Workshops, community groups, author advice, and every how-to book imaginable—all the things I utilized to craft the perfect query letter. When one wasn’t particularly effective, I modified it and kept track of the results. I checked my inbox obsessively, and when I saw that an agent responded, my heart would stop. “This is it!” I thought. “My book is finally going to be published!” But, the majority of the time, it was a generic rejection in the form of “This isn’t right for my list.” The whole process was not only overwhelming, but very discouraging. In fact, I almost quit writing as a result. Then, I received the crème de la crème of emails from an interested agent. She wanted a full manuscript exclusive!
Within a week, the agent had read my book and gushed about it. She said it was highly marketable, but I just needed to “tweak some things.” These things turned out to be not so little. She was removing entire characters and changing the era. I unwittingly made the changes. She read it a second time and said the same thing. I was so close and wanted to be published so badly, so again, I made the changes. She read it a third time and suggested even more, and again I complied. The process took a year. The result? I absolutely hated my book! Everything had changed and my voice was completely buried. I didn’t know who I was writing for anymore…and it showed. I received a cold hard rejection after everything. The worst part? The book was so mangled that I abandoned it.
This experience was the push I needed to self-publish my first novel, Strange Luck, a psychological YA fantasy about a world built on stolen memories. Self-publishing not only allowed me to see my dream to fruition, it allowed me to present the story I wanted to share with the world. Here’s why self-publishing worked for me and why it might work for you:
Every Decision is Yours: Self-publishing allows you complete control of your story, its characters, and even the description readers see on the back cover. If you choose to work with a professional editor (highly recommended), it’s still up to you to implement the changes. You also get to decide what your book cover looks like.
Publishing Is Quick: Since self-publishing is relatively instantaneous, you can see your book to market anytime you want. This is a great option if you have a particular release date in mind.
Creative Freedom: Unless you’re Stephen King, the majority of agented authors do all the marketing and promotions themselves. This includes booking and putting on author events. Since you’d most likely be doing it anyway, you can take the opportunity to be creative with your marketing efforts. Set up giveaways with a unique catch, create a You Tube channel and vlog about your book and what you’re reading, or even create your own Twitter hashtag.
Full Ownership: You own all of the rights to your book so you can do whatever you want with it, including selling movie rights if you so choose.
More Money in Your Pocket: Not only do you get to choose the price for your print and/or ebook and where your book is sold, all royalties go to you. You’re also paid once a month vs. once a year.
Springboard to Success: Some of the best-selling, highest grossing books of all time were self-published. The Joy of Cooking, 50 Shades of Gray, and The Tales of Peter Rabbit are among some notable success stories. The majority of best-selling self-published authors go on to sign with major publishing houses usually because their books and the market they created get too big for them to handle on their own. Self-publishing is actually a great opportunity to get published traditionally. If these authors hadn’t self-published their books to begin with, they might not have gained the attention needed to sign a major publishing deal.
Whatever your journey, whatever the outcome, the important thing to remember is to NEVER EVER give up writing. Yes, rejection is painful, but it happens to everyone. Stephen King’s Carrie, Frank Herbert’s Dune, Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time, and Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind were all repeatedly rejected by publishers, but it didn’t stop them. And, it shouldn't stop you! Rejection could actually be the driving force you need to take matters into your own hands.
Have you checked out my other posts on writing? You might enjoy these too:
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