Some of you may remember the very first post on this blog last year, where I recounted a dream that inspired me to begin writing on the web. A few nights ago, I had another dream that may prove to be equally significant and influential. Let me explain.
For nearly the past three years, I have been trying to publish Choose Your Metaphor. This experience made me realize a few things, namely that writing the book was actually the easy part. I began by sending my work to Shambhala publishers, hoping that my first intuition about where it would find a home would prove to be true. Since then, I have solicited approximately three-dozen agents and publishers with varying degrees of ‘failure.’ Several agents were sufficiently enticed by my proposal to request the full manuscript, but no one has taken me on as a client so far. The reality about the publishing world today is that it’s all about economics, and with my lack of web presence and political connections, I unfortunately can’t show them how taking a risk on me would profit them.
I have become bitter and angry at times during this process. But over the past few months, I’ve actually come to be grateful for it. I’ve taken all the rejections as invitations to improve my work, and I now have a much better book than when I started. I honestly feel that it’s the best book I can write at this moment, and if not for all the ‘obstacles’, I would have never reached that point with my writing.
The decision I now face is whether I want to continue sending my book proposal to agents and publishers (trying to keep Einstein’s quote that ‘insanity is trying the same thing and expecting different results’ out of my mind), or to go it alone and self-publish my work. I have endlessly weighed the pros and cons of each approach. Self-publishing feels to me like an admission of failure- like I wasn’t good enough to break into the real industry, so I’ll take this instead. But I know from all the crap on the shelf that being a signed author isn’t necessarily a matter of having a quality product. Moreover, there are many disadvantages that first time authors face in the industry, namely that they receive very low royalties and basically have to sign over the rights to their book. Although self-publishing doesn’t confer the same legitimacy as mainstream publishing, I would stand a much better chance of receiving proportional compensation for my work. The downside is that it’s all up to me: design, editing, and (gulp) marketing.
I have vacillated back and forth on this issue for months with no clarity emerging. As I sometimes do in situations like these, yesterday I decided that the last thing I would do before going to sleep would be to ask my dreams to provide some kind of guidance. I woke up in the middle of the night with the sentence, “you’ve made the cake; now all you have to do is bake it” imprinted in my mind.
I found it funny that my unconscious would produce that particular metaphor. It seems to indicate to me that the hard part is taken care of, and now I just need to take the last step to allow my work to transform into something consumable. Baking is mostly a passive process- you put your cake in, and then you have nothing to do but wait. Trying to control the situation by checking on it every five minutes will likely result not only in impatient frustration but also a lousy cake. What form this baking will take, however, remains a question.
My intuition tells me to give one more publisher I have in mind a shot, and if that doesn’t work, turn my attention fully to the self-publishing path. One of the things that’s been most frustrating during this process has been the lack of empowerment in it all, so instead of just sitting around while I hope someone will invite me to use their oven, I’m going to be doing some things in the meantime to get the table ready (which will also be necessary should this attempt at baking fail and I need to find another oven). A big part of this will include this blog, since I intend for it to play a big role in the project no matter what form it takes. Over the next few months, the main thrust of this will be posting excepts from the book, which I hope will generate more interest and enthusiasm in the final product. I’ve been quite secretive until this point about the book’s actual contents, but I feel it is time just to get the writing out there and see what happens.
So over the next few months, all of you will be invited to come and dip your fingers in the batter to get a taste of what the final product will be. A few of you may just go crazy from it and ask to lick the bowl (don’t worry; I give you permission). And from there, we’ll see just which oven we’ll need to use to create the cake that can be eaten by whoever wants a piece.
And if any of you have an insight, comments, or suggestions, please please please let me know! I need all the help I can get.