Once a road less traveled, the indie route is now a super highway to publishing. We’re excited to welcome back author Jo Robertson. Jo shares her writing journey and the reasons why she opted for indie publishing firstname.lastname@example.org
When Indie Publishing Is a Viable Option
I completed my first “real” manuscript in 2005 and entered it in the 2006 Golden Heart contest for romantic suspense. In a freaky run of good luck that book, “The Watcher”, won the award that year.
To say I was elated is understatement. I’d entered on a lark, had no expectations or illusions about doing well, and even less understanding of what the award meant.
On the excitement scale winning was a perfect ten, but in the real world of publishing it doesn’t guarantee anything. Realistically, winning RWA’s Golden Heart Award represents the fact that five of your writing peers deemed the first 50 pages of your manuscript strong enough in all elements of the scoring guide to win in a category of perhaps 150-200 entrants, depending on which category you entered.
While that’s a big coup in the romance writing world, it guarantees nothing but the slim possibility of being published.
News of my win brought lots of requests and an agent, but ultimately every publishing house passed on “The Watcher.” My agent was certain the book would go to auction, but it didn’t.
That’s when I learned that “spin” is very important in selling a book, and that editors aren’t the be-all and end-all of the industry. There’s a hierarchy that has to be scaled before a book is acquired by a publishing house; the larger the house, the taller the ladder. And there are literally dozens of factors that must align like the stars for your book to get published.
However, ever the optimist, I didn’t sit on my tush and complain. I finished a second book, “The Avenger,” which won the 2007 overall Daphne Award under another name, mutually parted with my agent, and continued to shop my books around. The contest wins garnered requests for partial and/or full manuscripts, but never amounted to a sale.
I continued writing and learning about the craft and the business because, really, that’s the only part of the business the author can control. I wrote a third book in that loosely connected trilogy and two historical thrillers. I wrote a young adult paranormal.
And, yes, in spite of my head telling me I was a solid writer, my heart felt like something you’d scrape off your shoes. Even though I never considered giving up, I got very weary of the highs and lows of submission and rejection, submission and rejection.
I felt like I was on a merry-go-round that wouldn’t let me off, and I didn’t have the courage to leap toward the dizzying ground below!
Finally, I began to think about publishing “The Watcher” myself. My family and friends wanted to read it, and I thought they deserved at least a complimentary print copy. Perhaps my books would never be read outside my family, but that would bring me satisfaction.
I had long clung to the traditional publishing model even though my common sense told me the landscape was changing, the internet was exploding, and writers were taking their careers into their own hands. Most of my writer friends gave me advice contrary to my own instincts, or I would’ve indie published a year before I actually did. I was ready to take the leap in early 2010.
Still, I hesitated. “Self-pubbed” had such an ugly ring to it. Did I really want to give up the “dream” of a book published by one of the NY Six? Would I sacrifice sensible and alternate publication to get my books in a brick and mortar establishment? Or did I simply want readers to enjoy my stories?
What finally moved me toward indie publishing was not Amanda Hocking’s or John Locke’s incredible success. It wasn’t my instinct that electronic books were the waves of the future. It wasn’t even my son-in-law saying, “It isn’t what percentage of the book market is now electronically published, Jo. It’s how fast it has happened.”
Finally, it was my own mortality that kicked my ass. I thought of Andrew Marvell’s poem “To His Coy Mistress.” The thrust of the poem is “I could take more time to woo you, but ‘time’s winged chariot’ is at my back and I don’t have ‘world enough and time enough’ to waste.”
I felt I could no longer woo New York.
As a mature writer, I bring many skills and assets to the table, but youth isn’t one of them. As Marvell concludes in his poem, I cannot “make the sun stand still,” but I can give it “a good run.” I can “tear [my] pleasures with rough strife/through the iron gates of life.”
So I struck out on my own, grabbed the golden lasso and trudged through the incredibly exciting and wonderfully straight-forward journey of indie publishing.
I haven’t looked back, haven’t harbored regrets, and haven’t stopped to count my sales or money earned (not much anyway, <g>) because really the only thing in the writer’s control is producing the next book. Our careers should always be about that.
I do know I’ve achieved more in sales and income in the last five months than I could’ve possibly done in traditional publishing in a full year. Clearly some of it is luck, much of it is hard work, and I like to think a smidgen of it is talent.
The vagaries of the book industry are wide, wild, and unpredictable. Who knows what readers will like? Often they don’t know themselves until they see the cover or read the blurb. No one can predict what will flop and what will fly. Not NY, not indie publishers, not the woman on the street.
As an independent writer, you must do it all (or hire someone to do it for you). If that scares you to death or you lack confidence in your own vision, then possibly indie pubbing is not for you.
But if you’re confident in your writing, if you have strong resources in family and friends, and if you enjoy managing your own career and relying on the sweat of your own brow, then you might consider dipping your toe into the indie publishing pool.
What do you have to lose?
You can find the entire Andrew Marvell poem here: http://www.luminarium.org/sevenlit/marvell/coy.htm
I’m giving away one free download of “The Watcher,” “The Avenger,” OR “The Traitor” to one random lucky commenter.
Here’s a quick blurb on Jo’s latest, THE TRAITOR
Assistant district attorney Isabella Torres and DEA Agent Rafe Hashemi want to prosecute the same man, notorious and vicious Diego Vargas. But Isabella believes Vargas knows something about the disappearance of her older sister twenty years ago and wants to charge him for his current human trafficking operation. Rafe wants to nab the corrupt councilman for drug trafficking.
When Isabella and Rafe meet anonymously at an upscale bar and end up spending a passionate night together, only to learn the next day who the other is, sparks fly and the game is on for control of the case. Forced to cooperate with each other, they must balance the danger of the case against the danger of their hearts.
Have you ever begun a sojourn that ended up being a much longer journey than you’d anticipated? Have you ever started one thing only to see it turn into something else?
Join us tomorrow for a Q &A with fire arms expert Adam Firestone.
Bio: Like many writers, Jo Robertson penned her first story at a young age. However, a family and a teaching career put her writing dreams on hold until her Advanced Placement seniors conned her into writing her first complete manuscript. That story, which subsequently won RWA’s Golden Heart Award in 2006, was THE WATCHER. Contact Jo at: http://email@example.com. Also follow her on www.twitter.com/jorobertson29 or www.facebook.com/jorobertson44.
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