To the first time writer, deciding to write a novel can seem as daunting and as exhilarating as tackling a mountain. As we type that first line, we experience vertigo like never before and as we delve into the world of our story, the air around us rarifies, the pressure to reach the culminating point intensifies.

For some, the fear of failure becomes so overwhelming they are forced to abort the mission but for the determined writers, there is no way out but to forge ahead. We keep writing, we keep imagining, we keep hoping, till one day we type down those long awaited words: THE END.

Only then do we realize the top of the mountain is still very, very far away. The next part of the mountain is steeper, full of obstacles to overcome – endless rounds of rewrites, critics to be faced and accepted, expensive copy editing. All this transforms us into accomplished athletes, into true authors. Our senses become sharper, our minds brighter. We learn to master our craft and our books shine like the eternal snows we can now see on top of the mountain. Alas, if our dream is to see our work published, we haven’t reached the peek yet. Our dream is still dangling in the horizon.

dream or reality

With my novel finally done, this high slope of the mountain, higher than I ever dreamed I would climb, is where I stand. I’ve grown accustomed to the high, I’ve learned to accept myself as an author rather than a mere aspiring writer, I’m confident enough to tell people about it. From “I like to write”, I can now say, “I’m an author. I’ve written a novel”.

I still have to add, “It isn’t published yet.”

YET… So many hopes held into that three-letter word. A life’s dream really. And the ugly fear that this dream might never come true.

But giving into the fear would automatically mean failure. Better to try, and hope, and fail than abandon so close to the summit. So long as our dreams are alive, we have a chance to see them come true. Good thing writers are dreamers at heart. If someone has enough imagination to picture a dream become reality, it’s the author.

As I consider ways to fulfill my publishing ambitions, I’m both discouraged and hopeful. The last part of the mountain is the trickiest, but there is more than one road to reach the top. We are extremely lucky compared to the authors of the past. The digital revolution has opened up the field of possibilities for writers.

Self-publishing, digital publishers, along with the traditional route of finding an agent and getting a publishing deal, are so many options an author can explore in order to put his novel out there. The fears are just fears, not obstacles impossible to overcome. If you are determined, your book will come to print. It just won’t be easy. But what dream worth dreaming has ever come to pass easily?

3 publishing routes I’m exploring

1) Traditional publishing: Last week I started querying agents.

I know many indie authors consciously choose to self-publish – The author cut is bigger, they enjoy a total independence, their success relies solely on their work. I have the utmost respect for their determination. As a first time author, the prospect of self-publishing leaves me a tad overwhelmed. Which doesn’t mean I won’t resolve to that solution if others don’t come to pass.

I like the idea of having an agent representing me, and a traditional publishing house backing me up, because although I’m more confident in my writing, I’m dazed by the work self-publishing represents. Not that landing an agent would save me from doing my share of work. Only that work would be shared between me and a team of professionals. It seems like an intelligent way to remove a little bit of the pressure from my shoulders.

I sent out about 20 queries in two days. On the first day, one agent asked for pages of my manuscript, no need to say I was elated. The next day I received my first rejection email. From walking on water to drowning under, in less than 24 hours. The feeling didn’t last long. Rejections are part of the querying game. I would have to be crazy not to have expected it.

In truth, rejections don’t hurt so much anymore because they won’t signify the death of my dreams. I’ll simply move onto the next road.

2) Digital publishers: On top of querying agents, I sent out my manuscript to a couple digital publishers, like Henery Press and Carina UK.

They seem to offer a great compromise for writers who are willing to have the hands-on attitude required from indie authors yet need to feel part of a team. Serious digital publishers will offer editing services as well as help picking out a book cover and will promote novels through their established network. Their cut is lower than traditional publishers, especially when removing the agent’s commission from the equation.

3) Self-publishing: Self-publishing is by no mean a lesser option. If you look at this 2013 bestsellers list from Forbes, you’ll see that self-published novels ranked third amongst ebooks bestsellers that year.

But to turn your novel into an indie bestseller, the amount of work called for is unimaginable. And if you’re not aiming to hit the bestsellers list, then you should still put in an insane amount of work into promoting your novel for fear of seeing it sink into oblivion. Let’s face the facts: no promoting means no readership. Even the best novel will find itself stuck into ebook limbo if word of its existence doesn’t reach potential readers.

If I decide to self-publish, I’ll have to turn every publishing step into a marketing opportunity. From selecting a book cover – using 99designs for example – to coming up with an original launch for my novel, A Cunning Plan.

It is definitely the most empowering solution for authors, and at the end I’m certain I’ll enjoy the whole experience. It will also be the most nerve wrecking experience of my life, which is why I’m not jumping into self-publishing just yet.

dream, believe, risk, try

I’ve given myself the summer to explore my options and decide on a course of action.

Obviously some decisions will be made for me if I don’t hear from any agent or digital publishers. A few years ago, no agent or publishing deal would have signified the end of my career as an author but fortunately, not anymore.

I won’t sit idle on the mountain slope but I’ll keep climbing anyway. By holding onto my dreams and daring to take a risk, my novel will be published.

I’ll reach the top of the mountain if it’s the last thing I do and hopefully, I’ll stay up there for a while, reveling in the magnificent view of fulfilled dreams.

What do you think? Any road to publishing I didn’t consider yet? If you have a magical solution that requires no work at all, I’m all ears 🙂

Read all comments
  • Ah… That mountain peak. I used to dream of landing up there without the effort of the climb, but after six years of writing, rejections, and finally choosing the self publishing path, I’ve come to realize that the journey, the travel uphill is the most magnificent part! It’s the true adventure. The one that fulfills you.

  • Sounds like I’m following a similar path to you! I sent out my first 5 submissions to agents at the very end of May and have had 3 rejections so far. I’m going in small batches so I can tweak my letter/synopsis and possibly first 3 chapters between rounds if I get a big pile of “no”!

    If I exhaust the agents route, then I’ll go to the digital publishers. And if that doesn’t pay off, then I’ll self-publish. Like you, this is my first novel and I’d really like the support of an agent and a traditional publishing house if possible. I have such respect for indie authors who go for it – it’s a load of work and you have to have a great plan 🙂

    Great news that you’ve had requests to see your MS! Brilliant! 🙂

  • Hi Astrid :o)
    As ever, your thoughts and comments are perceptive and thought provoking. Funnily enough, I had the exact opposite thoughts to you in the approach that I would take in achieving publication for my children’s book.
    Rightly or wrongly, I had decided that no traditional publishing house would be interested in my work, so had already decided on the self-publishing route, and put considerable effort in to achieving that end. But since then, after several conversations with people with more knowledge and experience of the industry than myself, I have decided that I need to query agents with what I have managed to create so far.
    They believe that I have a book that agents might be interested in. So, this is a (pleasant) surprise for me, and I have decided that I will at least try.
    I’m wishing you luck with your efforts and endeavours :o)

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