The In-Between of Publishing

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*

17 thoughts on “The In-Between of Publishing

  1. I think it might be good to start by self-publishing one story, and keep it true to you. That way you get to hold your own book in your hands and that would be so immensely exciting. And you’ll still be able to try traditional publishing with another book, without the search for a good agent bottlenecking your entire publishing journey. Meantime, with a self-published book you might be able to get some into local bookshops, start small and grow and enjoy the unique experience of it?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. So, so much of this resonated with me. While I’ve never had the dream of being “published”, I also have felt like the odd one out in terms of what I enjoyed in fiction, especially the Christian subculture we got going these days. I’ve met others with the same view, but not often. So friend, you aren’t alone. Not by a long shot. :) I’ll be praying for you, as you navigate these murky waters. I’m sure God has a plan for all of this. Sending love and empathy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh my goodness… This honestly is the kindest comment. Thank you SO much for reaching out!!

      It’s definitely an interesting subdivision we’ve got going on here. It makes me wonder where all these authors are hiding, and how THEY handled the process? Definitely makes me want to do some more digging and research…

      Thank you SO much for the prayers and encouragement! That truly means so very much to me. And it’s good to know I’m not alone, even if this isn’t something I’d wish anyone else to be struggling with.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. YOU ARE NOT ALONE YOU ARE NOT ALONE YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

    Oh my gracious, I don’t think I’ve ever read a post I’ve related to more. It’s like you took all the feelings from my heart and thoughts from my head and turned them into words. This just– This is ME. So, so me!

    I’ve been querying, but goodness, I just don’t know where my stories FIT. Because I, too, write clean books in the secular sense but they’re not overtly Christian, and it seems like agents are so far on each spectrum it’s impossible to fit in the middle ground. It is frustrating me to no end. And yes, I could self publish, maybe even will some day, but I have a plethora of reasons why traditional publishing fits me more. Indie books are AMAZING. But for me personally, I just feel like I’d do sooo much better with a team behind me, not being my own boss.

    So…I don’t know either. I, too, teeter back and forth like some teeter-totter on steroids.

    Right now I’m just praying. A lot. And dipping my toes in different places. I’ve literally been querying to secular and Christian agents, just to see what happens, all while working on others books knowing if I don’t get bites on THIS book I’ll have others to keep trying with. In the meantime, just trying it all and praying through it all, and as each rejection comes in knowing that’s not what God has for me. Because that’s the thing, God DOES have a plan for both of us. He gave us this passion for stories for a reason, and I KNOW it will come to fruition. So I’ve just been praying and continuously writing and querying here and there knowing I will find His path for me one day at the right time. And you will too.

    Keep seeking, keep praying, keep WRITING. Those words in your soul will touch the hearts they are meant to one day. <3

    THANK YOU for writing this. As I said, I relate to this more than ANYTHING I have ever read, and if you ever need to rant and brainstorm about these things, please do reach out to me. Praying for you, dear Kenzie! *HUGS*

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh goodness, Christine, this whole thing. It was such a needed encouragement.

      First off, I am so PROUD of you for querying. That is such a scary part of the process, and yet you’re doing it and crushing it and–even if you haven’t received any bites yet–you’re taking that plunge and it is honestly super super encouraging to me. Not fitting into a specific genre IS frustrating. Especially since it seems like publishing these days are so cut and dried. Not fitting into a box has never been so agonizing.

      However. I wouldn’t want us to change our perspectives or the kinds of stories we’re called to write. So even if it takes years or even if we have to be creative with how we publish to break into the industry, I know that you’re right: God has a plan. And whatever it is He’s planning will be so much better than anything we imagine.

      I also swayed more towards traditional when I considered the fact that I’d have a whole team behind me! And the thought of going it on my own is terrifying. But there’s a part of me that just popped up randomly–seemingly overnight–and is…excited to potentially take that plunge? I don’t know where it came from or what I’m going to do with it, but there’s a chance that I AM meant to be my own boss and team leader, and that feeling is a very curious one. XD

      Girl, I may VERY WELL take you up on that offer! There has been so much shifting in my life lately. Having a friend like you to lean on would be so, SO appreciated… Thank you for everything, Christine. You are the sunshine I needed today. <333

      Like

  4. I think you can definitely publish clean books that aren’t Christian fiction, ESPECIALLY if you write YA. I think it’s more a problem as a teen reader, tbh, because I remember being a kid and not knowing if I was going to get something age-appropriate or the latest Sarah J. Maas knockoff (lmao), but I definitely grew up able to find plenty of clean YA all the same! (Not to imply that there aren’t clean adult books, as well, because there definitely are!) But yeah, I think you should be able to get the sort of thing you’re talking about traditionally published without editors telling you to spice it up!

