That question, or some variation of it, is one we hear too many times to count during the course of our lives. What do you want to eat? What do you want to do? What do you want to be when you grow up? What do you want to come from X, Y or Z? It is a question each writer needs to ask at various points of their careers — what do you want to write? What do you want to be, indie or traditionally published? What do you want, money or awards? What do you want to be, a genre writer or a literary one?
Now, before your eyes glaze over, there’s a reason I’m posing all these questions. When someone new joins our critique group, one of the first things I ask is if they want to be traditionally published or want to go the indie route. The reason is simple. Those who know enough about the industry to understand they have options often are more receptive to critique. They also, for some reason, don’t seem to the sort of writer who chases down every writing seminar offered, near and far. There is a higher level of confidence, not necessarily in where their work stands now but in where they thing their work can be with help.
Something else I’ve discovered is that those who want to go indie seem to be more in tune with what is going on in the industry. They seem to follow the different writing blogs and pay attention to sites like Author Earnings. They recognize issues within traditional publishing — e-book pricing, for example — that are pulling the industry down.
Does that mean all authors who want to be traditionally published are behind the times when it comes to recognizing current trends or are more insecure in their work? Not at all. It means that, in my experience, there can be a different mind set, especially where new writers are concerned. That’s not bad and I’m certainly not condemning either side of the equation. What I am saying is that each side can learn from the other.
It wouldn’t hurt some of those on the indie side, myself included, to attend a few workshops along the way. Nor would it hurt those wanting to go traditional to be better aware of what is going on in the industry, both on the publisher side and on the indie side.
So, what workshops should we be looking at? A lot of that depends on what you need. I’ll admit, I have little use for most workshops run by agents. Why? Because they tend to focus on what is needed to maybe, if you’re really lucky, get an agent interested in your manuscript. It isn’t something that will necessarily make your work better for release as an indie. That’s not to say their information is bad. It is just limited. Of course, some of their information is valuable, as long as they are not the sort of agent who feels his way is the only way his clients should write. Yes, there are agents like that. Sarah can tell you about at least one.
What writers don’t really seem to understand is that agents might work for you but they also work for the publishers. Without publishers, literary agents are unnecessary. You don’t need an agent to publish indie or to publish with small presses. You don’t need an agent to negotiate audio rights or film rights, etc. A good IP attorney can and will do that for you and, guess what, they won’t take fees years later after having completed the job. So agents have a vested interest in making sure their clients stay with the traditional publishing model and in making sure that model continues to survive.
So, when an agent tells you how you should write or what you should write, you need to remember that agent is looking at what publishers want at that moment. Then you need to ask yourself if that is what you want to write or if that is how you want to write.
Again, the ultimate choice of which direction to go lies with each writer. I applaud anyone who is willing to put their work out into the public, whether it is to try to make the traditional publishing route of submitting to agents, finding one willing to take you on as a client and then sending your work off to publishers and waiting to see what happens next. I applaud those who choose the small press route or the indie route. Sending your work out the door is like letting your kid go out in public. You know it’s going to be all right, at least you hope so, but you still worry about someone telling you that your baby is ugly.
So, ask yourself “what do I want to do?”. The figure out the best way to go about it. But, before you answer, make sure you know the process and the timeframe involved. Make sure you understand the odds of success, no matter which path you take. Most of all, understand that there are certain things that will be the same, no matter what path you choose. You will still bear the responsibility of doing the majority of your own promotion. You will still bear the responsibility of making sure your manuscript is as well edited as possible (Yes, I know publishers say they will edit but, trust me on this, in too many cases that is a myth. You’re lucky if you get a decent copy edit and proofing).
Most of all, if you do go the traditional route, keep in mind two things when a contract comes your way. First, you aren’t in the position to renegotiate most of the contractual clauses. Unless you are being tagged as the “next best thing”, you are an interchangeable cog in the publishing business. Push too hard, rock the boat too much, and they will tell you “so sad, too bad, good bye”.
Second, and most important, consult a good IP attorney before signing anything. Make sure you understand what the contract says. Once you do, ask yourself if you are willing to give up whatever rights the publisher — or agent — wants you to. Ask yourself if the small percentage of royalties you will receive, assuming your book earns out (and that is far from a sure thing), are worth it. Only after you have answered those questions do you consider signing.
Now, since I mentioned promo, I guess I’d better do some. First up, Fire from Ashes is available for pre-order.
At war with an old enemy, betrayed by a supposed ally, Fuercon is a system on the brink of disaster. All that stands between it and defeat are its Space Navy and Marines – and the fact the betrayer does not yet know its secret plans have been discovered. But will that be enough to turn the tide of war?
Honor and duty.
