To self-publish or not

Focus is supposed to be the key to success, in art, business, hockey, anything. If you lose focus, you are bound to make mistakes. Lately I have been reading too many blogs, tweets and self-appointed online experts. They all say, follow the John Locke method. Publish an ebook. I even spent a couple of days reformatting one of my plays to publish on SmashWords. Is this procrastination? I should be polishing my manuscript, "Marmalade Cat Detective: The Astounding Vampire Dogs."

Self-publishing is tempting, but not for the novel. I have a backlog of school plays that I know work because I have produced them. It's fairly easy to see what works with an audience of 250 or so kids when you can observe directly. The problem is, children's plays are notoriously difficult to get published, especially for someone like me who has not produced my plays in a professional venue.

The rational solution would seem to be self-publishing. It seems low-risk. My plays are written and collecting dust. I'm more interested in writing new plays than putting my old ones on in bigger venues. I do plays for the love of working with kids and the love of writing. I'm not interested in quitting teaching and going into theatre.  If I self-publish my plays, it will be virtually as a service to other teachers. I doubt they will make  a lot of money.

There is just one problem. I have a novel almost ready to send to agents. It's a YA novel which might also suit an imaginative adult audience. This is where the warnings begin. I've heard that once you publish anything with an ISBN number, publishers and agents look you up every time you submit a manuscript. The first time I try to interest them in a manuscript, will they will look up my sales figures see my plays aren't selling and take a pass?

Does it have to be a catch-22? I am pessimistic about publishing my plays through the usual channels because the demand for kids' comedy scripts is small. I am optimistic about my novel because I have read many children's novels and I haven't seen one quite like mine. I think it might attract readers of Sherlock Holmes novels, and of Shane Peacock's excellent boy Holmes mysteries. My story is also a spoof on Gothic elements in mysteries, like James Howe but for older readers. Obviously, I'm not comparing the quality of my writing to these authors. I'm trying to give an idea of my story's flavour.

Like any artistic hopeful, I believe in my 'thing' and hope other people will too. I just wish I knew what to do about it.

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