Last weekend, I went to the Southern California Writer's Conference in San Diego. I've been to this conference before - as a matter of fact, I've been going to this conference twice a year since Palm Springs in 2005, I believe. I've sung its virtues before. For people who like to write, it's a working conference. For people who have something written for possible publication, it's a chance to meet agents, editors, and publishers. For people who have questions about where their writing should be going, there are people who've been there, done that, and got the t-shirt.
In other words, if you're a writer, any kind of writer, this conference is money well spent.
So this year I went with a head full of questions. My second Peri book is written and where I think it should be for submission. It's out with two agents, who requested it. One agent has had the book for a few months and another for a few weeks. Neither of these is too long for agents, and I could be content to wait for one of them to respond.
And yet, there is a new world out there. Borders' bankruptcy, self-publishing, and the Rise of the E-Book have conspired to set publishing spinning out of the Big Five's orbit. Rumor has it (rumor, people, meaning NOT verified) that Borders owes Penguin books $300 million, of which they might get pennies back on the dollar when the dust has settled. Chances are, Penguin will be able to survive this; however, because their business model was carved in stone during the Jurassic Era, I'm guessing they will cling more tightly to their old, established, revered, inflexible ways of doing business. I foresee them putting more of their money into their established authors and taking less chances on the newbies, or mid-list writers.
And let's talk e-book for a moment. I won't re-hash what Joe Konrath is saying, other than to tell you to go read his blog if you haven't (then come back here). E-books are outselling hard covers. I have a Kindle myself and I love to turn it on and go shopping at 11 o'clock at night. It's impulse buying at its best.
E-books in particular lend themselves to self-publishing, as does Amazon's Createspace, which does a decent job of producing a trade paperback that looks at least as good as my book, Freezer Burn, which was published with a small press.
So I, like many other Writers With Manuscripts, came to the conference wondering which road to go down. Should I wait patiently for the agents' responses? Should I knock at the door of one of the Big Five? Or go with another small press? Is an agent even relevant if I don't want to go to a big house? Or should I just publish the darn thing myself on Createspace/Kindle/Smashwords?
What the conference gave me wasn't answers. What they gave me was a list of things to consider that would help me make the best decision for myself. They assured me that it was no longer One Size Fits All, and that there was no wrong decision.
They also gave me permission to make a choice that might turn out wrong for me. In the old days, if you made one misstep, it was a long road back to redemption. For example, if you self-published ANYTHING in the past, a big publisher would not LOOK at any of your future work. Or, if your first book didn't sell well (even if you were out there hawking it every weekend and twice on Sundays), you'd never get the deal for the second book. If you've heard those rules, ignore them. Nothing's set in stone anymore except one thing:
WRITE THE BEST DAMN BOOK YOU CAN.
As the SCWC showed me this weekend, the sky's the limit once you've done that.