Remember that Choose Your Own Adventure book series? It was completely corny, but what a fun concept. You were the protagonist who got some story background, and then presented with a problem. Once you read the problem, you got to choose what you would do and turn to the recommended page for your choice.

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From there, you would learn more, and then get to make another choice until at the end, presumably you, the reader, had created your own adventure reading experience. And the next time you encountered the book, you could make different choices. As I young reader, I thought they were fun books. I kind of wish that navigating the publishing world were more like a Choose Your Own Adventure book.

I must admit that I keep as up to date as possible in the world of publishing choices. And it’s a pretty lively world these days with some of the latest being to stop change in James Patterson’s future of book ad or to pursue change in the full speech by Neil Gaiman’s for the 2013 London Book Fair. Find out that self-publishing is bad in a Salon.com article about failure, or that it’s one of the best ways to go in a responsive Salon.com article written by Hugh Howey for self-publishing. Every day, I can lose hours wading into the deep end of woe-ism from both sides.

A few times, I’ve thrown myself into the fray at message boards or in the comment sections of articles to remind people that taking up one side and fighting against the other does no good. What I find is that it really does me no good to try and call for rational discussions as a lot of people just want to rant and wail (as exhibited in Patterson’s ad). Rather than get angry at the situation, it would be great if some big compromise could happen so that publishing a book became like a Choose Your Own Adventure book.But how does one make those choices in a world that is more Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robot fighting?

Chuck Wendig, prolific author of many works in many forms who has taken both paths of publishing, recently threw himself into the ring with thoughts on self-publishing in response to the Salon.com Howey piece. (Warning: Wendig’s blog has language and other things to be wary of for the faint of heart). The argument that continued in a message board (where he gained my respect for logging in with an account to respond directly) became indicative of the fight between the two sides and the even bigger failure of the publishing world at large to move forward in this changing time. Two separate camps keep lobbing bombs at each other throwing blame and ridicule, both claiming that their way is the best way.

Wendig posted another more balanced perspective on self-publishing versus traditional publishing on his blog, but he voices an opinion that I continue to carry the more I research into my options as a writer. No blanket statement of which way is best will fit every writer and every genre. It’s an individual thing based on each writer’s desires and goals. For me, my contemporary fantasy WIP may fit well in the self-publishing model. But my MG/YA work and my goals for it would probably be better suited for me to attempt to go through the traditional publishing machine.

Beyond taking time to research and be the most well-informed, I’ve been desiring some sort of system to help make the choices clearer. Once again, Wendig came through with a blog post titled “What the Hell is a ‘Hybrid’ Author Anyway?” The term hybrid author refers to those who do well as indie authors and manage to pick up traditional publishing deals for physical books like Howey (worth an entirely separate blog post from me at another time). But Wendig provides one of the best Choose Your Own Adventure system I could find.

So if you’re ready, here’s the start. You are a writer. You are almost finished or have just finished your novel, and you’re looking for a way to get it out there to the readers. As you start your journey, you come upon a fork in the road, one way titled “self” and the other titled “traditional”. Use the following examples of choices in order to make the best one for yourself as a writer and for your work (exerpted from Wendig’s blog post April 23, 2013):

Traditional Publishing

(+1): Money up front! Maybe really good money!

(-1): Could be shit money, too!…

(+1): Gatekeepers ensure that material of relative quality gets through the door.

(-1): Gatekeepers are also notoriously risk-averse. (And occasionally: dicks.)…

Self-Publishing

(+1): You have a lot of control over how the book exists in the world. Editing, marketing, cover design, e-book design, promo, and on and on.

(-1): Money investment up front means more financially risky (may spend money, gain none). Anticipate spending anywhere from $500 to $5000 to get that book “out there.”…

(+1): …Allows you to offer riskier materials in format (short fiction, novellas, serials) or content (edgier work, genre mash-up material, weird stuff) that publishers might not touch.

(-1): Some genres don’t do well self-published, yet…”

While the publishing world tries to figure out how things are going to shake out, it’s best if writers make the most informed decision for themselves. An even better idea is not to get too obsessed or depressed about the daunting paths that lie ahead. Better to think of it like those corny books from yore and choose your own adventure to publishing.

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