Honor and duty have guided Colonel Ashlyn Shaw’s life for as long as she can remember. Honor kept her sane when she was betrayed by those she had fought beside. Duty gave her reason to trust again once the betrayal came to light and her name, as well as the names of her fellow Devil Dogs, was cleared. Now she and the Marines under her command are once again asked to risk their lives to protect Fuercon from its enemies.
Family and the Corps.
They are why she fights. She knows what will happen to them should Fuercon fall to the Callusians. Their lives are worth any sacrifice she must make to help keep their homeworld safe.
The not-so-secret driving force of Ashlyn’s life. Four years ago, someone betrayed her and her command. That person now works to betray Fuercon. Ashlyn is determined to discover who – and why – and bring them to justice.
The storm clouds of war gather and time is running out. Will Ashlyn and the Devil Dogs be able to turn back the enemy and unmask the betrayer before all is lost?
Also, after seeing if things have changed over the last few years, I have once again returned to Amazon-only releases. That means I have removed Vengeance from Ashes from all other outlets. Because it is no longer available elsewhere, I was able to take down the “expanded edition” on Amazon and republish the “original” edition (except with the new cover and the contents of the expanded edition). The reason I did it that way was to recover my original reviews. It really hurt my Amazon sales by not having those reviews for the first book in the series.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be releasing updated print editions of each of the books in the series as well.
For now, it is time to get to work. Until later!
I’m a babe in the woods and don’ know nuffin’. (Call me Tar Baby) Seems to me like indie is a no-brainer. Is there something I’m not seeing?
Mark, there are still those writers out there who, like some readers, don’t think you are a “real” writer until you’ve signed a contract with a publisher. Others don’t feel they can — either because they don’t know how or don’t want to spend the time — handle things like editing, cover design and conversion. Those authors also tend to think a publisher will do more in the way of promoting their book than they can do on their own.
Me? Once Amazon made indie a viable option, I jumped in. There is one publisher (waves at Toni W) I would still love to sign with. But I will admit I like being in control of my career and able to write what I want, when I want.
Amanda, I know I can write. i don’t need some publisher’s seal of approval to reinforce my prolly over-inflated opinion of my abilities. I have “lab rats” (beta readers) in Love with the story, in LOVE with the characters, pestering me every damn day for another chapter.
We’ll see. It sounds like I’m headed for a Big Time Fall; Nemesis will boot my butt all over the place, and y’all veterans will cluck and shake your heads in knowing wisdom at my unlearned arrogance.
C’est la vie.
(1) “Validation” from a “Real Publisher” that you are a real author.
(2) Might get into bookstores.
It’s just not something I need badly enough to settle for 10% (or less!) of the money.
I freely admit, when I saw my non-fiction book in a bookstore, I did a (quiet) squeal of glee. But not having my fiction books in a print bookstore doesn’t really mean much.
Pam, exactly. With so few bookstores now, and with so many people buying their print books online, where is the incentive? Besides, I’m mercenary when it comes to being paid for my work. As the creator, I want to make at least as much as the distributor.
Bless you, Mr. O’Malley for you have never heard, “Anybody can self-publish these days”
Can and do.
Definitely a “look inside before you buy” marketplace. Or at least check the average star rating and look at the amazon ranking. Either can give the potential reader a warning.
Fortunately a lot of people whose books don’t sell don’t put any more up.
I wonder how many stars “Huckleberry Finn” would get today?
Oh, I’ve heard it, just don’t give a wombat’s a55 about what other people think about the legitimacy of authors as based on the size of their pile of rejection letters.
I have a friend who has a lot of books through a small press. Said small press was started by a fellow author when another small press they were both at folded—and the rights to their works went into limbo. So that particular press has clear reversion rights and mutual requirements. The owner of the small press used to sell at a lot of conventions and Renaissance Faires, but now she owns an independent bookstore and has a prominent display of her press’ books. So when given the choice between independent and small press, some people may choose for the mutual assistance pact—a smaller percentage (not anywhere near as small as traditional publishers!) of a bigger pool.
I can’t really see traditional publication for anyone who knows what it’s like these days.
But! But! Official rejection slips! Boilerplate contracts! 1.37 royalty checks! I simply cannot live without these official accoutrements of being an Official Author!
So, ask yourself “what do I want to do?”.
Answer: I’m doing it. I’m writing the story I want to read. (But I’m a weirdo, and other people should not use me as a guide.)
Next question, will anyone buy this story? Answer: It’ll be nice if they do. I will enjoy them buying it, in the same way that I look at the stats for my blog from time to time, and enjoy the knowledge that I’m not howling into the Void. But it doesn’t matter to me all that much, except in the ego boost department. (Because the payout for a book is really, really small. I am not doing this for money. If I needed the money I’d be better off flipping burgers. YMMV.)
