“I’d rather be right than president.” Henry Clay
Ok, this is for history buffs: do you remember learning about Henry Clay? Believe it or not, I do. This quote stands out in sharp contrast to me because Clay was known as the “great compromiser.” He held off the conflict between the North and South over slavery for years by helping people find middle ground. Yet, when told he should moderate his views on slavery and federalism if he wanted to become president, Clay made this famous statement. This highly regarded legislator, one of the youngest Speakers of the House, lost the presidential election four times. His election required a compromise he could not make. This brings me to another lesson from the Hampton Roads Writers Conference:
Writing (and Life) Lesson 2: To Try to Publish or to Self-Publish, To Compromise or Not to Compromise
When I began to get serious about being published, I started a mantra. It’s a paraphrase of Stephen King’s famous quote, “When you write you are telling yourself a story. When you rewrite you take out everything that is not the story.” It became: “When you write your book, it’s your story. To be published by a publisher, it has to be the reader’s story.”
Keeping my options open, I went to several self-publishing workshops at the conference. One presenter had an offer for his book, but chose to self-publish instead. He wanted his story. He wanted all the control. Laudably, he took on the responsibilities that went with that: editing, formatting, self-funding, marketing, creating and maintaining a social platform. He decided he would rather do those things than have others do them and share the ownership of his book. I understand. He wanted his story, his way.
At any given point, about any of our ‘creations,’ I think everyone can understand that sentiment. The easiest analogy may be the first day we send our child off to school. That day, we accept (and cry over the idea) that they are no longer ours alone to shape. The world, school, friends, teachers, will influence them in ways we no longer control. More and more people don’t accept this any longer and home school instead, the life version of self-publishing.
There are other analogies: projects at work, programs we have created, the 4th grade class we send on to 5th grade, the graduates from our youth group, the family treasure we pass on to another, the child, now adult, who leaves home and marries. It is hard to let go, to let another take and shape or reshape something or someone we love. Sometimes, we have no choice. Sometimes, we do. Sometimes letting go, our child soars. Sometimes, we stand back only to watch the collision between our creation and the world.
Being published still appeals to me. It holds the possibility of a bigger vision than my own, and the possibility of reaching a wider audience because the resources of the publisher are greater than my own. At least for now, I am willing to pay the price it takes to convince an agent or a publisher to reach that audience. I’m willing to have The Call be my baby, but “our book.”
Could I get to the place where the compromises required to do that are too much? I can see that. Self-publishing is not the easy way out unless you are literally getting your work printed for yourself and your immediate family. But I can imagine that it might even be fun. So, it still remains an open option for me, just not yet…
For now, I have big dreams that include the idea that others might help me better shape my book for the readers out there and help me find them. This feels right for me. My life learnings have led me to believe in compromise and partnership and synergy. This doesn’t mean a big crash and burn doesn’t lie in my future. But for now, I guess, I’m still striving to hit that lottery, find the lightning strike, or be elected…author. Many thanks to all of you for the encouragement you have given me to try.
- Maintain Control or Go the ‘Traditional’ Route to Publishing (pippadacosta.wordpress.com)
- Self-published titles up nearly 60 percent from last year (teleread.com)
- Self-publishing: 7 traps to avoid. (tahlianewland.com)