Monday, July 25, 2011

Don't Self-Publish Your Novel (Yet)

Go ahead, shout hypocrite at your computer screen.

Aaron, you say, you've self-published a pile of books (if e-books can be piled). Why shouldn't I self-publish my novel?

Let me start with this: I've killed Borrowed Saints. It was a weak book. I kind of knew it was weak, but I was lured in by the ever-present siren song: a ton of weak books sell, sell, sell. When I read through it the last time, just before publishing, I thought--yes, maybe. There's some good writing here, and some fun characters.

But really, is it the best I can do?

No. No, it's not. It needs work. Another ten-thousand words, at least. The ending, while attempting to be "cliff-hanger-eque" fell flat. I can do better. I know I can.

So I pulled it. One of the beauties of e-publishing. *zip* Gone.

It's easy to e-publish, for better or worse. In the case of Borrowed Saints, I think it might have been worse.

Last fall, I mentioned an e-publisher made an offer for my first novel. That poor book has been through the proverbial wringer, battered and abused and edited to death. I picked it up again, planning to give it one more pass before self-publishing. Hey, if a publisher liked it...

But it stinks. The ideas, characters, and plot don't stink (much), but the writing?

Phew.

So I'm starting a rewrite (along with my other WIP, a supernatural thriller). I'm keeping the characters, plot, and general idea, but killing all the over-wrought prose. I can see the writer I was five years ago in that book. That writer is dead. Without the failure and success of the last five years, without the struggle to sneak into a few prestigious short story markets and find publishers for my books, I wouldn't have become the writer I am now.

Thank God for bad books. Thank God for the hours I've spent writing, editing, revising, and deleting. Thank God for failure and the willingness to do it again. And again.

That novel you've written? Is it the best you can do?

Just because e-publishing is easy, it doesn't mean you should.

15 comments:

Joyful Sparrow said...

Good call. I've just queried my first couple of agent hopefuls this past weekend. Fingers crossed.

AnthonyJRapino said...

Great points, Aaron. That's what worries me most of self-publishing these days. It's easy. I've been toying around with the idea of releasing a collection of short story reprints, but I keep holding off. Maybe one day.

Rabid Fox said...

If only the people who slapdash their novels together and throw them up on the Kindle Store were as prescient as you. I guess that's one of the key differences between a good author and a bad one.

Barry Napier said...

Well said. It takes guts to fess up about lackluster writing...even more guts to pull novel because of it. I did the same thing with Darklights (shudder). A year after it was released, I hated that book. Like LOATHED it. of course, afterwards, the tiny bit of feedback I got on it was all positive. Go figure.

Simon Kewin said...

Great points, Aaron, great points. And well done for being so ruthless. Sometimes it's necessary.

Karen from Mentor said...

It's a lot like wearing a mini skirt after 70, just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

Been through the too many cooks can kill a book thing, and I'm sorry it happened to you; especially with something you used to like. Hope you can resurrect it to your own satisfaction.

Releasing something we love into the world is the ultimate rush.

Erin Cole said...

Self-publishing definitely entices the young writer, but it's also a good way to get exposure.

You've posted a good reminder here to writers that everything we post/publish/submit must always be the best we can do. Still, as we mature in our writing, it is inevitable that we'll look back on older works and know that they could be better, which is a good thing because that means we are honing our skills.

Natalie L. Sin said...

I have old notebooks with story ideas in them. They're adorable ; )

Indigo said...

Nothing in life comes easy. If it seem to easy, you haven't worked hard enough or put in enough time. I definitely know I'm a different breed of writer than I was five years ago. There is always room for improvement. When we stop learning and striving to improve on our writing, we stop caring. (Hugs)Indigo

Deborah Walker said...

This is an interesting and brave post, Aaron.

What I find facinating is how do you know? How do you know what's good or bad. I think that many writers are the worst judge of their own work. Maybe you've reached the stage where you can be objective, but are you sure that you're not being too hard on yourself?

Aaron Polson said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone. I'll get better at my responses. Promise. ;)

(Debs - I didn't feel right about the book. Some reviews were very positive, others not so much. Every one of the not so much reviews hit the same spots I thought were weak. Make sense?)

Deborah Walker said...

Makes perfect sense, Aaron.

K.C. Shaw said...

That's a hard decision to make, but I definitely know how you feel. I have some short stories floating around out there that I wish I could delete not just from the internet, but from the brains of everyone who read them.

Katey said...

Yeah, it's totally not about selling, it's about being happy with your stuff, with what you have out there representing you. And I mean, all writers grow up in public. It's just a thing. But we all have our line, right?

Cate Gardner said...

I'm grateful that the majority of my early stories appeared in print magazines in the late 90s. It's like a semi-burial.