Over the past eighteen years, I’ve written three science fiction novels, each about 125,000 words. That’s just the word count of each of the manuscripts as they exist today, and doesn’t take into account all the re-writing and revisions I’ve made over the years, especially to the first. The total number of different words I’ve put into those books, and taken out and moved around and cut-up and redistributed and so forth, must total over five hundred thousand.
Currently, I’m finishing the third in the trilogy, but I’m still trying to sell the first. Over the past sixteen years I’ve sent query letters to well over a hundred agents about that first book, but haven’t had a taker. I’ve met with agents and editors at meetings, but no one has yet agreed to represent it. In the meantime, I still work at writing on the trilogy, mostly on the third, but occasionally I go back and make changes and revisions to books one and two. I also write short stories and blog posts. Writing keeps me busy.
The most common question I get asked about all this is, have you considered self-publishing? The answer is yes, I’ve considered it, but I have, at least for now, rejected it. Those who have self-published a book say it’s a wonderful experience. You get a book out there on Amazon and other places, without going to the trouble of having to find an agent and a publisher.* Just do it, they say. No, I say.
Why not? My usual response is that I would prefer to write and leave the publishing details to those better prepared to deal with them. Sure, I could go ahead and find an editor and a cover artist and a printer and all that, and put the book out there. That could be done. It wouldn’t go into many bookstores, though. The most important question I ask myself about this process is: would the book be any good? There’s a lot of self-published stuff out there that isn’t. I’m sure an editor, especially an editor who looks at content, could give me his/her opinion about the whole matter, and manuscript reviewers (that is, beta readers) could give me feedback too, but the ultimate decider of whether a book is any good is the reading public, and I wouldn’t want them to read a half-ass book. Or a three-quarter ass book. Or even a seven-eighths ass book. I want to put out only my best work. I’d rather go through the regular old-fashioned process of getting an agent and publisher and let them decide if the book warrants publishing. So far, that hasn’t happened, and leads me to wonder if my first book is really good enough to be published yet. More revisions loom. And if it’s not good enough to be published through the traditional route, it certainly isn’t good enough to be self-published.
*Sometimes I get the feeling that some people self-publish because they know their book(s) isn’t/aren’t good enough for the traditional method in the first place anyway.