Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Insecure Writer and Deciding Whether to Self-Publish

Today is May's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?

Because I don’t know which route I’m going to take—traditional or self-publishing.

Now it might seem I’m jumping the gun here a bit, especially when you consider I’ve only recently begun working on my first potentially publishable manuscript. Even if my productivity were to suddenly skyrocket, it will be at least a year before the story is polished enough for publication. And by that time, the publishing world may have changed so much that any decisions I make now might be irrelevant.

So why worry about it now? Because I’m wrestling with a few questions about my story—questions whose answers may depend upon the route I take to publication. .I know what my story is about and I know the setting (magic, castles, humorous characters, etc.), but I still haven’t decided on the age of the main character. Right now, he’s fourteen, making it an upper MG story, which means I need to write with an upper MG style. I have no problem with that, but I can also envision the story with an older MC, one who has recently graduated from college. In that case, the style would be different—something like Harry Potter meets The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. (If you haven’t read either one of these series, you should.) As it stands right now, I haven’t decided which style plays more to my strengths, or which style would be more interesting to potential readers.

Now I could just let these things sort themselves out as I write, but I worry that the correct choice may ultimately depend upon the method I choose for publication. Most of the self-published books I find on Amazon involve older characters*, whereas most of the MG stories are traditionally published. From what I understand, libraries and parents are less inclined to buy self-published MG books, unless from an established author, since there are no assurances a self-published book wouldn’t be full of profanity or other topics unsuitable for MG readers. In other words, if I write the story with a MG MC, I better hope I find an agent and publisher. Then again, I've heard many adults enjoy reading MG books, so who knows?

Perhaps I’m getting the cart before the horse and should just write whatever version of the story most appeals to me and worry about the publishing route later. But that’s what being an Insecure Writer is all about, right?.

If anyone has any thoughts on the subject, I’d love to hear them.

*BTW, I’ve ignored YA in this analysis, since I suspect I’d be terrible at writing YA.


  1. So the reason you're seeing a lot of older characters in the self pub on Amazon is that the genre NA is coming out. Whether it's going to be a really real category or not is hard to say at this point, but I'm seeing agents pick it up and it's selling to publishers. That means it's probably going to start finding it's own shelves in book stories. That push though, has only come after years of NA doing very well in self pub circles.

    I don't think you should tailor any of your writing for self-pub vs. traditional publication. Both rely on a spot on stellar writing (which I'm sure you've already know). Tell the best story you can, but be sure that you're telling the right story for you. Specifically, try to imagine what someone in seventh grade is going to get out of your novel. Then imagine what a 20 year-old would get out of it. Which of those stories do you want to tell? That's the only question to answer.

    1. Thanks for the advice, Rena. I haven't paid much attention to NA since the definition seems so nebulous. I'll have to keep track of how NA develops.

  2. Hmm, you already asked me, and I can't remember what I told you. If you want easier marketing, the NA would be ideal for either self-pub or trade. But if you want middle grade kids to read it, you have no choice. And why do you think you'd be bad at YA? There's a good description of the differences at WRITEONCON. So depending on why you think you wouldn't be good at writing YA, NA might amplify the problem. If it's another reason than listed, I'd like to know. Because your humor would fit the YA or NA genre fine.

    1. YA, at least as I understand it, tends to be more edgy these days, which isn't something I'd be very good at. My stories will always be more on the humorous side. Not saying that YA can't be humorous, but I don't have enough experience with YA to know how well my humor would work with it.

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