|I'm trying out a new path. Photo (C) John Hudson|
Today I'm sharing something that ties my stomach up in KNOTS. I'm making a slight change in direction. I'm not really sure how big this decision is, or where it will take me. So I'm a bit nervous about it. But at the same time, I don't feel like I have much to lose. And I'm EXCITED about it.
Short story: Basically, I'm going to indie publish some books. (Okay, technically novellas, more about that later).
Long story: So I have heard the advice about self publishing over and over since I began writing with the intent to publish, and I totally agreed with it. (I still agree with it, at least a lot of it, when it comes to print self publishing). I didn't want to try to sell my books to bookstores, have to drum up the money to print off a bunch of copies that might never sell, etc. Then along came ebooks. And everything changed. Suddenly there were ways to be in a "bookstore" (like the Kindle store) without having a big six publisher. Distribution problems were solved. You didn't need a ton of money up front. And so on.
I mean, you've probably been hiding under a rock if you haven't at least heard about the possibilities of indie publishing lately. The internet has exploded with articles and posts and tweets about it. JA Konrath, Amanda Hocking, Zoe Winters ... etc, etc. These people are making serious money and living their dreams. But let me back up. That isn't really what this is about.
So I write a LOT. I've been writing about 3 years now, and I've been pretty prolific in that time span. To illustrate: I sat down to make a list of my projects the other day and I made three columns. Finished, In Progress, and Just Ideas. The finished column had about 8 books in it. The In Progress column had about fifteen. The Just Ideas had about 5. I say "about" because I keep adding stuff as I remember/find it on my hard drive. And that last column is just fully fleshed out ideas, not even counting all the fragments and snippets floating around in my head every day.
Sometimes I get pretty discouraged about all these ideas. Only so many of them are what I'd consider "agent viable," and the rest get put on the back burner indefinitely (or they are written in guilt, with me fretting the whole time about wasting my precious writing time and energy on stuff that isn't going to sell in this incredibly competitive market.)** Heck, forget selling. It isn't going to get a partial request from an agent, let alone ever seen an editor, because it isn't what's hot. (Now, I don't want to sound bitter. I understand how the process works, and I understand why agents and editors make the choices they do. To some extent, I think the process is broken, but I don't hate the people involved in traditional publishing. Not by a long shot! I think they are passionate about books just like me. I'm just saying the system has a lot to do with luck and a lot to do with things I can't control).
Basically, as much as the business part of "guessing the next big thing" is a part of the process for most writers, I have come to HATE IT. I hate it because it kills my creativity and makes me jaded. I can't write what I want to write. Instead I feel like I have to write what I think will sell.
Let me take a time out to say this might not be everyone's problem, and people might point out that I should just focus on "writing a good book." Since I am so swamped with ideas right now (and I think they're all good--author's bias!), I am paralyzed by the idea that I could spent 3-4 months slaving over something and then discover I should have been working on idea #16, which is much further down the line, and so basically I just have to throw what I'm working on away forever and start again. I don't have 1 or 2 books I'm trying to write. I have dozens. So I just end up being anxious and frustrated that I will do all this work for nothing over and over. I want to know that I can at least share it with some sort of readership when I'm done, and it won't be all for nothing.
Back to business. I'm not against being smart or knowing the business--I think it's necessary. But it's very hard for me to reconcile that with with myself while I'm trying to create the art. I have stories that beg to be written, but I just keep asking myself, what's the point? This isn't going to sell. And it ends up just making me not want to write at all.
Anyway, I had this idea for my novella The Curse Girl about 2 months ago. I really liked the idea because it was whimsical and fun, and I started working on it even though I knew I wasn't going to query the finished product. I told myself maybe I could make it a short story, but it got way too long for that and turned into a novella. I didn't want to make it a novel, and now it was too long for a short story by a long shot. So I resigned myself to finishing it and giving it to a handful of friends to read. The end.
