Haste and Legitimacy

So I have this novel called Revision about The Wiki Where Your Edits Come True. You may have seen me mention it before. It's a fun book, I think. Great characters, great concept, super-voicey. It's definitely not the train wreck that was my first novel (which is better not spoken of, trust me on this one).

So now there's the question of what to do with this novel.

I want to do it The Right Way, which means finding an agent, then finding a traditional publisher. And I want this a lot. I've wanted it since I was a kid. I want to be eligible for the Campbell (hey, a girl can dream, right? ...Assuming Lucy Smokeheart didn't start my clock already.) I want to qualify for SFWA. I want legitimacy in the eyes of my peer group.

This is what I've been trying (and completely failing) to do so far. I could keep trying -- I have by no means exhausted my options yet, in fact I've only just scratched the surface. But the road there is slow, so horribly slow. In a best-case scenario, running that gauntlet could take me two years. Or it could take four or more; figure one year to sign an agent, a year to shop the book around and get a contract, another two years to get a slot in the publisher's release schedule.

It could never happen at all. Two years could pass and you might find me exactly where I am right now.

That's a tremendous gamble with my career -- to burn that much time, potentially with nothing to show for it. Every month that passes is a month new readers could be finding me. A month I could be releasing more new work. A month I could be gaining inertia. Sure, I'd still be writing and building up a stockpile of unreleased material, but having a pile of manuscripts hiding in my pocket definitely isn't nearly as good as having 'em in front of readers.

And so the mind inevitably turns to other ways: self-publishing, Kickstarter, the startup indie publishing house. For me it's not about creative control at all -- I'd love to have a marketing team making decisions for me, a publicist supporting me, an editor telling me where I've been stupid so I can fix it. I prefer working with a team any day of the week. Hell, I can't even figure out what genre I write on my own! 

Going these alternative routes is still a gamble, though. I might never be able to get a critical mass of readers, I might not be able to market effectively. I might be accidentally unleashing something horrible on the world and do irreparable damage to my reputation. And yeah, it kills my chances of all those shiny markers of legitimacy I want so terribly much.

But maybe it's the less risky path. I feel each tick of the clock in my bones, and I know I can't wait forever.