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Getting Impatient and Considering Self-Publishing or a Small Press? Read This First.

Last year at this time, I was unagented, unpublished, and trying to decide whether my skill level was ready for writing contests. Now a year later, I'm exchanging emails with all the publishing people we writers hold in such awe: editors, marketing staff, publicists, and other office personnel.

Every time a Bethany House address shows up in my inbox, my heart skips, and I think, "Wow, I can't believe little ol' me is talking to someone important at a publishing house."

As you know, last week I had the privilege of traveling to Minneapolis and meeting the Bethany House staff. After years of waiting and wishing to be a published author, it's hard to shed the feeling that I'm a nobody writer.

But when I walked into the beautiful facility, I immediately had the sense they'd rolled out the red carpet for me. They were as pleased to have me visit as I was to be there. Many of them had read my book, were investing time and energy into it, and now were getting to find out exactly who they were helping.

When they welcomed me, I felt like I was joining a big family. I wasn't the lone writer on the fringe looking in on all those big, scary, important people. Instead I was one of them, apart of something much bigger than myself.

The trip got me thinking, however, about self-publishing or small-presses, where the burden of the book falls primarily on the author. If someone is considering self-publishing or going with a smaller press, here are a few things a writer might sacrifice:

Support: The entire staff at Bethany House is working with me, wanting my book to succeed just as much as I do. They're willing to do whatever it takes, because when one member of the family succeeds, then everyone benefits. They are in regular communication with me about everything and have encouraged me to email them whenever I need help or have a question.

Consensus: At Bethany House most decisions are made in a committee. Everything from whether to take on a book and what rewrites the book will need, to the title and cover. The input from so many workers helps ensure objectivity. When a group of qualified professionals discusses every pro and con, I can rest assured they've come up with the best possible suggestions.

Quality: With so many people handling and reading my manuscript, they are pursuing excellence not only in my manuscript itself, but in every other aspect as well. The creative team is paying attention to each detail of the cover, the copy-specialist is crafting the perfect blurbs to go on the book, and the marketing team is analyzing every possible marketing opportunity.

Sales: During my meeting with marketing, I learned that I should do all that I can to help promote my book, particularly the things I enjoy. But ultimately anything I do is really a drop in the bucket compared with what their sales and marketing team will be able to do to help generate sales on my book.

Obviously not everyone needs or wants a big traditional publishing house. But I think all too often writers turn to self-publishing or smaller presses, because we get tired of waiting. Such options might help us get our books "out there" much quicker than if we hold out for a traditional house to notice us. But what will we sacrifice in the process? Look at all I would have given up if I'd grown impatient.

The rooms and halls of Bethany House are decorated with enormous pictures of book covers. Some were from books I'd read when I was a teenager and others from more recent novels. They graced the walls much the same way portraits of family members hang in our homes.

It doesn't really matter whether my book cover ever makes it to a wall at Bethany House. What's most important is having the opportunity to be a contributing member of a supportive publishing family, and that together we're working to make my book the best it can be.

How about you? Do you ever get tired of the wait? Have you thought about making a go at publishing alone? Or are you holding out for traditional publication?


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