I’ve been sitting on a completed, professionally edited book manuscript for almost four years. (Well, not literally sitting on it, but you know what I mean.) It took me years and several drafts before I finally locked in my message and content, with another half-year at least to rewrite it in my authentic voice.
After all that, what’s keeping me from getting it published?
While several answers come to mind, the main one is this: the traditional publishing system. I am a nonfiction, faith-based writer. In that genre, one must have an agent to get a book proposal in front of a big-name publisher. But shopping for a literary agent is a difficult task. Literary agents require query letters, detailed book proposals written in their preferred format, and sample chapters. After careful preparation and submission of these documents to an agent, one must simply wait and see if there is a response. If the In box sits empty for about six weeks, it means the agent is saying, Thank you for your submission, but it doesn’t fit our needs at this time.
The other difficulty for non-fiction writers is that publishers (and, therefore, agents) will rarely give them a second look if they aren’t already speaking to large audiences on their topic, don’t have a huge following on their blog, or aren’t known elsewhere by large groups of people. In other words, nonfiction writers must already have a platform for a publisher to take on the risk of publishing their book.
Whatever happened to letting the content and the quality of the writing speak for itself?
Over the years, I shied away from independent publishing because I thought people would associate it with low quality—you know, the books that weren’t good enough for the real publishers. But the times have changed. Just because you’re independently publishing a book doesn’t mean it has be low quality. Not if you’re a good writer and you use the multitude of resources readily available to you.
Think about it. You’ve heard of “indie” artists, right? Those with independently produced music. They’re a whole industry now, successful among the niche audiences interested in their musical styles, which can get them noticed by more mainstream audiences. The same can be true for independent authors. In 1993, Richard Paul Evans broke the ground for us when his independently published book The Christmas Box became the first novel to reach No. 1 on The New York Times bestseller list—and that was before everyone was connected through the Internet and social media. These tools have made it even easier for people with all kinds of interests to not only connect with one another in online communities, but to find the content—information, music, blogs, and books—that align with their interests.
That’s something we as writers need to leverage. The technology available to us today can connect us with all the experts and services we need to create a beautiful, high-quality book. It can also connect us with the readers who will be interested in what we have to say. And it provides us with the capability to begin building a platform for our message whether we have a book published or not.
That’s why I’ve decided to stop sitting on my manuscript and go independent. It’s 2017, and anyone can publish a book if she wants to. But I still believe that good content and quality writing will speak for itself. As my Inkwell friends and I share our journeys toward getting our work finished, published, and delivered, you can be sure that we will always focus on doing so with utmost quality. Without that, our messages won’t get very far.