In Which I (Yet Again) Discover Why I Don't Self-Publish

[Some of the links below go to TV Tropes. You have been warned.]

These days, there is no end of people who say, "Why are you still putting yourself through the misery of traditional publishing?" Some folks say it nicer. Some are meaner and use words like "broken," "obsolete," and "dinosaur". I've talked about my reasons before, but I've come to realize that the thing behind it all is an illogical personality quirk.

I am trying to get the best ending.

Before I go on, understand that I don't think either path -- self-publishing or traditional -- is better than the other. They are both means to reach readers, and to that end, both sometimes work and sometimes don't.

I'm talking about video games. The RPGs and graphic adventures that form the core of my childhood often gave you multiple paths to complete the game, and often different endings. Sometimes there was a "best" ending; sometimes the endings were just different.

The thing about me is, whether there was a "best" ending or not, I always tried to get it. I'm the kind of guy who will spend hours leveling up the most useless Pokemon in existence, trusting he'll become something awesome (spoiler: he does). I'll choose the Smash Bros. character everyone hates and spend weeks figuring out how to beat the crap out of people with him. I once stopped playing Riven for 5 years because I refused to look up the solution to the puzzle I was stuck on.

The point is I'm stubborn, and I've been conditioned to believe that the path of most resistance will yield the best rewards.

Again, before all you self-pubbers stab me with your pitchforks: I don't believe traditional publishing is better, not in a money-and-success way. It's only my subconscious that's convinced me there's some kind of unlockable bonus item.

But if my intellect says both paths are viable, why am I still doing the hard one?

Because the other part of my personality quirk is this: even if the ending is the same, I want to be able to say I finished the game on the hardest setting. To say I beat Super Mario Bros. without warping (I did), I caught all 151 Pokemon (I didn't), I finished Contra without losing a single life (did).


For me, getting traditionally published isn't about making more money or even reaching more readers. Neither path outdoes the other in that sense. Getting traditionally published is about being able to say I did it.

What about you? What's your path and why?

26 comments:

Eliza Tilton said...

Us gamers must think alike. Too bad you can't use a cheat for real life. What was contra's? A B A B select start?

Sarah said...

I don't know--I actually don't think self-pubbing looks that easy. Sure, it's easy to put your book up on Amazon, but the rest--the part that actually makes you successful--seems to take a heck of a lot of work. I think it's just a different kind of hard, maybe. I do agree that it feels good to make it past the gatekeepers! Also, the reason I chose traditional publishing is because I felt it was the place where I could really develop as a writer and make my work as good as it can be, and I don't think that would be possible for me with self-publishing.

Adam Heine said...

I agree self-publishing definitely isn't easier than traditional. Whether or not it looks that way depends (I guess) on how deeply you look into it before jumping in ;-)

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

That meme of Magikarp slays me! :)

I'm all for you going the (perceived) hardest route, because that works for you. Usually, we're compelled to do the thing we need most (unless we're self-destructive people, which you're not). Just promise you won't give up writing for 5 years if you can't unlock the bonus item, k?

Kelly Barnes said...

Traditional publishing is part of the dream for me as well.

If you do the math it makes sense. If traditional doesn't pan out you can always go self-pub, but it doesn't always work the other way around.

RIVEN. I love the Myst games. What's up with URU? Is there a version that works?

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

I've done both and they are both really hard. They both require a lot of work, just in divided up differently, and they are both getting you to the same end. So I say works what is best for you. Publishing and making a living out of it is hard no matter how you do it.

Laura Hughes, MittensMorgul said...

Thank you for putting this into words for me! Part of the draw to traditional publishing for me is the thrill of receiving that elusive approval from an agent, an editor, and a well-respected publishing house. Even more than seeing my work in print, I crave validation from the Publishing World that my words even deserve the paper they're printed on.

Thanks for at least validating my desire to go the trad pub route!

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

Sorry for the typo!

Cap'n Heine said...

I didn't "catch" all 151 Pokemon, but I did trade and trade back with my friends at school so I got them all marked as caught.

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

You will reap great rewards sir. I see it in the future. But if you don't believe in my fortune telling skills, know that I wish you the best in your publishing venture.

sally apokedak said...

What a great way to look at the issue. It takes great skill to finish the game without cheats. And it takes greater skill to break into traditional publishing than to put out an ebook on Amazon.

