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My interview with Kyle Starks had to be delayed due to a number of recent life events. It’s still coming, so keep an eye out!
My short story “Key to the Heart” will be published in THE SUMMER GOTHIC later this month. Be sure to follow Panorame Press on Twitter and Instagram.
My beta readers are still working through my Sci-Fantasy story, and I am making some progress on the speculative sci-fi piece in the meantime.
It took a lot of consideration on what direction I want to take before I felt ready to discuss it here, but I think I finally have enough put together about self-publishing vs. traditional to give it a shot.
This back and forth has been a process that I’ve gone through in pretty consistent cycles since I first started writing seriously in 2020, and my general hesitance to give any real concrete decisions on it has also been consistent. As a person, I prefer to thoroughly examine my options, but when I make a decision it is typically set and concrete from that point forward. Over the past several months, I have been doing a lot of research on the general costs and requirements that go into each approach, trying to decide which direction is right for me. Writer Quinton Li and the Publishing Rodeo Podcast were both huge helps in this. Quinton was kind enough to take time out of their day to talk through their self-pub experience with me, and Sunyi Dean and Scott Drakeford have crafted an indispensable resource for all writers, especially those considering traditional publishing.
There are some factors of everything that are, or at least feel, obvious. Self-publishing is undeniably more expensive than the traditional route, with costs of editors, cover designers, and other marketing factors able to stack up pretty quick, even on the cheaper end coming out to at least a couple thousand dollars. On the other hand, traditional publishing comes with a lot of additional stressors, finding current comps, finding open agents, and the constant existential pressure of querying. While there are more minutiae on each side of publishing, those two sort of serve as the balancing weights.
Self-Publishing: Financially Expensive
Traditional Publishing: Emotionally Expensive
Both take a lot of your time, essentially becoming second full-time jobs that have to ride right alongside your day job, which in some cases, mine included, can already be pretty demanding. So, for me it came down to a decision between paying the financial tax or the emotional tax. Depending on the day, and how I felt about my own writing (imposter syndrome isn’t something I struggle with, but that’s a topic for another month), both path felt attractive at different times. That leads me to a moment that pushed my final decision: PitDark.
For those unfamiliar, PitDark is a Twitter pitch event where participants pitch their completed, ready to query projects to gauge interest from agents and publishers. Likes from agents are requests to query. So, on a whim, I decided to participate since my current Sci-Fantasy story is in query-ready shape.
Participating in PitDark forced me to prepare a query letter, synopsis, and polished first chapter in order to be ready should my pitches get any interest. So, I did. I built out a query and got second opinions and edited it and crafted pitches ahead of time and by the end of it I felt…excited. The process of building comps and preparing a query and finding a way to distill your story down to its essential parts is an infamous, often decried part of the traditional publishing process, but it energized me. As I sit here typing, I feel more energized about my sci-fantasy project than I did the day I finished the current draft. I feel excited. I feel like I understand my story better than I ever have before. At the end of PitDark, I had no interest from agents, but I did have a lot of encouragement from other participants and a lot of people saying that my themes and ideas resonated with them, which further pushed me to keep working on this story.
I also found myself with a crafted query letter and synopsis. The hard part of the query preparation process was handled, and my general lack of fear of rejection (hard earned through a handful of years submitting short fiction before my first acceptance last year) led me to start heavily considering what it was I wanted out of publishing. If the process of traditional that so many people suffer through seemed, on the outside, a pleasant process, then what benefits did self-publishing hold for me?
There are benefits of increased control, and in turn increased control on the financial output of your writing, but money is not really a concern for me in the entire process. My day job is good and supports me, and writing is an artful pursuit for me, not something I’m worried about making my living on. Actually, the idea of being forced to manage distribution and sales on top of everything else was a major factor keeping me from self-publishing, only ever balanced by the supposed potential emotional tax querying might bring along. PitDark showed me that, at least in my case, the emotional tax of querying isn’t really something that I will struggle with the same way some other writers might. It’s part of the write and revise process, a process I enjoy and get a lot out of. Of course, I’m not deep in the legendary querying trenches yet, but the rote process of write, submit, reject, repeat isn’t a problem for me. Coming from a literary writing background, it feels as much like part of the writing process as outlining and drafting. PitDark showed me that my own personal “hard part” of traditional publishing, finding comps, building a query letter, wasn’t hard. It was fun. It was part of the craft. It was, to mix my art metaphors at least a little the bit of the process where I fired the clay.
It showed me that traditional publishing is the path that I need to take, because it is the path that works best for me, my personality. It also showed me that, above everything else, no one can make this decision for me. The decision around the publishing journey is one that each writer has to make alone.
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