I recently, finally, signed a publishing contract for my Southern noir crime novel, They Call Me Crazy. I say finally because it has been two years since I finished the book, which by the sands of a publishing hourglass, I hear, is no time at all. But, I work hard and fast on everything, and for me, two years was a long, long time. So now I have a publishing contract, and a year from now, I should have a book.
I'm not going to tell you to keep working, keep going, keep trying---it's not my job to motivate anyone in this business because honestly, it's a hard business to stay positive in. It's filled with rejection, self-doubt, and in most cases, very little return on your creative investment. But I am going to tell you this; there is a 'right' way to publish a book, and finally, I know what that right way is.
As writers, we have choices. We can self publish, go with a small, independent publisher, work with a medium press, contract with a bigger press or one of the Big Five. We can choose to query agents to help in this process, we can rely on our attorneys to read contracts or we can simply go it alone. We can query by email, we can go to conferences and meet people 'in the know', we can incorporate the services of book cover artists and editors, or again, we can do all of these things ourselves. We can even choose not to publish at all.
With all of these options, how can I possibly say there is a 'right' way to publish? I almost self published and changed my mind when the business side of it began to overwhelm me before it even began. I queried some publishers on my own, then found an agent who queried more, then made corrections, adjustments to my manuscript and queried again. Basically, I used the Hot Oatmeal Method: throw it at a wall and see if it sticks. Is that the 'right' way? Well, it worked...
I have friends who are happy and successful in self publishing, small press publishing, hybrid publishing and traditional publishing. What do they all have in common? At some point, they sat down and thought about what they wanted, what they needed, from this thing called publishing. They were honest with themselves and with others about their needs, their time expectations and what they were willing to do to promote and publish their own work. As individual as their manuscripts, they had a plan, based on their goals and their work.
Had I been a bit more informed about all of these options and had I been a tad more in touch with what I really wanted for myself and my work, this process would have been more streamlined than it was. I'm certain I would have found my way to the exact same destination, contracting with a smaller press as I have, but I also feel like had I taken the time to really evaluate my goals and my work, the journey would have been less stressful than it was. Had I not listened to those that tried to tell me the 'right' way to do this I might have realized that everyone has their OWN way.
The 'right' way is your way. Don't let anyone tell you differently.
It really is that simple. And that difficult.