Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Why I Am An Independent Author

In the last few days I have received more than one referral to a publishing house that is looking for zombie novels. A year ago I would have been dancing in my chair with excitement. Today it just makes me reflect on why I have chosen the route of independent publishing. I'll be honest. Sometimes I have to remind myself.

I think a lot of people who aspire to be writers have a fantasy in their head that is very hard to give up. King, Koontz, Rice, and other big money authors inspire dreams of big houses, no money worries, days full of writing the stories you want to write, shelves full of best sellers, and the world at your feet. For most published authors this is still their fantasy.

Most published authors continue to work day jobs as they churn out their writing. According to multiple sources online, the average advance is around $5,000 (I know a author that was offered $2,000 for three years of hard work and research-she walked away from it). I've seen royalties listed between 6% to 9%. Though some writers do make a living writing, it is not a lush living and they have to work damn hard to keep in the game. Factor in the horror stories I've heard over and over again about royalty payments that do not arrive on time (or at all) and the complexity of some of the publishing housing bookkeeping (you don't get royalties until your advance is paid back), and it makes my head swim just thinking about it.

Additionaly, most of the time, writers are responsible for their own promotion and marketing (unless you're a big name or a celebrity).

Beyond that, writers don't control the name of their book or the cover artwork. Whatever the publishing house decides on, that is usually it. It is rare an author gets input.

Sometimes writers even end up having their manuscripts hacked apart and put back together by someone else to meet the specifications of the editor (who is trying to get out a book that will sell big).

And in the end, the rights to the books are signed over by the writer. I had my own close call when the small publishing house interested in one of my books closed before I could sign a contract with them. I could have ended up with it in copyright limbo.

These are all the reasons why I opted to go the independent. I wanted creative control (cover artwork, title, formatting, content), financial control (my own eshop and listing with monthly accounting and payment), and my own deadlines. Also, I figured if I have to do my own promotion and marketing anyway, might as well make sure the book is the way I want it to be.

Lynn Viehl, a successful writer (she has appeared on the NYC bestseller list) wrote this in her blog "Publishing can be very efficient about some things, like squashing silly expectations. After three years of working this amazing job I'd worked so hard to get, I was unhappy, lonely, ignored and pretty much friendless. I wanted to quit, and I almost did." (you can read the entire post here).

I like the creative process of writing. I also love the creative process of putting my own book together (cover art, formatting, etc). When I held the proof copy in my hands, it was MY book and it was a fabulous feeling.

I had to make a choice earlier this year. Did I want to hammer myself against the gates to the traditional publishing world or do things my way? Which would make me happier? Which would be more rewarding?

I've made my choice. And it did mean killing a dream I had lived with for YEARS. The fantasy I once held dear is now known to be false, but illusion is sometimes so much more alluring than reality. I'm trying to embrace reality. It isn't easy.

But I've made my choice.

And this is only the beginning...

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