So, as some of you know, I announced earlier this week that I’ve chosen to become an indie author. This was not a decision that I made lightly. In fact, if you would have told me six months ago that I was going to do it, I would have laughed at you. That’s because being a traditionally published author is a dream I’ve held for nearly 20 years. However, things change in that amount of time and I’ve come to believe that for me – as for several of my fellow Spellbound Scribes – this is the right path – at least for right now.
I want to be clear that I have nothing against traditional publishing. I may still end up agented and with a traditional house at some point in my career. I am closing the door to nothing.
If that’s the case, why did I decide to go indie? Two main reasons:
1) It was time for my work to get out there. It’s been four and a half years – and six books – since I started querying agents. It took me two years to get my agent. I was with her for two years before she left the industry, and though we got sooooo close to a traditional contract three times, she was unable to sell my debut work of Arthurian historical fantasy. Every single time it was for marketing reasons – traditional publishing doesn’t seem to believe that historical fiction set before 1066 AD will sell – or because I was an unknown author with no publication record.
Because of this, I shifted my focus to a much later time period, writing Madame Presidentess, a historical novel about Victoria Woodhull, the first American woman to run for President. While that MS was very well received with many full requests and at agencies I never imagined I’d have a chance at, I quickly ran out of time for an agent to be able to sell it and for it to get published before the 2016 election. (Traditional deals can take a year or more to secure and then another 12-24 months to produce the book.) The tie to the election, with the likelihood of Hillary Clinton getting the Democratic nomination, is the whole reason I pushed myself to write it so fast in the first place. So when it became clear a traditional deal wouldn’t make this possible, I chose to publish it myself.
Plus, I realized that even if I went with an agent right now, there is no guarantee they would have any better luck selling my books than the first one did. I was sitting on six books I’d already written (five fiction and one non-fiction) and I was tired of telling people to trust me that I had writing they would want to read. I wanted to prove it to them, so I decided not to wait another year or more for the traditional industry to say yay or nay. With self publishing, I control the pace at which my books are released, and I plan for it to be rapid. (This post gives my publication schedule for 2016.)
2) The industry is changing and I wanted to be in control of my career. The advent of ebooks changed publishing forever, removing (or at least lessening) the stigma associated with self publishing, and giving authors more freedom than ever. Couple that with a tight economy even so many years after the recession and this means agents are taking on fewer clients and publishers are buying fewer books from unknown authors, so it’s harder than ever to break in as a debut author.
I know my books have potential, and I’m confident fans will, too. No one knows what will be the next best-seller, but I want readers to have a chance to decide if it is my work. If so, FABULOUS! If not, I’ll learn from these early books and get better until I make it there. But I’ll never learn if my books languish in a drawer.
While self publishing has significant up-front costs (especially when you’re putting out four in six months like I am), I think it’s worth it. I’d have to do my own marketing, even with a traditional contract. Royalty rates are much higher as an indie and you have total control over your career. You get to pick the cover, decide when a book has had enough editing, write your own back-page copy and decide what order you’re going to write your books in. Plus, you never have to worry about being dropped if your book takes more than a few weeks to find its readership. To me, these are the important things – those that free me up to be an artist the way I want to be, without having to worry about industry trends or write what my publisher thinks will sell the best. Basically, being an indie author means being my own patron.
This also means that I take on the risk that I won’t break even, much less turn a profit. I know that is a possibility, but I don’t care. I’m doing this because I love it. As my mother mentioned to me the other day, if I had kids (which I don’t want), I’d be spending a ton of money on them. Instead, my books are my babies. If I got that MFA I was thinking about, I’d spend $50,000, far more than it will cost me to put out my first five books. This is an investment in my future – in my career as a writer and in my imprint, which is my company.
Suddenly, I’m very grateful I got that business degree and work in marketing. Everything happens for a reason, right? ;)
Fellow self-pubbers, what was your reasoning behind making the decision? Readers, do you care if a book is self-published as long as it is high-quality?