In Part 1 of the History of How It Ends, I talked about where the idea for the novel came from.
In Part 2 of the History of How It Ends, I talked about what drove the writing forward and the genesis of some of the character names.
In Part 3 of the History of How It Ends, I talked about the onerous task of editing the beast.
The finishing of How It Ends took a huge amount of time. The writing of the book took several months as I went through the process of writing one huge chapter per month. The editing took several years as I wrestled with the first draft, trying to make it less sucky. But once the editing was done–and by done I mean I wasn’t actively changing huge chunks of it–I dropped into a period of total indecision.
Paul at Silverthought had always offered to publish it. The offer still stood even after I took years with the rewrites. And I gave it some serious consideration. But I never found the strength to make a decision and pull the trigger.
There were so many things to consider. Was How It Ends really done? Was it good enough to get an agent? should I just let Paul publish it, did I owe it to him. But the idea of self-publishing wasn’t at the forefront of my thoughts.
At the time, self-publishing was still a taboo. To publish something yourself meant that your work wasn’t good enough for a mainstream publisher. You publish your own work, then you’re doing nothing but feeding your own vanity. Hence the term “vanity publishing”. I gave it strong consideration for a collection of short stories I cobbled together. I formatted and formatted it again and kept changing things to see what they might look like. I researched self-publishing on sites like Lulu. But self-publishing How It Ends wasn’t really the way I wanted to go.
What I really wanted was for an agent to pick it up and sell it. I wanted the book to be hugely successful and have the movie rights picked up. I wanted the “American Writer’s Dream”. Which meant an agent. Paul’s willingness to publish How It Ends was generous, but Silverthought was a small indie press. How much promo power could they have? And yet, I didn’t want to leave Paul high and dry. Part of me felt like I owed him. He was generous enough to publish the book as a serial even as I was still writing it.
So I dragged my feet some more. Was the book good enough? I tinkered here and there. I changed some words and tried to upgrade my metaphors. I procrastinated. I couldn’t decide. I spent some time writing a synopsis to send to agents. (The synopsis was arguably harder to write than the book itself.) I talked with Russell some more about it. He gave me an interesting perspective on why it might never get published. He said it was one of the most original science fiction books he’d ever read. He’d read sci-fi that did nothing but follow a formula. He’d even read sci-fi that followed a formula chapter by chapter. My book, at it’s heart, wasn’t science fiction, but was more of a tragic love story. It just happened to have certain science fiction tropes. It’s a subtle difference, but an important one, and because of this, it was possible that a normal sci-fi publisher or agent might never want to touch it.
I still couldn’t make up my mind. And still. I. Waited.
Around this time, probably going back two or three years now, another writer friend of mine began to have some great success with her ebook. Abby is a romance writer, writing some romance books under her name and some others under an assumed named. At a Christmas party where all of our kids were busy decorating Christmas cookies, she began to tell the story of her success.
Abby had published two novels with Silhouette. They were considering her for a third novel. But before she submitted it, she veered off into the world of ebook publishing. She took a one day course that was offered on how to format and publish your book on Amazon. I believe it was a phone course or WebEx course, not a classroom course, but I could be wrong. She took several pages of notes. Then she took a deep breath and jumped. She told me that she put the book on Amazon where it promptly did nothing. And after a few weeks of checking it everyday, she stopped. She let it go and began writing something else. Then, after a few months of letting it simmer, sales suddenly began to go up. She started seeing the units rise and they stayed up. Reviews began to come in, and the positive reviews led to more sales. Her success prompted her to keep going with ebooks on Amazon, and eventually Smashwords, and she hasn’t looked back since. She was able to quit her day-job and write full time, something she’d always dreamed of doing. And the best thing about it? She retained sole possession of the work, copyrighted to her, with no royalties due to anyone other than herself. The only fees she had to deal with were Amazon’s fees for hosting it. She couldn’t recommend it highly enough.
Now I was really stuck. Which path should I take? Search for an agent, let Silverthought publish it, or publish it myself?
Next: the decision to publish, and how I made it more complicated than it needed to be.