Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Thoughts About Self Publishing And Indie Publishing

When I started writing BAND GEEK in 2002, there was no way that I would've considered self-publishing my novel. At the time, I felt as if that were the last resort, a thing that a "writer" did if his or her work sucked and had no other choice. 10 years later, my very humbled older self knows how much more complicated the situation is -- and readily welcomes the changes that have taken place within the publishing industry.

When it came to getting my work noticed, I didn't do too badly the first time around. I received plenty of rejection letters, but was ultimately asked to sign on with two agencies -- and actually got to be the one who rejected one of them. I signed on with Jean V. Naggar's literary agency and had very high hopes. I was going to sell millions of copies of my book and be rich! BAND GEEK would be made into a movie! I even had an idea of who I'd cast for certain roles. Back then, I thought that a not-so-messed-up Lindsay Lohan would've made a great Kathy.

Well, things didn't work out as I'd hoped. My agent was great. She was very supportive and gave me some wonderful editing notes. She's the one who'd suggested that I change my title from its original name WHO'S ON FIRST? That's when I came up with REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

My manuscript was sent to a dozen houses that handle YA books and it got a lot of positive responses. Most publishers liked my general story. Two houses actually came close to purchasing it, but wanted me to make a few changes. But no one was on board with it 100 percent. Some editors didn't like the beginning. Some loved the opening, but hated the ending. Some thought Melinda was too immature. Some thought that she was too wise beyond her years. I kept making small changes in an attempt to please everyone, but it felt as if I were twisting my book into a pretzel. I was open to constructive criticism; I wanted to make my book as good as possible, but it just wasn't working out. It wasn't just the story that mattered; its earning potential and marketing abilities were also concerns. I wanted to sell that "perfect" story to them, but couldn't figure out how to do so.

Finally, my agent exhausted all of her YA connections and basically dumped me as a client. But I have absolutely not hard feelings. She was just doing her job and had run out of options for me. I was disappointed, but didn't take it personally. As I said, she was great and really encouraged me.

I continued writing for fun and with the hope of finding another agent. Meanwhile, my husband and I came up with an amazing idea for a quirky travel guide. I'd rather not give too much information away because this is something that we're still working on, but we put together an outline and business plan. We then landed an agent (sorry, I forget her name) and she sent our outline to about 20 publishing houses.

The editors LOVED it. They went crazy over our idea and were all prepared to gvive us an advance. I was ecstatic. I seriously thought that our book would be part of a bidding war. Again, my head filled with dreams of riches, best seller lists and all that jazz.

This time, it was the marketing people who hated us. The marketing people! They couldn't figure out where our book would go in a bookstore since it straddled two categories and so they refused to take it. We were so disappointed!

It was at this point that I began to get frustrated with the publishing industry. Don't get me wrong, I think that traditional publishing is still very important. But it felt as if I had to cross one obstacle after another from landing an agent to pleasing the marketing people. Moreover, the number of people whom I was trying to please really isn't that large because the publishing industry is pretty incestuous. It may seem that you have a choice of many agents or editors, but only a certain percentage will even look at your genre. And then there are sub genres within that genre, i.e. "YA Paranormal Romance." In the end, it's only a handful of people who decide your fate. Do they really represent the opinions of the general public?

This is why I decided to become an indie author. Is it because I couldn't get my book sold to a traditional publisher? Yes. I wish it had been sold, but I gave it my best shot. However, the industry has changed and being an indie writer comes with so many exciting possibilities. I call the shots. I get to participate in my cover's design. I get to market my work. I get to plan my book tours and speaking engagements. I get to choose my own deadlines and release dates. I can write my story the way that I want to without having to worry about pleasing anyone else ... except, of course, all of my readers. Which is who we're all trying to cater to in the first place!

That said, I definitely take back any thoughts I ever had about self-publishers being "losers." There's some garbage online, but there are also many, many amazing and talented authors, many whom have "unmarketable" stories to tell. I'm so glad that we now have a platform where we can easily share our work.

I still think that there's a place for traditional publishing and I'm curious to see where it heads with ebooks growing more popular. I'm just thrilled that the Internet has provided writers, artists and musicians with so many thrilling opportunities.

Please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD, now only 99 cents!

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