27 January 2012

A convoluted journey into the Indie-tide

Let's start off by admitting it took me a long time to come over to the digital side of publishing. My journey has been, um, not quite a straight line? More like a spiraling op-art piece.

I started the road to publication with a complete manuscript -- SECRETS AND SHADOWS. An editor for a particular Harlequin line -- yes, the heart of category romance -- loved it. But. That was a BIG but. I revised. Waited. Waited. Heard she left the house. Sobbed. Waited some more. Got a lovely rejection letter from her successor.

The entire process? About a year and a half, maybe two. It's all a blur. But I remember it felt as if I had flushed a big chunk of my professional life down the drain.

I was left with a good, very polished manuscript that was too short for other houses; one not-great finished historical romance; and several fits, starts, and ideas for stories. What to do?

I heard about Samhain Publishing opening up. I still wasn't sure about "selling out" to publish digitally. BUT, it sounded promising and I refused to rewrite that book for the sake of meeting a word count minimum. My writing friends were excited at the prospect. Most e-pubs at that time seemed strictly aimed at erotica, so Samhain was something new. They wanted everything!

Long story short... SECRETS was snapped up. I was elated. I then had to explain to my family that yes, I was with a 'real' publisher. Oy. We still go there, believe it or not, three novels later. :P

I had other stories along the route, too. Sweeter, funny stories pubbed with a tiny e-press. It was a great experience and I loved writing those down-to-earth romances. They seemed more 'real' to me -- like old friends. That publisher struggled -- don't all small businesses? -- and finally closed. I was left with more finished stories without a home.

These events -- plus a painful rejection letter, life interference, and a monster case of writer's block -- led me to the Indie-publishing idea.

Re-publish my own work? That's outrageous! Sacrilege! Not to mention narcissistic. I balked at the whole idea, believe me. Until I saw a talented friend take the plunge. And her plunge led to a huge splash as her stories rocketed to the bestsellers' lists on Amazon. It changed her life. Literally.

Wow. That's pretty cool. Could I dare? I mean I'm a good writer. I have these polished stories ready to go. Hmmm....

Yep, I dared. Not many houses want to re-pub stories by a virtual unknown. Don't blame them, really, it's a business. And so I jumped in to the Indie world, with my friend's guidance. Just ankle deep, however, I'm a cautious swimmer.

I wish I could say my wading turned into a tidal wave of sales. It hasn't. But I'm okay with that, really. I know there are a lot of ebooks out there. A LOT. And readers are understandably cautious about spending their money on the unknown quantity.

What have I learned in my journey? A few things:

#1) Write what you love, not what you think will sell. Otherwise you'll lose your love for it. Why bother writing if you wind up hating the job?

#2) Publisher's may be necessary for many of us. We don't all have the resources, patience, talents, knowledge and connections to do it all on our own. But if you decide to try the Indie-route. Do it right. Don't sidestep and do NOT put out an inferior quality product. Readers will notice.

#3) The publishing business is a living entity, changing and growing dramatically along with technology. It's exciting and scary all at once. It allows us to find otherwise undiscovered talented writers. Let's face it -- publishers can only put out so many books a year. They have to be selective. They have to pick and choose. If a story doesn't make the cut, maybe it's just the market and not the story or writing. How many times was Harry Potter rejected? Think about it.

Instant gratification is a very seductive beast. It's hard not to find a thrill in publishing a story one day; selling copies the next; and receiving monetary rewards two months later. In the traditional publishing world, you're lucky to see anything up to a year after the contract dries.

Although it might be tempting to look down our collective noses at independently published authors, we shouldn't. Indie-publishing is NOT narcissistic. It's not evil or lazy. Honestly, there's much more work involved for the writer who publishes their own books. I've also seen that this route is sometimes the only way really good stories by good writers can get a chance.

If you're willing to work and the traditional road seems too daunting, too limiting, or has failed you one too many times: check out the Indie-tide. It's a little dark and murky. It's a little frightening. But there are many resources and folks to help along the way. Whatever road to publication you choose to follow, just remember:

Success rarely happens overnight.
Anything worth doing is worth doing well.
If you need to write, do it. Never give up. Eventually you'll find your audience.

~~Meg Allison

Indulge your senses...
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