What is that Novel Really Worth?

Now that The Warden of Everfeld: Memento is officially past the stage of being just a collection of ideas and dreams locked away in my brain and/or on a flash drive, it’s time to start thinking about it in terms other than its qualitative worth. Yes, I am of course talking about money and its necessary attendants: marketing and business — the collective bane of artistry, creativity, and human-made beauty in the world.

Because when we talk about publishing, that’s really what we mean: the promotion and sale of a piece of work. As writers, we tend to lean on the adage that the writing of a novel is its own reward, and that any material gain that comes of it is a bonus. Luckily, most of us are telling the truth when we say this.

But I think it is still important to think about the worth of my novel as I move towards the publishing stages. Having finished the first draft of my novel, and holding that manuscript in my hands, I can tell you unequivocally that it was worth the time and the effort to write. I wrote a novel. That story is something of my creation, and with the manuscript in hand, I would never go back.

That in itself is a material reward. I have five printed copies of the story that I wrote (and a three-page addendum attached to an email four days after the fact, but who’s keeping track?). Eventually, four of those copies will come back to me scribbled in red ink with all the reasons why they suck. And that too is a reward, because that means that four people independently took time out of their lives to read my novel and give me feedback. Even if they think it was terrible, that is an accomplishment for me as a writer.

So beyond this stage, and in spite of the likely thousands of dollars I’ll sink into publishing it, anything more I gain from this story is a bonus.

Now then, the next question is: is it worth publishing? I honestly don’t think it’s up to me to decide. Of course I’m going to believe that my novel is worth publishing, that it is worth someone paying $5 or $10 or $15 for someone to own and read it. But I can’t judge my own work fairly. I don’t have the right to tell someone, you should buy my book, it’s worth your time and money. That’s asking too much. But that is what my alpha readers are for — to help me figure out if my novel is worth something to anyone else.

Admittedly, part of my reasoning here is a defense mechanism. I want my alpha readers to enjoy my novel and find value in it — it’s a form of validation for my writing. But I also want them to be honest with me.

Their critical reviews of my novel are their own reward, but they will go a long way in helping me determine how far I can take this novel from here. And I cannot wait to hear back from them.

I promised them 30 days without bugging them about sending their reviews… 22ish days to go (sigh).

Steve D

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