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11 Reasons Why I Became an Indie Author
I’ve wanted to be a fiction writer since I was ten years old and wrote, The Mystery Of The Missing Mansion. Yeah, it took me a long time to get here. I started writing seriously about twelve years ago. By “seriously” I mean I got up before work every day and wrote for an hour. I dedicated a few hours every Saturday and Sunday – as much as was humanly possible.
When I thought I had a novel ready for prime time, I started researching agents and working on a query letter. In the winter of 2010 as I read more and more about the industry, I realized everything had changed.
Here are the touch points in my life that led to the decision.
1. 2008: It was generally understood that a debut author would have little to no say in the title or cover of her novel. I accepted this fact, but I loved my long title and every time I had a positive reaction to it, I felt annoyed at the influence of the publishing sales department.
2. 2009: I began to realize, through reading agent blogs, that a writer was responsible for nearly all the marketing of her novel – I started blogging.
3. 2009: I learned that most books are only in bookstores for 2-3 months, that some books don’t make it to all bookstores – it depends on the sales rep and the store buyer.
4. 2009: I learned that most novels don’t earn out their advance.
5. Feb 2010: A guy in Australia read one of my short stories on my website and contacted me about possibly using it to make an Indie film. Nothing has come of it yet, but I realized the global reach of the web in a very personal way.
6. Jan/Feb 2010: Amazon announced 70% royalty for Indie Authors. I knew that with the traditional route, authors could expect to earn 8-10% off the list price on a trade paperback, out of which she’d pay 15% to her agent.
7. Jan-March 2010: I’d spent six or seven years working to get short stories published because I’d heard this would help get agents’ attention. It did. As I queried agents in early 2010, I received feedback that my credentials and writing were good, but a “pass” on representation.
8. May 2010: I took a class in using Web 2.0 tools for fiction. The class focused on podcasting, but the instructors emphasized that the web allows writers to connect directly with their audience. This was a major “aha” moment for me and the tipping point. My goal had been to find an agent, to get a publishing contract. What about focusing on finding an audience of readers who liked my voice? I started thinking about self-publishing.
9. May/June 2010: A form rejection from an agent arrived in my mailbox on a little slip of green paper – “Due to the state of the publishing industry, we have to be very selective in what we represent.” Really? I said. The state of the industry?
I read everything I could find on publishing, advances, royalties, the marketing effort required of a writer (now I had to tweet too!) and saw that the publishing industry was going through a major shake-up. I realized that everything I thought I’d known as I worked on my writing with the goal of being a published author was no longer (maybe never had been) true. All bets were off. I re-discovered Joe Konrath’s bog, A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing. He’d done a complete about-face from his previous suggestions and was urging writers to self-publish.
10. June 2010: Zoe Winters, Karen McQuestion and others crossed my radar and I realized self-publishing was no longer a last resort, no longer about vanity presses, and was fast losing it’s “stigma”.
11. July 2010: As I told family, friends, and co-workers about my decision, I learned that the “stigma” seemed to exist primarily in the minds of writers and the publishing industry, not the readers I know.
In July I made my decision to self-publish “The Demise of the Soccer Moms” and started getting my novel ready for the marketplace. I experimented a bit with a collection of my Flash Fiction, just to see how Smashwords worked. It’s been a lot of work, learning to format (I’ve since learned I made this more complicated than necessary), figuring out how to get my work in front of readers, and adding all the logistical stuff to my writing schedule. My husband has done a ton of work – he did all the formatting and interior design for the print version that will be available in April. He’s also put in a lot of time talking me down off the roof!
It’s been exhausting, but the fun kind. I feel constant energy and the love knowing I’m in control of where my writing goes rather than sitting waiting for agents or publishers to show interest.
This is an exciting time to be a writer. Just a few years ago, directly reaching readers worldwide wasn’t possible. Everything has changed, but one thing remains the same – people are thirsty for stories.
Thanks for inviting me here, and thanks for asking me to blog about a topic I could talk about for hours.
Thank you, Cathryn, and best of luck with your fantastic new book!
"Everybody has a secret world inside of them. All of the people of the world, I mean everybody. No matter how dull and boring they are on the outside, inside them they've all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds. Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands maybe" ~ Neil Gaiman (A Game of You)