What I do -not- want to do is base my writing and stories on what somebody else says they want. If I’m writing for the approval of an agent and a publisher, I’m trying to fire a bullet through two moving windows and hit a moving target in five dimensions. I need to be the most productive typist on the planet and saturate the zone with work, or the luckiest dude in history.
With the agent/publisher/distributor/bookstore model, I’ve got four different sets of requirements I have to meet. Some of which are things I have no control over, like book cover. Also the end user of the book, the reader, is not my customer. The AGENT is the customer. The publisher is his customer. The distributor is the publisher’s customer, et cetera. By the time it drips down to the actual reader, all the juice is squeezed out of it.
Which brings us back, circling around to the beginning again. I’m writing what I want to read, because nobody else is. I do hope that my books will find some success with like-minded individuals out there. But I’m going to write them anyway even if they don’t. Pretty much have to, really. I want to find out what happens!
Phantom, that’s a pretty good description of my own thought process. I write what I enjoy reading. Why? Because if I wrote something I didn’t enjoy, it would show in the writing. How often have some of us picked up a book and we can tell the author was just going through the motions because he had to? I don’t want to become that author.
My biggest problem being indie is finding time to do everything that not only needs to be done but that I want to do. But hey, I had that problem when I was working my supposed 9-to-5 job because it was never just 9-to-5. Add in family and other commitments and it is sometimes difficult to find time to do more than write. Hell, sometimes it is hard to find time to write.
And of course:
Never ask that question!
What do you want from life? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owFn0k0y4p8
the other two questions in B5 are “Why are you here?” and “Do you have anything worth living for?”
I have wants…. That being said. I know which path to take which will be indie and publishing through Amazon. Almost ready to push the first few stories out of the nest to see them either fly, flutter, or crash. I know this path isn’t easy. It’s easier than trying for a publishing contract. Success is meaning I don’t have to work a 9-5 job or some aspect of that.
It’s going to take work and a lot of support from friends, family and significant other. I will do it.
You will. You will. You WILL.
My mantra, for what it is worth.
I don’t want to deal with the formatting, editing, and uploading to Amazon. Fortunately for me, I have this husband…
Unfortunately, he really doesn’t want to deal with the ad copy, cover design, or the marketing. Fortunately for him, he has this wife… 😛
Somewhat more seriously, as a hybrid house, there are advantages and disadvantages to both sides of trad and indie. It’s, as you say, all about knowing what you’re going to get, and whether or not that’s worth it to you.
Sounds like the pair of you make a good team.
I’m indie, but I have to admit the time it takes me to do all the other stuff that surrounds writing is a thing. Fortunately, I can mostly cope with the demands, but it does cost me time.
I’ve got what I want, I just want more of it. 🙂 Which means planting rump in chair once day-job wraps up for a while and doing series links, getting all the author name ducks in a straighter row, re-working some ad copy, and writing more.
What do I want?
Uninterrupted, regularly occurring blocks of it would be best.
No kidding. And energy …
oh and my answer to indie or trad is ‘i wanna get paid’
I wanna get paid lots! Enough that I ca buy my own hill in the Texas Hill Country, anyway.
“What did I want?
I wanted a Roc’s egg. I wanted a harem loaded with lovely odalisques less than the dust beneath my chariot wheels, the rust that never stained my sword,. I wanted raw red gold in nuggets the size of your fist and feed that lousy claim jumper to the huskies! I wanted to get u feeling brisk and go out and break some lances, then pick a like wench for my droit du seigneur–I wanted to stand up to the Baron and dare him to touch my wench! I wanted to hear the purple water chuckling against the skin of the Nancy Lee in the cool of the morning watch and not another sound, nor any movement save the slow tilting of the wings of the albatross that had been pacing us the last thousand miles.
I wanted the hurtling moons of Barsoom. I wanted Storisende and Poictesme, and Holmes shaking me awake to tell me, “The game’s afoot!” I wanted to float down the Mississippi on a raft and elude a mob in company with the Duke of Bilgewater and the Lost Dauphin.
I wanted Prestor John, and Excalibur held by a moon-white arm out of a silent lake. I wanted to sail with Ulysses and with Tros of Samothrace and eat the lotus in a land that seemed always afternoon. I wanted the feeling of romance and the sense of wonder I had known as a kid. I wanted the world to be what they had promised me it was going to be–instead of the tawdry, lousy, fouled-up mess it is.”
― Robert A. Heinlein, Glory Road
One thing I wanted was for serving or former serving military personnel to enjoy my stories. And yesterday I got this review:
Which made my day. Other than that sign me up as a full on Londo: I want it all! 😉
Wonderful! Congrats. 🙂
Thank you. It made my day.