good morning, cyberspace!
Lately I’ve been suffering from a conundrum. Of course, you could probably say that I’m suffering from a conundrum every single day of my life–“what am I?” “what is the meaning of life?” *indefinite existential crisis*–but this particular conundrum is one that I’ve been suffering through for a while now, and therefore I no longer know the correct way to battle it.
So, because everything seems to become clearer when I put my fingers to the keys and type, I’ve decided to write a blog post about it. Because maybe then I can finally understand what is happening inside my head, you know?
The focus of this post may be a little bit messy. (apologies in advance for that. i know how much you guys love my totally professional blogging style. [*awkward cough*]). I’ll do my best to clean it up and form a concise theme once I’m done spewing out the first draft of whatever this turns into, but this is just your friendly neighborhood warning: here there be rambles.
Still with me? Wonderful. Tally ho, soldier.
THE IN-BETWEEN: a publishing conundrum
If you’ve been around here for any length of time, you know that I want to get published someday. It’s the dream of every writer, isn’t it? To be published. To have that official badge of “Author-with-a-capital-A” to show the world we’ve made it. . . I’ve had the dream of being a published author ever since my early teenager-dom, and even though I never made it as a “teenaged author”, that dream still clings true to my heart.
Some writers are content with writing their stories just for themselves, and that is a beautiful, beautiful thing. But I crave the ability to share my words. I want the world to read them, and I want my books to be loved–maybe not by the masses (the thought of that is terrifying, honestly), but by people who truly love and care about my characters and stories.
I want to share my words, and in order to do that, I have to become published. And therein lies our problem.
Because in order to be published, you have to find a market for your book. If your goal is the traditional route (which mine has always been for as long as I can remember), you have to find an agent. You have to try and sell your book to a publishing house. You have to write query letter after query letter and try to find the perfect person out there who really clicks with not only your writing, but your entire you-ness. It’s essentially like trying to find your soulmate in a sea of rejection letters, and it’s a terrifying, agonizing process.
But for those who know where they stand and what they’re after, it typically has a way of working itself out in the end. And I guess that’s where I’m hitting my wall.
If I’m being perfectly honest, this predicament I’m finding myself in isn’t just through the realm of publishing. It’s been something I’ve struggled with my entire life, because, for my entire life, I’ve never really fit. The world is filled with boxes, and I’ve always been just a little too awkwardly shaped for them. This isn’t a bad thing in the sphere of originality, but when it comes to trying to fold yourself into one coherent shape for marketability purposes, it’s a little bit discouraging.
I am a Christian. If you read my bio, you’ll know this. If you know me in real life, you’ll see this. And hopefully–if I’m doing my job correctly–when you read my words and see my online presence, the evidence of this will be so apparent that you won’t even question it. But when it comes to my writing, I don’t write Christian Fiction.
This is not meant to be a knock against Christian writers who do write Christian Fiction. There is a market for that kind of story, and I’m a firm believer that those stories matter. Those just aren’t the stories I’m called upon to write.
Do I want my stories to fill people’s hearts and souls with positivity and light and the occasional happily ever after? Absolutely. But I also want to stab them in the hearts a few times, too. (I do so love a good stabby scene. . .)
Do I want my books to be free of cussing and graphically “steamy” scenes? Of course. But as of right now, I don’t feel called upon to write books that deal with pure-blooded Christian themes and salvation stories.
Do I want my books to glorify God in every way possible? With all of my heart, yes. But I want to fill them with magic and gnomes and dragons and pixies, too. I want them to be whimsical and different, carefully toeing that shimmering line between Christian Fiction and Secular Fiction so that it’s a story for e v e r y o n e.
I want to write the books that I wish I could have had while growing up. Books that smol Kenzie wasn’t afraid of opening for fear of “bad scenes” and multiple cusses. Books that were fantastical and whimsical and pure, but still held that page-turner readability that keeps readers wanting more.
I’m a sucker for classics just as much as the next person, but sometimes you just want something new. A fast, lightning-paced read. Something that sucks you in and doesn’t make you stare at a single page for ten minutes because what on earth is a chaise-and-four?
(“ALEXA. WHAT’S A CHAISE-AND-FOUR???”)
Those are the kinds of books I desperately wished for during my teenage years. Those are the books I could never. find. because they were never advertised as much as the more secular options. Those were the kinds of books I craved, and since I couldn’t find them, those are the books I now write.
But then comes the issue of publishing.
