novelist | journalist | istist

Going it alone in publishing

After nearly six years of work on my historical adventure novel A Thin Porridge, (story on how I wrote it here) I can say I’m now in the final months of preparation leading up to publication. Shooting for mid-June 2020 for the official debut. 

Ever since I started sketching ideas for this book back in 2014, I’ve been thinking on how I would get it to readers.

I liked the idea of the self-publishing model with its freedom and increased royalties, but even more attractive was the traditional route, with its legitimacy and unparalleled reach.

The problem is that there are so many pros and cons to both methods. And so I’ve spent years going round and round in my head and with cold-sweat monologues over morning coffee about how best to proceed.

I’ve been writing professionally—getting paid to do so—since 2003. Most of that work was in essays, news stories, copy for guides and magazines, websites and brochures.

I put together a couple decent-looking collections of humor essays and self-published them but didn’t sell more than a few copies.

I read all the articles and about half the books on marketing and self-publishing but just couldn’t make a go of it. Looking back, I think a lot of it had to do with the material itself. The fact is that even humor essay books written by known entities don’t sell like genre fiction books do.

Regardless of how well-written and funny I think the essays were, the chances of reaching a wide audience without any real platform or celebrity status really limited the sales potential. 

I got so frustrated with the selling aspect of being an author that, in 2015, I gave up on it completely.

I took a new tack.

For the last five-or-so years, I’ve put my time into reading everything I could get my hands on.

I subscribed to a couple dozen literary magazines, burned through a good chunk of the Western Canon, tried a couple lists worth of experimental fiction—a few of which I actually liked (Renata Adler’s Speedboat being one of my favs), dug into historical fiction, lots of literary fiction, and even began perusing comic books again.

When I wasn’t reading, I was writing. And I do mean writing. 

In the last five years, I’ve written four novels.

I don’t mean first drafts.

I wrote them longhand and transcribed them and revised and edited and revised and edited and sent them to beta readers and revised them some more and then let them sit and went back and revised them again.

Now here I’ve got four completed novels and don’t know what to do with myself.

I could send them out to agents and hope to pique somebody’s interest and then wait for them to try to catch the eye of a publisher who might eventually see fit to offer me a pittance of a book deal with the same zero amount of support I’d get if I went and self-published the book and sold copies out of the trunk of my car.

But I’m not willing to wait a decade or more hoping someone else will roll the dice on my manuscripts.

Every year I see lots and lots of badly written books getting agents and publishers and sometimes really big paydays while my work sits unread in a file folder.

I think I’d be better off going straight to the reader and letting them decide whether my work is worth their time and money. 

So, I’m going it alone.

Which, according to most articles on publishing these days, I’d be doing even with a major imprint sticking its hand in my pockets.

The odds say I won’t sell very many copies of my book.

Hell, chances are all the work I put into these novels won’t amount to jack squat.

But at least with the independent route I have a real chance of a few people, at least, seeing what I have to offer.

I’ve always said, and I really do mean it, that I never started writing fiction for money or fame. Well, almost for no money.

I’ve had the small-town notoriety that comes with being the loudmouthed editor of the area newspaper. So I know what it’s worth to have people be nice to you just because they recognize your name or because they liked your story on the city council or thought your editorial was funny. 

It’s nice … but fame isn’t worth a shit.

These days, I’d rather just be left alone.

What I really want, and I know how bullshitty it sounds to say it, is just for some folks to read my words and feel like it was worth their time to have done so.

Anyway, If you’d like to check out my historical fiction work and give me your thoughts, or even write a review on your blog or Amazon.com, it would mean a whole lot.

You can contact me at benjamingohs@gmail.com.

I have a few paperback review copies coming in the next week.

Or, if you prefer a digital copy, I can do that too.

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