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Back In Business. And Is Self-Publishing for Everyone?


So this is weird. 

I haven't logged onto the blog for almost a year. But when I read the last post I wrote, about writing for myself and falling back in love with the craft of writing thanks to the manuscript, it's almost surreal. That I find myself here with some news to announce. 

First, this happened: (Film Deal with Jen Garner)

Then, this happened: (Writer Unboxed piece on Self-Publishing),

And then, finally, on Tuesday, this happened: The Theory of Opposites came out!

Since the announcements, I've been getting a lot of questions about my decision and the indie path in general. So I thought, "hey, why not take to the blog and open it up for a few rounds of questions." I'll start answering some of the more common ones I've been getting, and you can feel free to weigh in below in the comment section if you have others. To be honest, I can't promise that I will answer every last one, and I don't know how long I'll blog for (mostly because I am really tired), but I'll try my best.

To start with:

Question of the Day: Do you think you had an easier time going indie because you came out of the traditional system?

Answer: ABSOLUTELY. I want to be very clear about that. I believe - and will always believe - that there is real value in traditional publishing, not least the experience and wisdom you get out of it. I would never discourage someone from taking the traditional route if he or she was so inclined. I came up in the system, and what I got out of it allowed me to also graduate from it. There are things that you learn via traditional publishers, about uncompromising revisions, about perfect copy-edits (or as near perfect as can be - I still find typos in a lot of books and c'est la via), about design and layout, and just as critical, about marketing and promotion, that I am pretty sure can't just be intuited or necessarily learned by reading about them online. This isn't to say that you can't be a wonderful writer - and a wonderfully successful writer - without the education that traditionals offer, only that I am all the wiser for it.

And I knew that if and when I wanted to take the leap into independent publishing, that this wisdom would be crucial. There is no doubt that it made the book a better book, in who I hired for editorial advice, in who I hired for jacket design, in weighing the costs of production and knowing where I had to sink in money, even if I'd rather not have. 

Then there is also the added benefit of emerging from the system as, for lack of a better word, a brand. (Please DO NOT think that I think of myself as a brand. I'm using this word as shorthand so that what I'm saying makes sense.) One of my primary concerns when I debated this move was whether or not it undermined my, well, reputation, as a pro, and I've been fortunate enough to learn that the leap hasn't undermined me one bit. I have sold the same subsidiary rights that I'd have sold with a publishing house - audio, large print, the film deal, some truly shocking (in a good way) foreign offers. I mean, the whole thing has sort of blown my mind, truth be told. 

BUT. I cannot stress enough that I believe these deals came in because I was a known quantity; I was a known "brand." Foreign deals for indie authors, for example, are rare. But I've had success in other countries in the past (shout-out to you, Germany!), so publishers, much like readers, didn't care who put out the book. They just want a good book, period. (And my agent would tell me here to remind you that part of the reason it sold is because it's a good book. I never say that when I'm asked why it's doing well. She emailed me yesterday to tell me to.) :) So yes, write a GOOD BOOK, that helps.

Listen, if you've never published the traditional route, I can't tell you not to go indie. I can't speak to that experience, of course. But I can say that I don't think the upside is quite there just yet for a lot of newbie self-published authors. It remains very difficult to break out and distinguish yourself, and the reason you DO hear about break-outs, like, oh, say, 50 Shades, is because they're the anomoly. Also, it's easier to self-publish in certain genres, like erotica (omg, did I just type that on my blog?) or romance or the like. Contemporary fiction is not quite there yet. Though I'm hoping that I'm breaking down some of the barriers to get it there.

So. Those are my thoughts. I want to also reiterate that I don't think there is one way to go about this. I have friends who are happy at their publishers and may stay there forever. I also have friends who are miserable and want to make a change. I have friends who are first-timers who want so badly to land a publishing deal, and I have friends who are ready to upload their completed manuscripts. There isn't a right way here; there's only the way that feels best for you right now. I wanted to have as much choice as possible and as much control as possible, so this was my path for now. I couldn't be happier with it. That doesn't mean that everyone will feel the same. 

Comments? Thoughts on whether or not you should go indie if you haven't come up in the traditional world?

(ps - I wrote this in the late evening after an exhausting week. If there are typos, please forgive me.)


Reader Comments (3)

Allison, I am so happy for you. You have been supportive of me, and I appreciate that more than you'll ever know. I love when "what goes around comes around." I, too, am publishing myself and am so excited I can't imagine what took me so long! Of course, I don't have the brand you do, and I am well aware how invaluable that is. Nonetheless, I'm looking forward to getting my books out into the world where they belong. I wish you the very best as your career moves forward. I know you'll enjoy it and be grateful for it and those are more reasons I admire you. xoxo Debbie

November 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDebra Lynn Shelton

Allison, I just wanted to swing by and say that I'm thrilled that you opened your blog back up and that you are using it to direct folks to all the great work you are doing all over the place.

I think you are being really honest and careful about making sure fellow writers get the whole story, which I think is admirable.

You have always done a great job telling it all the way it is and I know your friends and fans appreciate you for it.

And, yes, here-here, at the end of the day, none of the rest of this matters at all unless the book is high quality.

Congratulations and enjoy every minute of your success!

November 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterChristina Katz

I think the lure of the 'breakout novel' is why some people get started writing. They have an idea they think would make a good book or a movie. They think writing the book and then editing it once is all they have to do. Then they will put it on lulu or wherever and viola! Instant fame! Who wouldn't want that?

For every Amanda Hocking, hundreds of others sink to the bottom. I have come across so many poorly edited self-published novels. I remember one I was very interested in because the concept sounded interesting, but the huge number of adverbs (we're talking half a dozen here) all crammed into a single sentence in the opening paragraph made me cringe and run away. I was so disappointed.

I've been torn on which way to go. With Indie publishing, you don't have to deal with querying and rejections. You have complete control of the creative process from writing the novel, to editing, to book jacket design, to release date, and marketing, etc. The control of the process is attractive for me. But that's also a huge responsibility and I'm not so sure I want all that weight on my shoulders.

Traditional publishers still have much to offer, especially if you are just starting out.

For now, I've been doing the traditional query route.

My stack of rejections is piling nicely. :) I toast (not set on fire, but celebrate!) every rejection I get. My writing buddy thinks it's funny that I cheer when I get rejections rather than sulking. But every writer who has ever been published goes through this process. And each rejection is one step closer to a yes. :)

December 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLauren Orbison
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