Let’s Get Hypothetical


Photo Credit: Savvy Stews

Hm. Oh the many things I could ask now that we’re speaking hypothetically. There’re writing questions. And book questions. And character questions. And publishing questions. And author questions. And reading questions. And…okay you get the point. There are SO many things I could ask you right now. Some questions would be outlandish and you might just give me a weird look, but others would really make you think. At least that’s what I’m hoping for.

So hopefully I’ve come up with one that will make you think just a bit. I’ll give you a slight heads up. We’re about to talk publishing. Okay. No, I’m not going to just ask if you prefer traditional over self-publishing. That’d be too easy. I’m also not going to ask what you think about the current dispute between Amazon and Hachette. Nope.

Here’s our little scenario. You’re an author. You’ve written what you think is a pretty damn good book. It isn’t your first foray into fiction, but you’re not exactly the most experienced author out there. So now you’re considering your publishing options. You’re thinking the story is worthy of a big publisher that can put some marketing behind it, but you haven’t forgotten about those 92 rejections your last novel received before you ultimately decided to shelve it for the time being, Then a strange little man appears on your doorstep and before you can make up an excuse to get him off your porch he barges in without a word.

You start to protest but he’s able to quiet you just by lifting his index finger in the air. Then he sits down and waits for you to do the same. ¬†You do so against the screaming voice in your head. Then he says, “I have a proposition for you.” He doesn’t wait for you to respond. “You have two very simple choices to choose from when it comes to that book you’ve just finished. And you must make your decision before I leave here.” You nod your head with a confused look on your face. How the heck did he know about your book? After getting people excited about the last one and having it go nowhere you’d told not a single person about this one. You’re probably about to be cut up into pieces by this little man, you think.

“Okay,” he says, “listen very carefully to your choices. I’m only going to say them once.” You nod again. Your curiosity getting the best of you. “Your first choice is that a big publisher publishes your book. You’re new to them so they won’t get behind you as much as their more established authors. But you accomplish your goal of being published by a Big 5 publisher. There’s a slight catch. You won’t make any money off the book.” The hopes that had built up inside you as he spoke disappeared as soon as he finished.

“Your second choice is a bit different. You decide against traditional publishing like so many have before you. You publish an e-book online. You expect to sell a few copies to family and friends before the book falls into the recesses of the self-publishing craze. But you’re wrong. Some promotional things you do for the book pan out and you sell more than 1,000 the first month and you’re above the moon. But it gets better and after six months you’ve sold nearly 15,000 copies of your book. Your royalty is just under $5 a book. A year later you’ve written another book that you have already decided will be published online only as an e-book. Traditional publishing is not something you’ll ever consider again. The final part of this scenario is that your e-books will not be published in print.”

You should be wondering how this little man can possibly come up with these things, but you’re not. Your mind is racing trying to come up with a valid response that isn’t just “whaa.” Every real writer still wants to be traditionally published, right? All the writers in your critique group have expressed such disgust with self-publishing that you stopped mentioning it long ago. Self-published authors aren’t really authors.

But on the other hand you could quit your job at the newspaper that you hate. The people suck. The stories suck. It all sucks. But then you’d likely never show your face at critique group meetings again. Your book would never be on bookshelves at the bookstore down the street from your apartment. And whenever people asked who published your book you’d have to say you did.

He stands up. “I’m leaving now. You need to pick one.”

What would you do?