Thursday, November 1, 2012

To Publish or Not To Publish? That is the question.

I've been writing a series of books for about ten or twelve years now (and the book that actually is the first in the series, and spawned the others, was written back in 1974, the first year of my marriage). Of course, I've been unsuccessful in getting an agent, and have begun self-publishing. The first one is already self-published (Only The Lonely). It has some formatting problems that I need to fix, and my plan is to try again to do that before long. I have two more books in the series that are basically finished. Here's what I'm dealing with, and I'm seeking some advice.

The books are pretty well written. But there is one problem with both of them. According to people who've read them, they're a bit boring in places. One of them, my wife said she would have stopped reading after the first couple of pages. Obviously, this concerns me. I don't want to publish books that are in the least bit boring. Yet, to fix the boring parts would be another round of revisions and having people read them again, and who knows what that might lead to. So, I'm contemplating just trying to fix them up a bit. Try to fix the boring parts without re-writing the entire books, adding new plot elements, etc., and taking another one or two years to try finishing them, or just publish them as they are, boring parts and all.

I have a third book in the series I'm revising now. When I publish it, that will give me three novels and a novella in the series. And there are potentially many more stories in the series.

I want to move on to newer things, whether within the series or completely new work.

Should I publish them as they are, boring parts and all, and move on? Or, should I go through another round of revisions? Another round of revisions is no guarantee they'll be better, and might lead to even more revisions.

While I'm in good health, I am turning 66 soon. I'm eager to write well and write as exciting stories as possible. How long do you labor over the same thing, with no guarantee it's going to get any better, or perhaps only marginally better? And not everything every writter has ever written was a masterpiece. Poets write thousands of poems to get to maybe a handful of great ones.

So, what to do? I'd like to hear your opinion.


Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

Everything is subjective. If you wrote a book for your wife to read and she thinks it is boring, then you need to pay attention to that. But if your book is for a different audience, then you need to find a reader in that audience and ask them if they think it's boring. Then you'll have your answer.

Richard said...

You know, Michael, I was thinking about that after I posted this. I'm a bit more of a literary writer than a commercial writer. Maybe people who like literary works would like my stories more than those who like commercial fiction. Good point. Thank you.

Linda Jackson said...

I agree with Michael. I have a stack of books that I have been trying to read because they are either award winners or have been recommended by blogging friends. Some of them I can't get past a few chapters in. Yet, I keep telling myself to try reading them again at a later date, because they must be good since all these other people think so. I'm realizing they are just not my kind of books and will be donating them to the library.

Self-publishing is basically cost-free these days. If you think you've told your stories to the best of your ability, then why not self-publish to see what a wider audience might think? But, remember to be prepared for the negative opinions of others too.

That's my two cents, for what it's worth. :)

Richard said...

Thanks Linda. It's a lot to think about.

Jeff Hargett said...

I don't envy your decision, Richard. All the preceding advice is good. I'm curious though as to what the readers found boring. There are so many possibilities and it's a moving target depending on the audience. For example:

Do they find the characters uninteresting? The plot? Both of those could be fine, but the pace might drag causing boredom. Or, perhaps the situations that should heighten tension are situations with which the readers can't identify or don't enjoy.

Some causes for boredom can be remedied by applying technical tweaks in pacing or characterization or plot twists, etc. But if a reader finds, let's say, love stories boring, and your story is a love story, then there's nothing to be done for that reader.

In the end, only you can make the decision to publish or not. If the story, in its current state, is something you can publish and feel proud of, then it's likely ready. But if your hesitation stems from your own assessment of its current state, then maybe not. (My apologies for the rambling, non-answer answer.)

Tanya Reimer said...

From my experience, if you have to ask, it's not ready.You read enough to know good writing, trust your gut. And remember how good it feels to give yourself the thumbs up.
Best of luck!!! Can't wait to see your next book out there.

Melissa Sugar said...

You have a very difficult decision to make. Not everyone is going to like every book. I really don't envy your predicament. I suppose it depends on what your long term goals are. If you want your books to be popular, successful and to make a profit then you are probably going to have to tough it out and put the revision work into them. If your goal is only to be a published author and sales and popularity don't concern you then just self pub as is- it is basically cost free these days.

This brings me to a completely different issue. My first book is still sitting in my drawer ( I am not published, but I am trying to become published with my current NIP). I have learned a great deal about the craft and the business in the past year, some of it self taught and most of it from bloggers, seminars and craft books. My current book is 100% better than my initial story. I think many of us have something inside that we need to get out and onto paper and into manuscript form and that is not always the best story for commercial sales. Perhaps this is true for you and you might fare better with a new story. You can always come back to your first series at a later date.

Good luck and I wish you the best, whichever path you choose.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Give yourself a few days deadline to fix the boring parts. If its taking too much time and effort and still not working, then you should think its time to move on.

Richard said...

Jeff, Tanya, Melissa, Rachna: thank you for your thoughts. You're correct, and there is no easy answer if you care about your work, as I do. That's why I asked for your input. I've now decided, not the least in part due to Tanya's feedback on reading one of the books, to revise. Another round of revision might make the difference between so-so and good.

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

I know this is the kind of thing we writers never want to hear, but if any of it is boring, just do a new rewrite. You'll get a better book for sure, and you don't want to publish a book a reader will consider boring if you want them to read the next one. Now, if you can really just "fix" the parts that are boring, great, but in order to really assess that, you'll need to go through the whole book again as if you have never seen it before.

Good luck!

Richard said...

Elizabeth: I've been thinking along those lines this morning. Lay the whole book out chapter by chapter and try to grasp it as both a whole and a sum of its parts, rearrange and so forth. It's a daunting task, but do-able.

Tanya Reimer said...

I tagged you on my blog if you wanna play writing-tag.