    Tbh, I’ve waffled between wanting to get traditionally published and wanting to self-publish too, because I’ve got ADHD and the deadlines for traditional publishing sound kind of rough. I’ve also heard of people in the publishing industry ignoring requests for accommodations for disabilities >.< On the other hand, like you said, it would be really nice to be able to get your book into a brick and mortar store. I'm nowhere near that point in my writing journey yet, though, so I guess I'll have to figure that out when I come to it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh goodness, I definitely remember being a teen reader and never knowing what, exactly, I was going to find inside the books I’d try to read. It was a nightmare. I guess I just wish there was a way to know what books are clean but fantastical, and which ones have…other attributes. XD

      Dude, ADHD is ROUGH. I’m pretty certain (the certainty is growing stronger by the day) that I might have it, too, though I haven’t been properly tested for it. And deadlines are honestly the bane of my existence. Honestly, the pros and cons of trad and indie really do weigh each other out. I guess we could look at the positive and say that neither one would be a BAD decision, right? XD

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for putting your thoughts out ‘into the void’. I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know you are not alone. I have spent many, many years feeling like the odd man out of the group. I am still unsure if my books, which kinda quirky, will ever be published in a world that likes everything in a nice, neat little box.
    Please keep writing your stories that don’t fit in the box. The boxes are kinda overrated anyway. :P Someday, I want to be able to read your stories of whimsical loveliness. I think we need more stories that bring light and hope into the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh goodness, thank you so much for this encouragement, Shaina! This was much needed.

      And legit, same to you. I’m growing so tired of the boxes. Maybe together we can be the start of a new wave that completely changes the course of publishing as we know it? I always have wanted to be part of a revolution, lol!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. EVERYTHING IN THIS POST I FEEL IN THE DEPTHS OF MY SOUL.

    I’m just sitting here nodding along like, “Yes. YES! Been there. Been there. Been there.”

    As you know, I’m very happily self-published. I don’t have any desire to ever write another query letter. To ever reach out to another agent. To ever get another rejection letter.

    But it took me a long time to get here. It took a lot of tearing my hair out trying to write a synopsis. It took multiple query letters. It took multiple rejections. It took one publisher asking for the first five chapters of my manuscript and then never hearing from them again.

    And there are days when it is still hard. Because going it “alone” (and I’m not really alone because I have an amazing team of people I’ve curated and bound up into my journey and together we inch along this strange and wonderful and bumpy and sometimes parched and thirsty road called self-publishing) is hard. Being your own agent is hard. Being your own publisher is hard.

    And thankfully, I don’t have to make a living at it. I can inch along to my heart’s content and find my readers one smol, sweet reader at a time and be ludicrously excited about every single one of them.

    Not everyone has that luxury. And I get it. And I totally get the “but I want my books on the bookshelf in the store” feeling. Been there, too. And thanks to some of my wonderful team… that’s a dream that can come true as an indie-author. It takes knocking on some doors. Sometime repeatedly. Sometimes it takes knocking DOWN the doors (and it helps to have a very tenacious father acting on your behalf in those instances!) But my books have been on a shelf in a Barnes and Noble. I even got to have a book-signing IN the store!

    It was thrilling.

    But honestly… and weirdly… it wasn’t as thrilling as I thought it would be.

    It wasn’t as thrilling as checking the library catalogue and seeing that someone had checked out my book and was (probably?) actually reading it. It wasn’t as thrilling as the first 5-star review from a reader I had never met and didn’t know in any way. It wasn’t as thrilling as seeing my book on someone else’s bookstagram… unsolicited, unasked for. It wasn’t as thrilling as the packet of sweet and adorable “thank you” letters I received after donating a book to each child in a friend’s 3rd grade class. It wasn’t as thrilling as winning the Realm Award last year.

    I’m not trying to be discouraging about traditional publishing. At all! I know many authors who are and are extremely happy. And probably more widely-read than I am. They probably make a lot more money than I do.

