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Query Roulette or Self Pub: My Decision

Readers of this blog know that I recently published my second novel, Sixth South. I made the decision to self-publish it after first querying it to agents.

There is a great deal of talk these days about traditional vs. self-publishing, and a lot of strong opinions. There are well-known authors that speak in favor of self-publishing (for example, James Rollins, who was the keynote at the writing conference I attended) and those that are against it (for example, Sue Grafton, who thinks self-pubbing is the lazy way out).

I self-published my first novel, After Ten, without querying it. It seemed like the right decision at the time, and all things considered, I still think that.

I attended the DFW Writer’s Conference last May and learned a lot about publishing and a lot about writing. I had the opportunity to pitch Sixth South to a NY agent who seemed really cool and who seemed interested. She requested my MS. I also talked to other agents, either casually at lunch or in workshops, and thought they seemed like good people.

I left the conference on with a wave of momentum and I decided to play the game that I now call query roulette. I sent queries. I sent them to some of the top agents in the business. I got some requests for partials and fulls, and I got some rejections.

I did this for several months and then in August I hired a freelance editor and began the process to publish Sixth South myself. That journey became complete last week when the book was officially released for sale.
I think there are still a few queries out there. If any of them result in an offer of representation, I will have to say thanks but no thanks. So why the decision to self-pub after querying, and why the haste?

Well, it’s not laziness. There has been nothing lazy about my efforts in writing the book or releasing it. It’s been through numerous drafts, critiqued my people whose opinion I value, and carefully edited. I’m confident in the book. Confident enough that had I continued to play query roulette for longer, I think I would have received an offer of representation.

I didn’t want to play the game forever, though. I know other writers who are agented, and good for them. Some of them have even sold their books, which is even better. They’re looking forward to their release sometime in the fall of 2014 or the spring of 2015. More power to them, and I wish them every success.

In making my decision, I had to take a good, hard look at my book. I write what I call real-life women’s fiction. That includes writing about social issues, things that might be timely now. Ultimately, that is what drove my decision. I feel that this book is timely now. Two years from now, I don’t know. And I decided I didn’t want to wait. I wanted to release it now.

Another factor in the decision was, admittedly, that I self-pubbed my first book. When you’re a self-published author, it’s very important to keep your name out there. That means following up your first book with a second, and then a third. Building a library. Building your brand.

I released my first book last October. By late summer of this year, I began to notice a slow-down in sales. I took that to mean that it was time. I needed to get another book out there. I think it’s helped, too. Sales of my first book have ticked upward again with the release of my second. Granted, it’s only a week, and hardly a scientific study, but so far, so good.

Had I not self-pubbed my first book and been in that situation of needing to get another one out there, I might have had more patience with the query game. I don’t know. The decision was made, and I’m happy with it.

Still, I won’t deny that the lure of traditional publishing is there. I am hard at work on my third novel right now and making plans to attend the DFW Writer’s Conference again where I will probably pitch it, and maybe play the query game all over again.

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3 comments on “Query Roulette or Self Pub: My Decision

  1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Michele!

  2. Ah, query roulette. What a perfect name for it. A game I will be playing again next year. I completely understand your frustration with the process and ultimately it sounds like the choice you made is the right one for you.

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