Reader Mail: Untouched Experiment
I got this question last week and I've been trying to think of how best to respond. It's a tricky question: "Have you thought about trying conventional publishing, so you can compare your experiences with your DIY method?"
It's a complicated question. The easy answer is yes, yes I have thought about it. But the execution is where I get stuck, because it's a big mess of philosophical quandaries and practical concerns. I'll try and explain my thinking, so you don't think I'm making the decision lightly.
I have to admit, the thought of experimenting with something like this is really interesting to me. I keep imagining the process: I have two books ready to go on the same day, but I send one of them off to publishers and compare the lifespan of both. It could be really, really fascinating stuff. Assuming a publisher actually took it on, it would mean my self-published one would be on the market at least a solid year or two before the other... but after five years, which would have earned more? I'd love to find out. I really would. Comparing timelines and processes and everything in between.
But that's a big part of the problem. If I tried to get this experiment off the ground in early 2010, that would mean I'd have to write a 100,000-word novel, revise it several times, and then repeat the process for a second book, all in the space of 3-4 months. I like a good challenge, but that seems just a tiny bit silly. If I managed to pull it off, it would be nothing short of a miracle, and then I'd be faced with my bigger concern...
Sometimes, when I have an idea that could cross the line from book to TV show, I have to weigh the benefits of killing my baby. Not KILLING, I guess, but given the turnaround time for just the pitching process in TV, you have to assume that any idea you submit to that world may not come back to you for months or years. The same would go for this... if I decide to risk one of my ideas for this experiment, I'm kinda obliged to follow through to the bitter end, which could be years away. I don't know that I'll be able to resist just self-publishing if too much time passes without a reply. I mean really: 6 months to get a rejection? Blargh. That might drive me even more insane.
Maybe more critical is the question: if I did this, would any publisher actually deal with me? Leaving aside quality, it's the issue of "here is this guy treating us like second-best". I mean, assuming I manage to convince a publisher to look at my book in a year's time, they're going to research who I am and what I do, and they're going to find out a lot of things that will make me less than their ideal candidate for publication. If I've already torpedoed myself in advance, maybe I should save myself the trouble and not try at all?
Wouldn't you find it fascinating to see a blog post six months from now, where I transcribe my first rejection letter? I've never had one, so maybe it's more of a romantic notion to me than to others, but I think it would be great fun. Detailing the process, writing the letters, the waiting, all that other stuff... wouldn't it be so incredibly cool? I don't expect that I'd BE published traditionally, so this is all just the fun of the game, more than anything.
Maybe I'm nuts.
Anyway, this is all to say that I still haven't decided. I know my 2010 schedule is going to be much less crowded than 2009, but I do want a few tent pole projects, and this would be a great one.
But is it a good idea? You tell me.