Saturday, September 10, 2011

Why I went Indie

I started writing in 2001. Well, seriously writing. I'd been jotting first chapters in notebooks for years. But with the advent of a new century, I decided it was time to pursue the dream I'd had for years. To write a book and get it published. I had no idea how much work, heartache, work, rejection, work it would take to get there. I had a lot of initial success. I wrote my first book in 6 weeks, got a request for the full from a Silhouette Special Edition editor, was asked for revisions, but ultimately turned down. Then I entered the Blaze contest after writing 50 pages of my story in two days and squeezing in just under the deadline. That book very nearly sold. Then the first book finaled in the Golden Heart and I was off to New York for the RWA convention. I met with editors and agents, got a lot of close but not for me rejections, some with great comments and advice. But still, not the "yes" I hoped for.

I had big hopes and big dreams. I knew I was a good writer, that I had the potential to do very well. So I wrote another book, and another. But as I wrote, Harlequin started dropping the lines I was targeting, authors were complaining about longer and longer wait times, more and more rejections even for already published authors, and with the popularity of the computer and internet making it easier for wannabe writes to flood editors' desks, the wait times got longer.

An editor at Red Sage asked me to send her the book that nearly sold to Blaze. I did, and after a few rounds of revisions, they bought it (Double Exposure) for their new ebook line. I was ecstatic. Okay, so the advance barely paid for a nice meal out, but I was now a published author! Unfortunately, after the first initial rush in sales, they dropped off to a negligible amount. I even wondered if it was worth cashing the royalty check. The ebook market didn't seem all that great to me.

Then we had some personal tragedies in our family that meant I had to go back to work. The ideas dried up, the voices stopped talking. What was the point, anyway? Publishers were now grabbing rights that had previously belonged to the authors, contracts were a minefield of legal trickery, advances were being slashed to the bone, agents wanted lifetime rights to royalties. It was all too discouraging.

Some of my friends started talking about self-publishing. I was interested, but with working 70 hours a week, I just didn't have time to think about it. And the voices still weren't talking anyway.

Finally, the economy caught up with our industry (photography) and I found I had time on my hands for the first time in 6 years. And I had 5 completed manuscripts on my computer. I started listening to the stories other authors were telling about huge sales and even bigger royalty checks. Okay, since I hate my job, that got my attention. I cleaned up that first book (it had already been through a professional editor, but my writing was less mature than it is now), set it aside for a re-read, and worked on the next one. That one was more recent, cleaner, closer to my voice so I decided it would be first, my experimental books.

I talked the hubby into learning to make a book cover, taught myself to format, and put it (Undercover Vices) up on Amazon and Smashwords. It started selling almost immediately, but slowly.

Then there was this great little book (Satisfaction Guaranteed) I'd started that I just loved. It was short, a novella, really, but I knew it would sell. And it has. It's my top selling work by far.

Finally, I uploaded that Golden Heart manuscript (Lean on Me). This was the book of my heart, and though it has some sales, not nearly what I'd hoped for. But that's okay. It will find its niche and take off one day.

Book five is almost ready to go up. Instead of one of the finished manuscripts I had, I chose to finish one that was only about a third of the way finished. But I knew it was good, and it deserved its chance to be read. That one (Lone Star Justice) should go live in a couple of weeks--or less if I'd quit procrastinating and get back to work.

Books six and seven I hope to have uploaded before the Christmas rush starts, but this is also our busy season at work, so we'll see.

For a person who loves instant gratification like I do, this has been the perfect venue for me. The voices are talking once again, I'm having to get up in the middle of the night to jot down ideas and snippets of conversations like I used to, I have my excitement and joy back. No, I haven't gotten rich yet, but while we could definitely use the money, it's more about getting my stories out there so they can be read, and hopefully enjoyed, by others. I love my characters, every single one of them. They are amazing people who finally have a chance to tell their stories for a wider audience.

I no longer have to write with a line or an editor in mind, I don't have to wait months and jump through hoops, only to have the prize yanked away at the last minute. I don't have to change my story to meet some arbitrary guideline. (For example, the reason Undercover Vices didn't sell to Blaze was because my heroine was unknowingly doing something illegal. Oh my, can't have that!) I can write my characters' stories exactly the way they tell me to. And yes, I do know the rules. I've read enough, written enough, and been through enough revisions to know how things are supposed to go. But my imagination is now my only limit. And that, my friends, is a wonderful thing.


aida said...

I thought going indie was for losers who couldn't get published but you changed my mind when we had that conversation about being in control and doing it your way. The way the publishing company is changing makes going indie a very smart choice and even though I've thanked you several times I'm thanking you yet again for opening my eyes. I don't expect to get rich either but I would like people to read my books and enjoy them. But I would like to make a little money. LOL.

Tori Scott said...

Aida, I felt the same way in the beginning, but the industry is changing and we either change with it, or we get left behind. The trend may well swing back to traditional publishing, but I doubt it. I wouldn't turn down an offer from one of the big houses like St. Martin's or Penquin without a lot of thought and research, but at least now I know my books are out there, available for people to enjoy.