But then I read Amanda Hocking's post about her indie publishing success (this was from August of last year, before she became a millionaire and got a movie deal and a traditional publishing deal, etc). She was just writing books and selling them and it was working for her. I was entranced--but to be honest, I was more thrilled with the idea of complete freedom, flexibility, and creative control she talked about more than anything else. There was a way to actually make money (not necessarily a lot of money, but then, you haven't seen my paychecks ... I'm not getting rich at my day job), reach readers, and still call the shots? I could decide when to publish, what covers I wanted? I could write whatever I wanted--sci fi, fantasy, etc without fretting endlessly over staying in one niche genre because that's all the agent I was trying to get would rep?
I started daydreaming about it in a totally hypothetical way. I told my husband, "Of course I'm not actually going to indie publish, but if I DID, this is what the cover would look like, and this is what I'd do..." Then one day I sat down and said, "What if I did indie publish this novella?" And I discovered I really wanted to do it. I did some research--would this blacklist me to agents forever? Would this somehow ruin my writing career, or like the short stories, would it enhance and strengthen it? I was getting more and more intrigued by the minute.
Fortunately for me, this is exactly when everything indie started to get big. The day after I said to myself that I MIGHT want to indie publish The Curse Girl, I hopped online and it seemed like everybody either was an indie author, or talking about one. Information poured into my lap. I started getting excited. But here's the REALLY cool thing:
I started writing like crazy again. The stress of "writing something commercially viable" vanished, and I could just lock myself away and write again. I got about 5 new ideas for books and started working on about 5 others again. The rush of creative energy overwhelmed me--in a good way. I haven't been this excited since before I started querying in the first place. Basically, I had some sort of sense of hope again. But here's the funny thing--I came up with several ideas that WERE commercially viable. I feel like I've gotten a just shot of confidence in every single area of my writing life.
Basically, indie publishing gives a lot of freedom, and that is incredibly attractive to me right now. I don't expect to make a ton of money, and I don't expect to get famous or become the next Amanda Hocking, just to be clear! I'm not all starry-eyed about becoming the Next Big Thing. I DO, however, expect to keep telling stories. Lots of them. This is one more way to do that.
This blog post is becoming turning behemoth, so I'll wrap it up. Basically, let me state what I'm not doing.
I'm NOT "going indie" completely or giving up on being traditionally published (I mostly say this so if I ever do become modestly successful, ha, and then turn to traditional publishing, people can't say I sold out). I asked several agents if they cared if someone querying them had been indie published, and they said no. Bonus points if I still haven't given away my debut novel virginity (hence, novellas, at least for now). I'm also NOT bitter or angry at traditional publishing. I'm just trying to explore all my options. One thing I love about this day and age is the plethora of choices I have when it comes to my career. Like with short stories, I'm trying something new. I don't know if I'm going to stick with it forever or how it will turn out, but I know I will massively regret never trying.
Oh, I'm also NOT turning this blog into an indie soapbox or anything, so if you aren't indie-inclined don't worry. I'm interested in writing, period.
Tomorrow I'll put up my list of pros and cons for both indie and traditional publishing, at least as it relates me me and my writing, so stay tuned!
Is anybody out there indie published, or thinking about it? Do you have any advice? Thoughts?
* I don't think I've really FAILED at anything, unless you count my massive list of rejections as failing. But I still find this quote incredibly inspiring, especially as I start this new leg of my writing journey.
** For instance, if I want to write a vampire novel I really CAN'T write one in traditional publishing. Nobody is buying them anymore, it seems, although readers seem to still be buying them in droves (See Amanda Hocking's books). And if I start writing a dystopian or something else that's really hot right now, I'll fret the entire time about whether or not the market will be saturated by the time I've finished it, edited it, polished it, and sent it off to agents. Not to mention the two years or so until it's published IF it gets sold. So the market viability is a huge thing on my mind, and it creates an enormous amount of pressure for me.