Another thing...there's a way to cheat and warp in traditional publishing, too. If you give up on world four and just warp to world seven you may get published sooner. But if you take time to learn the skills in world four and get past it (and five and six) you will be better equipped for world seven. That's why the long journey doesn't bother me. I need it. I need to master the skills on the lower levels.

I know people have been published way too early, because they had a famous last name or because the knew someone who cracked the door open with an introduction or a cover endorsement. I'm not sorry that it's taking me longer because I think my books will be better for the wait. I'm hoping, anyway.

Nancy Thompson said...

"The point is I'm stubborn, and I've been conditioned to believe that the path of most resistance will yield the best rewards...Getting traditionally published is about being able to say I did it."

I am so stealing this! It's me in a nutshell! Thanks for so eloquently putting this into words.

MattyDub said...

As somebody who lived with Adam for several years, I'd like to confirm everything he says here.

Amy L. Sonnichsen said...

I think I agree with you on your reasons for traditional publishing. Self-pubbing is a lot of work, but it's "easy" in the sense that anyone can do it. I want to traditionally pub because I want other people to say, "This deserves to be published" and be willing to take a risk on me. AND I want an editor to kick my butt in the revisions/editing process. You can hire someone to do that for you, but I'm not convinced they're as invested as an editor of a house who wants to see a book hit the NYT bestseller list.

Adam Heine said...

That totally counts.

Adam Heine said...

I love this analogy. You are my new best friend :-)

Charles Eubanks said...

I just think there's a lot to be gained by collaborating with a team of like-minded professionals. I would love to work with a competent art director who pushes me to improve my craft, and illustrate a story that a team of pros agrees is worthy of being published.

Matt Heppe said...

When I first started writing I had three goals:
1) Get published by a legitimate publisher.
2) Do a book signing.
3) Get a picture of my book on book store shelf between Robert Heinlein and Frank Herbert.
(And the secret goal of becoming a full time writer)

After going through the traditional rejection process I cheated on my goal and self-published. I am so glad that I did.

It was very scary putting a book out without the stamp of approval of a publisher. If I failed, the failure would entirely be on me.

I am not making any money (yet). I am not well-known (yet). Goal One and the "secret goal" have not been reached (yet). But the positive reception by fans and reviewers has made the entire process hugely personally rewarding.

I used to tell people that I wrote as a hobby and someday hoped to be published. Now I confidently point them to Amazon and urge them to buy a copy of my novel.

Would I have preferred to be traditionally published? Absolutely. How long does an author wait before they "cheat"? I don't know. It is a hugely personal decision.

I have no regrets (in fact I am incredibly satisfied) by my self-publishing experience.

I wish all my fellow writers the greatest success and happiness whichever route they choose.

Matt Heppe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
T.L. Bodine said...

I love a good video game analogy :D You and I feel similarly on this, I think. I wrote a blog entry not too long ago on the topic and came to a similar conclusion -- for me, I want the traditional publishing because I want the achievement (I'm such an achievement whore, omg) of agents, publishers, reviewers etc. giving me notice.

Adam Heine said...

Oh man, achievements. It frustrates me so much that every online flash game I play has like 100 achievements, but when you finally get them all you get nothing.

maine character said...

So you solved Riven? Wow. I got through Myst, but with Riven it just wouldn't accept the code I figured out from that (I think) toy ship in the submarine.

Matthew MacNish said...

Same. I beat Ninja Gaiden (and Black) on whatever that impossible setting was called.

Miss Jack Lewis Baillot said...

That is really admirable. I sometimes fear I went Self publishing because of the hard work, but for me, self publishing is even more hard work. Not that I think traditional publishing is bad. Right now, I think authors have the chance to pick which one fits them best and go for it, which is really nice. We never had these options before. There are more possibilities for us now, though they require more hard work.

I hope the best for you!

linda said...

O.O Wow, that's crazy. Being able to say I finished a game on the hardest setting with no cheats would motivate me... not at all, haha. But that's awesome that you know what works for you! Still need to figure that out for myself.

Daisy Carter said...

Excellent reasons - mostly because they almost exactly match my own. And Mario with no warps? Yeah, I do that. I also play the original 1-3, with or without warps, and time myself. Or see if I can get ALL the coins. Or kill all the owl/turtledoves/bouncing turtledove guys.

I've yet to beat Contra without losing a life, but man-o-man, am I revved to dig out my old games.