Monday, June 14, 2010

Outline Dare Day 4 - Is Traditional Publishing Worth It?

I did do some outlining today, but I spent more time thinking.
(For those who may be new to the blog - I have been conducting an experiment in self-publishing ebooks for some of my older oddball, off-genre works. I haven't really considered it for my mysteries, which I consider my main career.)

I'm seriously considering dropping traditional publishing from my plans altogether.

My reasons aren't the usual reasons. I don't have that much problem with the downside of publishing. I never did. Rejection, lack of freedom, poor pay (especially for new mystery writers), that's just the way it is.

Today I stopped to look at what the upside is... and I'm not seeing much of it.

I stepped away from publishing a while back when I saw midlist writers with a decent following, who wrote great books, dropping out because they couldn't make it. The work was too much, the pay was too little, and as often as not their ultimate reward was that they had to change their names every 3 or 4 books to keep the Barnes and Noble computers from shutting their careers down because they weren't a best seller yet. And that meant they had to drop their series too.

Recently I got all excited about publishing again. It seemed like things had changed. I saw more cozy mysteries on the shelves, and readers seemed excited about them... but it seems like bookstores are still churning authors. It's still very hard to build a following. And on top of that, traditional publishers are snapping up electronic rights in ways to make it much harder for authors to get their rights back and go it alone.

The original upside of traditional publishing was that's how you found readers. If you were lucky you might make a living, but mostly not. There's the prestige of being an author, except that if you haven't made it to bestseller status, most people don't see it as all that hot.

At the moment, the only upside I see left is that you get somebody else to do the editing, book design, and catalog copy. Those are no small things, but as a kid I don't ever remember getting all excited about the thought that someday someone would copyedit my manuscript. That's just not on the list of reasons I started writing.

I haven't made up my mind yet. I won't start marketing the mysteries until fall anyway. But I'm just having a harder and harder time not thinking "why bother?"

What do you guys think?