    I’m just saying that… I dunno… I guess I’m rambling a little bit. Your post made so many memories and thoughts and feelings and things bubble up to the surface of my brain and it’s all a little incoherent at the moment… but I guess what I’m trying to say is that sometimes the part of our dream we think is the most important or will be the most rewarding or confirming… isn’t. And sometimes there are even better things than wild success. Sometimes… sometimes it’s the little successes that mean the most. And honestly, I think that’s kinda cool. :)

    And the other thing I want to say is that whatever you decide, however you decide to publish, whichever direction God leads you in… I think it’s gonna be GREAT. You’re gonna do it the Kenzie way. And it will be beautiful to behold. And I can’t wait to read it. :) :)

    Liked by 2 people

    • This was EXACTLY the kind of insight I needed on a post like this. Your publishing journey is such an inspiration to me, Jenelle, as I’m sure it is for many, many of your readers and followers. Reading Echo was one of the first moments when it pinged in my brain that self-pubbed books are often made of a stronger stuff than trad ones. There’s something gentle and unique about them. And that is such a wild feeling.

      I’ve never queried an agent. To be honest, though I’ve never hit the stage where I felt ready for querying, I’ve also never found an agent who I thought would match my vibe and the vibes of all my stories. And there is a journal entry somewhere in my trunk upstairs that says something along the lines of “…why am I still searching for a heart that will champion my books with all the ferocity and love it possibly can when I, myself, am in possession of such a heart?” I know that being your own publisher/agent/everything can be terrifying. But I almost feel as though God has been calling me towards that decision lately. And rather than being scared of it, I feel excited. Like I’ve finally found the path my feet were meant to journey down.

      The list of your victories (Realm Awards and the box of letters, specifically!) is the absolute best thing ever, and my heart is full to bursting with adoration for all of it… If there was ever such a sweet soul that deserves blessings like that, it is YOURS. And this right here >> “…but I guess what I’m trying to say is that sometimes the part of our dream we think is the most important or will be the most rewarding or confirming… isn’t. And sometimes there are even better things than wild success. Sometimes… sometimes it’s the little successes that mean the most.” << is exactly what I needed to hear. Because I think you are incredibly right.

      Without ever experiencing these things before, I think us writers tend to look at specific things through rose colored glasses. And without even realizing it, we may be giving up part of the experience of being so closely connected with our audience in favor of a wider readership. But there are so many midlisters in the trad industry lately that even a wide readership isn't promised. And that is just as frightening as anything.

      I think I might be rambling now. XD However. I just want to say thank you one last time for this sweet note of encouragement and insight. I am so blessed to have a friend like you to connect with as I bumble my way down this adventure of writing. It makes the hard days so much more worth it.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. This post resonated SO HARD with me! I’ve been struggling with 99% of these questions for absolute years now. Know that you’re not alone. I don’t have the answers either. But THANK YOU for sharing all these thoughts! And I know there are many authors like you and I who are struggling to find their place between those two worlds, as well as that there are many readers like us who don’t like the extreme either ends either. I always dreamed of traditional publishing, and the more I see the juxtaposition of the different sides, the less I think I’ll fit there…but bookstores…but yeah, my point is, I 100% get you and I’m sorry I don’t have advice because I haven’t figured it out either, but I TOTALLY FEEL YOU and just wanted to say thank you for sharing all this. Please keep writing and I hope that one of these days you’ll find the right path forward.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh goodness, I’m so sorry you’re struggling with this, too, but hopefully it is nice to know that you’re not alone, either! Publishing just seems like such a mess lately, and I definitely want to change it.

      Just like with everything, I feel like for people like us, the path forward will never be easy, but whatever God’s will is, I know that it will be absolutely magical and SO worth the struggle. I’ll be praying for you, as well, my friend, as you navigate these same murky waters. We’ll figure it out eventually, and I know it will be amazing!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. KENZIE! You are SO not alone in this! I wavered for soooooo long between traditional publishing and self-publishing. And one of the main cons of self-publishing was the thought of not being able to see my book in bookstores. That was always my dream too.

    But what happened for me was realizing that my reach would most likely be similar to traditional publishing when I considered the massive giant that is online shopping. So many people shop online, and it seemed logical to me that more people would be likely to stumble on my book on an online shop than a physical shop. Idk, the pros just really outweighed the cons for me (more creative control, more control in general, freedom to write what I love and not have to fit into a mold). I’ve actually watched a few videos and read some articles that detail how it IS possible for indie authors to get their books in bookstores, so it’s not totally out of the picture!

    Anyway, that’s my two cents. I mostly just wanted you to know that you are TOTALLY not alone in feeling this way. As I was reading your post, I was like…”how is she literally describing my thoughts word-for-word?” XD

    Liked by 1 person

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