Why I Chose to Self Publish

keep-calm-and-support-indie-authorsSo, 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.)

permission2) 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?

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When did you start writing?

A simple question. One that many of us have been asked before. A question I think about all the time because it’s a reminder of what I’ve always wanted to do. Write.

This past week I got to meet some amazing people at Authors After Dark. One reader was sixteen and an aspiring author. She was asking everyone about when they first started writing.

There is one key moment in my life that I remember wanting to be an author. It was in elementary school. Fourth or fifth grade. We had a local author come to school and tell us about her career. How she started. Why she wrote realistic fiction. I was hooked. I wanted to be her. There was a contest we could all enter. All we had to do was write a short story and submit it in the contest. So I took the leap. And I got to go to the mini-conference they had for everyone who entered. For one whole day I got to talk to authors, I got to learn how to write a book.

Now, I don’t remember all the details of the day. But I remember the amazing feeling of knowing I could write. Knowing I wanted to do that for the rest of my life. I wanted to go to a school and inspire kids the way she had inspired me. Of course back then I thought I would write realistic fiction.

Things change. Our perspectives change. I’m not the ten year old with a dream anymore. Now, I write. One day I will make this my career and I won’t have to worry about the day job. Until then, I’m so happy to have the chance to publish what I can. To edit for authors who I fan girl over.

My dreams are coming true each and every day. I hope the young lady I met at Authors After Dark will get the same opportunity. I hope she will follow her dream. I have a question for you…when did you start writing?

Kristin’s Big Announcement

Kristin McFarland

There’s a big announcement and a dancing Ewok at the end of this post, but first I’m going to ask you to bear with me for a little while.

Most of the books I’ve written have been, somehow or another, about hope.

The stories I’ve told have been about learning to believe in ourselves and our power to shape the world around us—sometimes literally. My characters find themselves or land themselves in dark places, and then claw themselves back up, because that’s what stories do: stories take us apart, with a character as our stand-in, and then they put us back together, brick by brick, until we can stand up again, even if what’s inside of us has changed a little.

Fiction shows us what we are and what we can be.

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When I set out to write SHAKEN, the very first book I queried, the book that got me my first…

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I’m doing something scary

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That’s right, my tiny beach town, Ventura, has their own Comic Con – Central Coast Comic Con, or C4 for short – and it is this month. The last weekend of the month to be exact and little ol’ me will be attending as an author.

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I will have my very own table in Artists’ Alley with stacks and stacks of books surrounding me, ready for signing and sale. I have my special, color-coordinated Sharpies. I have buttons and bookmarks and I’ll have candy to entice passersby. I have little stands to make my books more visible. I have my magic card swiper and a cash box all ready. I have my outfits pretty much planned out – including a shirt advertising the trilogy I’m hawking. I even have tiny Moo business cards.

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I am ready!

And I am FREAKING OUT.

I can’t believe how nervous I am. I’m questioning what the hell was I thinking when I told Kris, the head honcho of C4, that I wanted to attend when he said they love having locals there.

Why, why did I sign up? I AM SO PANICKED.

I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve never done anything like this before. I have this horrible fear that I’m gonna lug in 55 copies of my books Friday morning only to lug out 55 copies of my books Sunday afternoon because I am going to sit there for three days with no one stopping by my table. Maybe they’ll take a free bookmark and a piece of candy but then they’ll mosey on down the alley.

I’m not an artist who can take commissions and sell them. I’m not a comic book author. I’m not very well known – most of my readers who have actively reached out to me seem to be in England and on the East Coast. What the hell was I thinking?!

But I’m doing it. Even if I don’t sell one book. Even if all I get out of the weekend is a selfie with Doug Jones or sitting on Baby (the Impala from Supernatural – yes one of the actual cars the boys sat in on the show), because I’m definitely trying for that. I’m doing it because maybe it’ll be good exposure, maybe I’ll make some contacts, maybe I will sell one copy of my books to someone who really, really loves them and that’ll make it worth all this anxiety. Right?

So yeah, if you’re anywhere nearby that weekend, come down, it’s way less intimidating that SDCC and it should be a good time. Also, I’ll have candy.