Being a Self-Publishing Virgin is Scary

[Originally posted on my former blog, Michael Runs the Gamut]

For the past several years I’ve submitted queries (although not nearly often enough), and pitched my novels at conferences, with no success. Okay, I lied at least a couple of times in that first sentence.

In 2002, I participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time, and realized I was able to push past the length of a short story. In the years since I’ve written two novels that I consider essentially complete and publishable, and have partially completed three others that I believe have commercial potential. Beyond that I have sketches and partial outlines and ideas for a few dozen more. That’s all true. So, where do the lies come in?

I have submitted queries to agents for two of my novels, If a Butterfly and The Jagged Man, but I really haven’t submitted them to very many agents, and mostly to agents I pitched verbally at one of four Writers’ League of Texas Agents Conferences (2011 to 2014). The reception for both of them was generally favorable, but was eventually rejected by all of them. Is it possible I could have been signed by an agent before now if I had queried the market very thoroughly, sent more queries to agents I hadn’t met at conferences? Sure, it’s possible, and I have thought about it, but now the publishing landscape has changed, and I’m not sure I want to go the traditional route anymore.

I’m at the age now (69) where I don’t want to wait forever to find an agent, wait for them to find a publisher (if they ever do), then wait another year to eighteen months after that for the book release. If I were still thirty it would make sense to give that a concentrated shot, but I’m not (and I have it on good authority that age reversal isn’t an option). As I do with most situations, I tend to overthink things because I like to be prepared for any eventuality. It does cause me to spend a lot more time in preparation, but I have far fewer surprises that way. I have been exploring the idea of self-publishing for probably a couple of years now, and I think I’m finally ready to make the leap; but even though there are a lot of wonderful websites out there with tons of advice, so much of it contradicts the rest of it that I don’t want to make a mistake. Here’s what I’m planning to do.

I will, I think, publish the first novel I completed (If a Butterfly) after I’ve published The Jagged Man (because Jagged Man is a thriller and Butterfly is mainstream, more complex, and much longer). I’m seriously considering publishing Butterfly in two parts, Journeys Begin and After the Storm. [2021 Note: Those titles changed within a year or so.] There’s a natural dividing point about halfway through, which would give me two 120,000 word books instead of one 240,000 word book.

I’m doing a final polish on Jagged Man now, and am working on dedication pages, and an Author’s Notes page (this book required a lot of research). I’m using Scrivener for the final edits and prepping it for ebook conversion, and I finished designing the cover last night (after quite a few failed versions). Some of them looked very nice in the full-size versions, but horrible in the thumbnail sizes (muddled and not distinct). I think this one will work very well, though. Here’s what it looks like, full-scale and thumbnail size.

Full version of the Jagged Man cover
The current full-sized cover
Jagged Man cover thumbnail
The thumbnail version

If anyone has some specific advice, pitfalls to watch out for, etc., I would greatly appreciate hearing about them.


Response to Being a Self-Publishing Virgin is Scary

  1. Ruthanne Violeta Reid said: January 4, 2015 at 5:06 pm

Just this: you can do it. If I did, anyone can.

    • michaelsirois said: January 4, 2015 at 5:13 pm

Thanks, Ruthanne. I appreciate it. I’m getting closer (before the end of the month, I think).


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