THREE – Why am I doing this?

It’s a question I have asked myself a number of times already, and I am only a couple of weeks into the process. So why am I self publishing this novel that took me three or four years to write?

The first reason, of course, is that I think it is something worth reading. I have been writing novels for about ten years now, or more accurately, parts of novels. I always had trouble finishing them. Maybe it was a lack of discipline, or confidence, or commitment. Whatever, I joined a writing group about four years ago, aired out parts of A Year in Lisbon, and found that people liked elements of it. I slowly discovered that this was something that I could actually do.

So I was determined to finish the novel this time. And I did, some time about a year and a half ago. And it’s pretty good. I made some small attempts to find a literary agent, got nowhere, and left it at that.

Then, as I mentioned in blog two, I talked to Luis, and realised that this was something I wanted to do. I could have tried harder to get it published the traditional route. I only wrote to eight or nine agents, I could have kept going.

But the truth was, in researching the publishing industry, I quickly learned of the tiny chance that a book has of actually being successful. As I mentioned in blog one, about one in every five thousand submissions to an agent results in that author being represented by the agency. And then the agent has to get you a publishing deal, which is not automatic.

And even if you do get a deal, the proportion of books that make money is very small, and the number who could be said to gain success, (a wide readership, publicity, a place on the bestsellers list) is tinier still. I was looking at the websites of these literary agents, and checking out the list of authors that they represented. I had only heard of about 10% of them! These were all published writers.

The truth is that the majority of even published writers fade into obscurity. Especially in non-genre fiction, people publish a book with a major publisher, sell a couple of hundred books and are never heard from again. It happens all the time. We only hear about the successes, but the failures are much more common.

So why not just publish myself, have a bit of control over the process, and maybe sell a couple of hundred copies that way. At least this way I am not begging agents and publishers to deign to take me on, knowing that the chances of this happening are miniscule. Wasting time sending out manuscripts when I could be spending that time and money writing another book, or promoting the current one.

And it is an adventure. I am learning all the time about publishing, and actually about writing too. I am re-editing my novel at the moment, aware now that in a month or two people will actually be reading it between the covers of my printed novel. That changes the way I read what I have written, and forces me to make some small but important changes, to make it more readable.

It is worth doing, I think. I don’t expect to make any money from it, but if I could just break even, that would be a success. And I hope to gain a lot more in the process.

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