue, book after book, pursuing the Holy Grail of publishing through a major publisher? So many writer acquaintances remind me that you lose a lot of control when you let a major publisher take control of your book – AND, with the rare exception of a breakthrough novel that hits the bestseller lists, there’s actually better potential to make money through self-publishing, if making money is the goal.
So, should I pursue the path of least resistance? Just publish the damn book and move on? Or do I forge on, pursuing the shortcomings of Gram & Me and the changes that would make it more appealing to agents, knowing that probably means many more dollars spent on detailed critiques and many more hours/days/weeks/months spent rewriting until the novel begins to win praise and the coveted “yes” from agents and publishers? Do I walk away from my writing dreams and pursue other goals in my remaining years, knowing this “failure” will follow me every step of the way, and that “giving up” will haunt me with what-ifs until eternity?
I already knew when I started this post that I wasn’t ready to give up on Gram & Me yet. Part of the reason for that was the hope I read into the cover note of a new critique. The critique arrived when I was on vacation, and I was unable to open the document with the details. But the cover note started out with “I’ve finished going through your pages and gave you a lot of comments. I really like much of your writing, and I feel you have some good components here that could be worked into a strong story.” That might not sound like high praise. But you need to know that it comes from the same reviewer who basically told me to trash my last novel in January of 2015. So understand that she doesn’t sugarcoat her comments. If she believed this novel has potential, that’s high praise in my book! Vacation ends today, and I can print out and study her comments and try on her recommendations. In the big picture, what makes more sense: self-publishing another book into oblivion, or knowing that – win or lose – I gave it every possible chance to succeed (given my definition of success)?
What would you do?