But ... I don't know if you can relate, but sometimes I get this nagging feeling that I'm leaving opportunity on the table. I'm pretty high up the entrepreneurial scale by nature. In middle school, I started my own business selling wholesale lollipops to drug stores in my area (never amounted to much). In high school, I was in a different kind of business for myself. And of course now I'm a full-time freelance writer. So let's just say I understand the drive to be independent, and I'm not at all intimidated by the idea of selling things.
Yet I've also been just about 100% committed to pursuing a traditional publishing contract, with a traditional agent. To make it even harder on myself, I have a pretty solid idea what kind of publishing contract I want and which of the companies I'd like to publish with. I have little interest in dropping a book into the world just for the sake of it.
(By the way, I'm not saying this to snub anybody else's choices in their publishing journey. First off, I think the writer's journey is totally unique to each of us and what is true for me is not really true for anybody else. Second of all, it's ludicrous to think that everyone has the same goals, ambitions and definitions of success. I would never be so presumptuous as to judge someone else—I much prefer to support people as they make these decisions for themselves.)
Anyway, so I have a hypothetical question, and I'm really interested in gathering some opinions. Here's the situation.
I have a finished middle-grade manuscript sitting in my drawer. The book is about a boy who inherits a billion dollars and uses it to build a time machine, based on plans left behind by his brilliant and reclusive grandfather. Then he and his friends launch through American history, solving a series of riddles to unravel the mystery behind what actually happened to his grandfather when he vanished while escaping from Alcatraz.
This book was represented by a boutique literary agent, who shopped it around NY in '08. The first company that saw it, Dutton, was enthusiastic and immediately requested a period of exclusivity. The next, Knopf, liked it a lot but didn't publish time travel books. The third, Scholastic, really liked it, and I worked with a senior editor for 18 months, on two major revisions. The book made it all the way to acquisitions and there were meetings at the publisher level about it. Scholastic passed in early 2009 and I shelved the book.
I'm bothering to tell all this (if you don't already know it) to establish the book's bona fides. I can say with confidence this is a good book. It's been professionally vetted, and intensely edited by top editors—people who have bought and edited books that are still sitting at the top of the NYT best-seller list. Obviously, they opted not to buy it in the end, and they gave me reasons, but it's still a quality, fun book.
So the question arises in these mixed-up days in publishing about the wisdom of turning this into an e-book and selling it as a Kindle, iBook, Nook or whatever.
I can see two sides. On the "yes" side, it's a good book. I would retain the rights, so I could sell them later if I wanted to, and it would be a way to release a book I have a great fondness for (and one that actually made my wife cry at the end ...). From a financial point of view, it's all upside. If I make $2 on it, that's $2 more than it would make in my drawer.
On the "no" side, the Kindle market for middle-grade books is a fraction of the adult market, which is a fraction of the actual book market, so if it sold more than a handful of copies, that would be tremendous. And if I publish on Kindle, I would likely lose the ability to sell it later, to a print publisher. Finally, I'm a literary nobody. I know how to promote, but I have no built-in fan base. I'd be starting from zero, pursuing a market that is maybe .05% of the actual book market.
So ... would you put this book on Kindle?