Lately my RSS feed has been completely overwhelming with information about how the world of publishing is changing for new authors and how the world of traditional publishing and book printing is slowly going the way of the buffalo. So much so, in fact, that I am befuddled by what road I should take in the publishing of my book.

I read about Smashwords some time ago and thought it was the most innovative thing to happen to publishing since the online submission manager. As a geek in my day job and a fan of open source software, I liked Smashwords’ willingness to use open file formats and shun DRM. In a different way, I also respected their position that they would let anyone (yes, anyone) publish using their services, because they believed that good writing has a way of standing on its own and rising to the top. As writers, we always want to let our work speak for itself on the basis of its merit, but end up having to market ourselves as a circle that fits into a square peg. I even liked the founders’ story of how they tried and tried, and failed and failed, to get published the traditional way. And the best thing, Smashwords is free. Pretty cool, huh?

But then the more I looked around, the more I realized it’s not the only service of its kind out there.  There are loads. Now more than ever, authors have a chance to call their own shots instead of hoping for a deal, any deal, even a shitty one, from a traditional publisher. Amazon has its own service for self-publishing, and just last week, even Apple (yes, THE Apple) announced they would be offering similar services. Granted, you have to have a new Mac, an iTunes account, some spare cash laying around for an ISBN, and be okay with having your work laced with DRM; but hey, it’s a service for authors, and you’ve got the giant that is iTunes out there pimping your stuff.

The more I learn about all the different options available to me, the less sure I am of which direction I want to go next:

  1. Do I keep stuffing envelopes and spending a small fortune on postage trying to get a traditional book deal?
  2. Do I give the middle finger to the traditional publishing industry and jump on the new self-e-publishing wave?
  3. Do I strike some kind of middle ground?
  4. Do I follow another direction I haven’t even looked into yet?

I don’t really know. Awhile back when I was writing the post about SASEs, I came across this blog ran by a midlist horror author who has seen a great deal of success being at the forefront of ebook publishing, both through traditional and nontraditional means. His insight has astounded me, and made me wish I had more time to keep up with the changing face of the industry, although with the rate at which things are changing my guess is not even the absence of a full-time job could help me do that (plus, I kind of need my full-time job).

About the only things I know for sure – One, I should probably get an agent. I really need someone whose full time job DOES entail keeping up with industry trends. Two, when hell freezes over and I finally do get someone willing to take a chance on my book, they’ll have to pry my digital rights from my dead fingers. Three, I should write a marketing plan for my book. More and more, authors have the onus of marketing and promotion, and I should probably know how to answer when someone asks me how I plan to help market my work. Besides, I haven’t written a marketing plan since college and the practice couldn’t hurt. I also happen to be friends with the Kansas City area marketer of the year who I can probably rope into helping me. Four, I need to keep editing. My book is never as ready as I think it is.