Since the age of nineteen, at any given time, I have been writing a novel. In fact, I have written quite a few. Some of them were quite terrible, some of them remain unfinished, and some of them are, in my proudest moments, things I believe to be good. Recently, my own writing endeavors were consumed by freelance writing, until I finally brought them back into focus. I have a number of completed novels, but right now one of them stands out to me and my helpful coterie of alpha readers as the most polished and ready for publication. In this article, I discuss my goals, doubts, and options for what to do with my finished novel, Roland’s Legion.
Reaching for the Stars
For the longest time, I wanted my novel published as a means of legitimization. Having had work published as a freelancer, I now realize that while it is very cool to say I am a published writer, publication (whatever that means these days) is not the cache of credibility it once was. For me, writing is something I enjoy, but more than that, its something I want to share. Good books I read become a part of me in weird cheesey uncynical way, and some of the best moments writing brought me was when people told me how much my writing resonated with them, or that they enjoyed it. Its a twisted world in which I have to write for myself, yet crave the praise of others. Rather than rail against my contradictory nature I choose to embrace it. I want to get my novel out into the wild for people to enjoy and increase my own exposure so more people will read whatever I write next. It’s really that simple. Making money on it would be nice, but profit is not my imperative.
For whatever reason, I still love reading physical books. My own preferences, and a healthy dose of nostalgia, leads me inexorably back to wanting, perhaps needing, an honest-to-God dead tree release of my book. Anachronistic as it may be for an upstart like myself to value it, I just can’t escape the fact its what I want.
In order to decide what to do with my novel, it’s important to decide what I want out of my novel. I’ve written and revised it along with a long list of alpha readers. I think the plot, characters, and structure are strong, but I am aware enough of my own failings to know that it desperately needs a professional editor. One of the allures of publications would be expert eyes helping fine tune my story. So, absent publication, I want a way to have that kind of assistance without making an enormous financial outlay. I am enough of a snob to know that the errors in my own manuscript that I am blind to could easily discourage readers that otherwise might love Roland’s Legion.
There is a Hole in My Mind
All of that being said, I have my concerns. First and foremost is that somehow I will screw up in some way that will take a good, potentially marketable debut novel and bury it under a pile of mistakes in execution. As galling as it may be to write a bad book (and I wrote a number of books that I know with metaphysical certainty to be bad) it might be even more galling to ruin a good book with a poor plan of marketing, distribution, or publication. I can’t be sure what will work best, but I am certain that doing nothing will get me nowhere.
I’m also worried about the scope of work it will take to turn my beta draft novel into something that can be read by strangers. I write as a hobby, I work full-time, and I have a whole host of exciting life events on the horizon. I don’t want compromise my career, my family obligations, or my commitment to my goals with my novel. Furthermore, part of me recoils at the thought of transforming those precious hours I set aside for writing into time I spend pushing my writing out there for the public. Make no mistake, I want that to happen, but the creative part of me would rather be writing instead of marketing my novels.
The Road Less Traveled
In the past sought agent representation for my novel. Alas, my manuscripts were never successfully sold to a publisher by an agent. I have tried a number of different query letters, and a wide variety of agents that seemed to be focused on the right type of fiction, but nothing worked with Roland’s Legion. For now, I consider this path tried and exhausted.
I could throw caution to the wind and ‘do it myself.’ I could use my own personal funds to hire an editor, a cover artist and get layout done. Then I could pay for my own print run and market/sell the book as a physical book in addition to electronic formats. For me, not only are the finances unappealing with this option, but I think that there are a lot of opportunities to create interest and fans in the fundraising.
Which leads me, for the moment to crowdfunding. Unlike games (in which I have some experience), novels are tougher items to crowdfund. As a relatively unknown author, I am bringing little to the table by way of a brand. However, I believe that if I set my financial goals sensibly, engineer enticing stretch goals, and energize the small group of people that believes in me and and my writing I may be able to achieve my objectives.
Where Does The Road End?
The dichotomy between confidence in your craft and uncertainty about its viability long paralyzed and prevented me from taking my next step as a creator. I have been fortunate enough to teach myself how to write novels, but have been unwilling to teach myself how to create a fanbase and share my work. Based on my goals and my options available, I think that now is the time to change that. To that end, look for a crowdfunding campaign for sometime in 2014.