Fiction School

Fiction School
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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Why I've Decided to Publish Independently: After Six Traditionally Published Novels with the Biggest Houses, I'm Taking The Plunge and Going Rogue

Not so very long ago, if a writer told me he or she was self-published, that translated into probably not very good and most likely desperate, get out of this conversation now before they shove a messy manuscript at you for review! There were those who made the cut, and those who didn't. End of story. At least, that's how I saw it, and most professionals I met in the industry saw it that way as well.

Now, though, the world of publishing is changing at a whirlwind pace. Blockbuster, iconic authors like Jackie Collins and JK Rowling are bypassing the middlemen to strike out on their own. Last summer Wired magazine called Rowling's choice to turn her back on traditional publishing the book industry's "Radiohead Moment." Much like musicians, we authors now have more ways to reach our audience directly. Social media and digital formats have flung the doors wide open. We find ourselves facing a dazzling, Technicolor world of possibilities. It's dizzying, perplexing, scary and exhilarating.

I may be a bit late climbing onto the self-pub bus; writers like JK Conrath and Amanda Hocking have already gone stratospheric in their success, and millions of us are scrambling to catch up.

Here are just a few of the reasons I've decided to publish my next YA novel, AUDREY'S GUIDE TO WITCHCRAFT, on my own:

1) TOTAL CREATIVE CONTROL: While authors occasionally get to offer input into book design and marketing strategies, more often we're sidelined or not included in the process at all. With AUDREY, I hired my own model and sketched out my own vision for the cover. We transformed my writing studio into a photo studio and my husband David went to work. For over a week we've been obsessing over fonts and pouring over Photoshop tutorials. We've had a blast making it our own. I plan to attack every aspect of marketing with the same gusto. It's liberating, taking control in this way.

2) MASSIVE INCREASE IN ROYALTIES: Okay, I'm not totally naive. I know I'll have to sell a lot of books to earn anywhere near the advances I got with my first two book deals, both of which were a healthy six figures. Still, considering that I'll be going from an average of 10% royalties to approximately 70%, even a moderate success has the potential to keep me in Fluevogs (my crippling weakness; don't click on that link if you have shoe addiction issues).

3) NO WAITING: Ask any writer and they'll confirm that the waiting process is endless and creatively draining. You have to wait months for editors and agents to get back to you, your pub date gets delayed, your project is on hold until you can get more feedback. It goes on and on. With this process, publishing happens when I say it does.

4) IT'S FUN: Okay, it's early days, I see that. I'll probably be singing a new tune if my marketing falls flat and I join the fifty percent of self-pubbed writers who earn less than $500 a year at their craft. After living with the disempowering lack of involvement I often felt with traditional publishing, though, there's a real skydiving-esque thrill to all of this. I'm taking the plunge. The outcome is uncertain. Wish me luck.

This week I'm heading to the Bay Area to hear how Wendy Nelson Tokunaga made the transition from traditionally pubbed to self-pubbed, and to pick her brain for insider's secrets. I'll post here about everything she's learned. Stay tuned! 


Wendy Nelson Tokunaga said...

Jody, looking forward to meeting you!

Designer Rant said...

I have been hearing the same sentiment from various sources. Keep the blogging up! I'll definitely follow you (if I can figure out how) - Dina

Jody Gehrman said...

Thanks for the love, Wendy and Dina! Wendy, I'll be in touch about an interview.