If you read the “About” page, you’ll see it says I’m working on a spy novel set during the Vietnam War. I am reaching the end of the first draft. It takes me about two to three weeks to type the novel from the original longhand drafts and then about a week to go through the whole manuscript for rewrites. I’m trying to use Heinlein’s rules, this time around: only rewrite to editorial demand. I have written two other novels before this one: one was a space opera and one was a dystopian thriller. Both times the rewriting was a long, tedious process. Here I don’t mean going over the manuscripts for glaring typos, bad grammar, or cutting a line here or there; I mean rewriting scenes and even chapters.
As I finish this book I am reading more about the business of publishing a book in the modern market. Indie publishing through Amazon is promising, allowing me to retain full control over the rights of my work and keeping 70 percent royalties. I would have to spend money on covers and internal formatting and potentially back cover copy, plus I would have to do marketing on my own. But in order to make money, you have to spend money as my father tells me.
Alternatively, I could go through the long process of getting my work published by a New York house. I would have to query literary agents, see if I get a response to my query. Assuming I got a response to my query letter, I could then send a full synopsis of the book along with the first chapter or a short sample. It would be up to the literary agent to decide if they want to merely represent the book. The ball would then be in the agent’s court to sell the rights to a publishing house, and the publishing company could reject it then. Assuming I even sold the work to a publisher, I would have to sign a contract with the publisher. Over the past few decades these contracts have grown more predatory towards writers. Dean Wesley Smith and Kristen Kathryn Rusch’s blogs on the publishing industry give an excellent overview of the pitfalls of modern traditional publishing. Both authors have been in the business for decades, so their advice is based on experience.
Having a traditionally published book in bookstores is impressive, and I admit it would be neat to see my novel on a Barnes and Noble shelf. Major publishing can also help with marketing, though I must confess I’m not sure how much they help, with traditionally published book sales declining in the past few years.
I would probably not sell a bestseller. I might not sell any books at all. All things considered, I would rather sell a handful of e-books and know I own the rights to my own work, rather than sell a handful of traditionally published books that fade out of the bookstores, only to have the rights held almost permanently by the publisher.
Note: These two sites offer a much better explanation of the traditional publishing process than my brief sketch.
Dean Wesley Smith’s “Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing:”
Kristen Kathryn Rusch’s “Overview of Publishing Industry:”