I think there’s a reason I couldn’t find the kinds of books I so desperately wished for. I think there’s a reason you still can’t find them, even to this day: there’s no market for them. Or, as the publishing industry so loves to say (though typically in regards to New Adult fiction), there’s no room on the shelves for books such as these, and therefore there is no one out there to publish them. No agents toeing that middle line between secular and Christian fictions. You’re either one or the other. There is no in-between.
But all my life I’ve been the in-between. All my life I’ve been too “goody goody” for the non-Christians, and too “not-good-enough” for the godly people. It’s the weirdest sort of predicament, really, and one I’ve struggled with my entire life. In a world where humans thrive on identifying with one another, being the odd-one-out in every single situation can lead to feeling a disconnect when it comes to other humans, and I’d be lying if I said I haven’t felt that disconnect sharply on multiple occasions. (especially in my high-school years, when we’re told by the universe that our worth comes in how our peers see us/what we’re able to accomplish as teens.)
But I’ve come to accept my odd-man-out lot in life. I have come to accept the fact that I’m a little bit different. I gracefully accepted that, while other people in my youth group were discussing missionary trips and prayer circles, I was the one excitedly jabbering about how I’d just written my first bomb explosion in a Dystopian WIP.
But when it comes to the publishing industry, it isn’t just a matter of accepting yourself. It’s a matter of writing to market. It’s a matter of writing a book that will sell. And however much I may love and crave this strange in-between that I’ve found with my fiction, if there’s no market for it, there’s no selling it. There’s no sharing it with the world. And there’s no traditional publishing.
You have to be one or the other, but I can’t bring myself to be either.
“But Kenzie. . .” you say, tilting your head and popping another fistful of popcorn into your face, “can’t you just . . . you know. Self-publish? Isn’t defying the market of traditional publishing and carving your own space in the universe the dictionary definition of becoming an Indie Author?”
Well, yes. And if I’m being perfectly honest, I’ve never had more of a desire to self-publish than I do in this moment. I’ve been devouring posts and videos about publishing like crazy over the past few days–which, I’ll admit–probably isn’t helping my conundrum any–and the more I learn about the traditional publishing world, the more hesitant I am to become a part of it.
My dream has always been to have a literary agent and a publishing contract, but in order to find an agent, I have to wade through name after name of random strangers, hoping to find the one soul who’s as passionate and in-love with my story as I am. But as I began the journey into the murky depths that is agent research, I came across a startling realization: why on earth was I trying to find the single soul who would love my novels just as much as I did, when I was already in possession of such a soul?
Who was going to advocate my books with as much fire and drive as I, the author, would?
Why would I trust someone else with my words when I knew how I wanted them to be?
But in order to traditionally published, I would need to find that agent. Some people may be able to sneak through without one, but I’m not contract savvy, and anything I came across in the publishing industry would surely make my head spin.
So as it is, every sign seems to be pointing to becoming an Indie Author . . . right?
Under any other circumstance, I would agree with you–if it wasn’t for just one, teensy little thing.
I want my books to be in real, brick and mortar bookstores. That right there is my authorial dream. To walk into a bookstore, go to the YA section, and see my book sitting there amongst all its brethren. Maybe I’d even get the chance to sign a couple before slipping away unnoticed. Maybe some young, aspiring author after my own heart would come toddling along, trying to find something to interest her amongst all the contemporary fiction with questionable scenes and fantasy riddled with curses. Maybe seeing my book there would give her the courage to write her own stories.
Maybe, maybe, maybe.
So we’re back to square one again. Do I carve my own place in the world by hand and self-publish, knowing that by doing so, my words may never reach the audience that my heart yearns for? Or do I go traditional: sell my work and potentially my soul for something that other people have the legal authority to edit and package so that it fits modern-day publishing trends, but in exchange reach a greater audience of readers?
Every time I think I’ve found a solution, something causes me to sway. Back and forth, back and forth. My brain feels like an unending teeter-totter, and no matter how hard I try to dig my heels in, I just keep going back up.
So maybe throwing this out into the void will help me process things a little better. Or, more importantly, bring like-minded individuals within my scope of perception. So wherever you are, my dear friend, if you, too, are having these thoughts, please talk to me. I need to know I’m not alone. Maybe you and I can start a revolution.
talk to me, peasants!
I’m not really sure how to phrase questions for this post–honestly, I’m not sure if there ARE any questions for this post–so I’m just going to leave this section blank. But please comment. Tell me if you disagree with what I’ve said. Tell me if you’re pursuing traditional or self-publishing. Tell me if you’ve been having the same feelings as I have. Tell me all of the things, my friends.
*flings cookies in the air and disappears*