Photo courtesy of Nikko Macaspac from Unsplash.com
Are your query letters disappearing into the void? Are they plopping back into your inbox with the big, ugly, this didn’t work for me, best of luck placing it elsewhere?
I’m not demonizing literary agents. Most of them are terrific people and they love what they do.
But let’s face it, rejections hurt. Believe me, I know. As time passes, the rejections devour your confidence and your hope rots. You step drearily into a bookstore, the fragrance of books wafts into your face and you breathe it in, and then you might think, this is what I’m born to do, it’s the only thing I’m truly passionate about.
Doubt rears its ugly head. What if I never get published? You may never be seated at an author’s table with people lined up eagerly to purchase an autographed copy of your book. You may never appear on stage with Stephen King to discuss your work, or speak at colleges, or be recognized in airports and supermarkets as aren’t you that writer? You may never get to quit your day-job and pursue what you love. People may never take “this little hobby” of yours seriously. You may never have to contact your literary agent before making any decisive career moves. Dear god, you may never have an agent!
And scratch self-publishing. It doesn’t carry the validation, or perhaps the legitimacy, you’re seeking.
And you’ll never stoop down to the indie publishers. They’re not credible. They’re vanity. The real writers don’t publish through indie publishers. To hell with that. You’ll just keep plugging along. Perseverance. Thick skin. That’s what everyone says. Keep at it, don’t give up! What if Stephen King had given up, or J.K. Rowling? I WILL get this!
And the years pass.
Meanwhile, many writers publishing in the indie market are living the dream because it isn’t as much fame they seek; they just want to be writers.
Perhaps you just chuckled at that last sentence and thought, meh, just another wannabe writer who couldn’t cut it with the big five.
But then again, maybe I’m onto something.
If you’re evaluating an opportunity with an indie publisher, but you’re not sure about it, then this article is for you.
The hardest thing I’ve ever done is have a story accepted for publication. I’ve written over a hundred short-stories. I’ve written eight novels. I’ve had a bona fide New York literary agent. I’ve attended writers’ conferences. I’ve hired editors. And after all of that, here’s my publishing history:
Short stories: 5
Perhaps you just chuckled again and thought, this poor guy sucks and he doesn’t even realize it. I’ll zip right on past that thought with a wince and pang of insecurity.
But here’s where I’m going with this… I’ll have my first novel published in July by Black Rose Writing, an indie publisher. There are so many reasons why this is such a big deal. For one, I’ll be a published writer. The genuine article. The real goddamned McCoy… whatever that means.
I’m elated! Over the moon! Excited beyond words! People are buying my book!
I’ve got book signings scheduled. My publisher helped me identify book stores for readings and signings. My publisher helped me secure a 2-month spot on Netgalley that starts August 1st. My publisher designed a terrific book cover and they allowed my input. My publisher holds live interactive meetings on a regular basis to cover what is working and not working for book marketing. My publisher responds to every email I send because I am one of their writers.
I’ll bet you’re not chuckling now.
If you haven’t felt the exhilaration of a legitimate publisher sahying, we really liked this story and we want to publish it, trust me, there are very few feelings that come close to it. It’s validation. Poignantly, many writers never experience it and must decide to take the risk on themselves in the self-publishing market. Neither path is wrong, but the former establishes that someone else saw potential in your work, which for a writer, is the holy grail.
My primary point with this article is to challenge your traditional thought process, whether you’re a reader or a writer, and consider the indie market. Not self-publishing, which isn’t bad either, but it’s not what I’m referring to. I’m talking about traditional publication with an indie publisher. Perhaps you’re concerned with quality, or maybe you’re thinking it’s not credible because they don’t actually reject anyone (a thought you’d be wrong about, by the way). Those Indie publishers make their money from people purchasing their own books, right? There are no bestselling authors in Indie. The books are not well-edited. They have no distribution. You have to do everything yourself. The “marketing packages” aren’t effective and are really just ploys for the publisher to make money. They’re really just dressed up vanity publishers, right?
I had all of those concerns as well. If you don’t know the difference between indie and vanity, do some research. I don’t recommend the vanity route unless you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into. This article isn’t about vanity, but the basic mission of a vanity press is to facilitate the self-publishing print process. If you don’t know if your publisher is a vanity press, just start with this – a traditional publisher will never pursue, or require, you to purchase anything.
Indie publishers are no different than any other company. Some are small, some are large. Some have more funding. Some have less. Depending on the size, you may have to make some investment yourself, or put some money into co-marketing efforts (if you choose). Point being, your success as a writer falls greatly on you no matter which route you take. As an example, I purchased my own books (discounted) for book signings and events. I didn’t have to, but since my indie publisher’s distribution channel doesn’t compare to the large publishers, I preferred taking the consignment route versus missing the opportunity completely. Some bookstores simply will not order your book if it’s indie published, but they’ll let you hold a signing event if you bring your own.
But maybe you’re still thinking it’s not legit. The prestige isn’t there. Hey, I get it. I’ve been there. There’s no shame in pursuing that agent. Pursue the big publishing contract. Keep tenaciously chasing your dream because you never know, it could be right around the corner.
Meanwhile, I choose to live my dream. I want to write.
I can’t speak to all indie publishers, of course. Hell, some of them may really suck. But I’m convinced my finished product would not be as spectacular if I had not chosen to go with Black Rose Writing.
My advice to you if you’re a writer and you’re evaluating an opportunity with an indie publisher and your questioning the legitimacy of that indie publisher, do your research. Go to the forums. God knows I do. I’ve learned some great stuff on Absolute Write and other forums and there are wonderful people out there. They’ll help you avoid the traps. Trust me, there are plenty of scams out there willing to take advantage of desperate writers. But there are also pretentious writers on those forums who will lead you astray. In the end, it is you who must make the choice and it is you who will live with it.
Last, don’t avoid the two most important steps in your due diligence process – speak to writers who are published by the publisher you’re pursuing. Are they happy? Do they like their publisher? Do they feel like writers?
And then read a book or two published by that indie publisher. Spend the twenty bucks or so and review their product.
If they’ve asked for your full manuscript, hurray! You’re close! If they offer you a contract, give it serious thought. Within six months, you’ll be one of three things:
The tenacious writer who said no, I’m staying the course for the larger show, then snagged a literary agent and now you’re on your way to the big contract.
Or the skittish writer who turned it down and you’re still pursuing your dream agent.
Or a published author with book signings scheduled, marketing events arranged, press packages going out, etc., etc.
It’s up to you really, but I know what I’m doing.