Decision paralysis

There’s a place for jokes about how I stereotypically have difficulty deciding where we should go to eat. But truthfully, I’m not good at big decisions–no matter what they are. Some things are easier than others, with a more clear-cut deal breaker. I mean, Cricut or Silhouette? Wasn’t a hard choice when Cricut requires an internet connection. Shortly after getting my Silhouette Cameo, we were treated to a week without a stable internet connection, which emphasized that I’d made the right decision.

But in others, the pros and cons aren’t so clear-cut. That’s probably why I’m still stuck deliberating over which is the best route forward with my fantasy books. If all it comes down to is pros and cons, the choice should be obvious, and it’s definitely helped me rule out the option of working with one of the 5 major publishing houses. They’d have to give me the star treatment in my contract. Let’s be realistic. That’s not going to happen. So why am I still hung up?

Most of the time, we’re torn between decisions because we’re worried about the decision we make ending up not being the right one. We spend so much time dwelling on it, rehashing the issues over and over again, that we end up paralyzed with indecision and can’t make a choice at all. This is decision paralysis–also known as analysis paralysis. Unfortunately, I’m a chronic sufferer of this particular issue.

Most cases of decision paralysis come from two problems: overabundance of choice, or false dichotomy. In this particular case, that’s not the issue. There are a few choices for publishing my books, but not an overwhelming number. I can take an indie route, I can pursue publication with an independent press, I can pursue an agent and aim for publication with a major publisher, I can pursue an agent and aim for a mid-sized traditional publisher, I can pitch my book to small traditional publishers myself, or I can choose to give up on publishing the books at all.

Okay, that last one isn’t really an option. I mean, it is, but who’s really going to make that decision? It’s one I’ve already ruled out–along with a few others. I don’t want a deal with a major publisher. I don’t want to work with a small, independent press that can’t offer me anything I can’t do by myself. Really, my options do come down to two choices: pursue a smaller traditional publisher, or do it myself and accept the title of indie author for better or for worse. Both of these have their virtues, as well as their faults, as I outlined before in my post about the pros and cons of traditional versus indie publication. Because of this, I’m not stuck because I don’t know which is the right choice–they’re both right. And at the same time, they’re both very, very wrong.

At the end of the day, what I want is the path that ensures two things, and sometimes it feels like those two things stand opposite each other in the world of publishing. One, I want the path that gives my books the absolute best chance for success. Wide distribution options for both eBooks and paperbacks, as well as a presence in libraries, means this desire tilts more toward traditional publishing. Two, I want to make a living from my writing, and this is tilted firmly toward the indie side of things. Lots of writers preach writing for passion instead of money, and that’s great, but passion isn’t going to feed my family or pay for my health insurance so the carpal tunnel issues I develop from all this writing can be taken care of. I’ve spent 15 years of my life working on these books, and creatives deserve to be paid.

So I have two desires for my work, and they pull it in two different directions. Both are vital to success. But how do you decide which is worth more? What do you do when both decisions are right, both decisions are wrong, and both decisions could spell utter disaster and failure for your life’s work? What would you do?

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