Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Decisions, decisions, decisions - Part 2

Last week's post ended with the questions I'd posed to myself that would determine the route to travel toward publication, knowing full well whatever the answers were, I'd be giving up something.

The answers didn't come easily. My old goals had become wound up with everyone else's, and I'd adopted the old "acceptable" methods as my personal bench-mark without asking myself why.

The truth was, I didn't know what I wanted for myself. I was incapable of making a decision, and any decision seemed rash. Not a comforting place to be. I did the only thing I could, my goal became to watch, as carefully as possible, and find out as much as I could. Just so I wouldn't dither, I set a time limit of five months. On September first I would take what I'd learned and make a decision based on the information I would discover along the way.

In the meantime, Sister in Crime sent an investigating team to Amazon, Google, Apple, Smashwords and others. More changes surfaced in the industry, more people voiced their opinions, and J.A. Konrath started looking more and more sensible.

Needing something to do (inactivity makes me crazy), I continued to work on my third novel and proceeded with the steps I would need to take to connect with my audience once I was published--none of which committed me to any particular path. The steps would have to be done, regardless of what I chose, and could be abandoned easily if I decided to ditch the whole writer thing and become a lounge singer (kidding, here. I can't sing).

By the time the Sisters in Crime summit report was available in mid August, I'd formed some solid opinions. The report confirmed that I wasn't imagining the changing state of the traditional publishing industry or the importance of e-publishing. E-publishing was here to stay, and it was not just something that was "going on," it was (and continues to be) a revolution—simultaneously rallying enthusiastic support from some while scaring the living daylights out of others.

Something else became very clear: I wanted to be part of the revolution.

Despite the warnings from experienced authors that this was not a wise path for the yet-unpublished, I yearned to embrace it. I was told, as a fiction writer, I didn't know my audience, and probably only seasoned publishing professionals could figure it out.

Well, that statement had been proven wrong on so many occasions it was hardly worth the energy to argue the obvious (note: JK Rowling being told her book would never sell, Tony Hillerman being told he shouldn't write about Indians, etc. etc. leap to mind). Besides, I found out I have a very clear notion of my audience. I'd been reaching them—all over the world—through my blog, Things I Learned From My Horse.

The empowerment of career control lost none of it's appeal on me, either, despite being told I was going to have to work hard at self-promoting. Hey, I'd have to do that anyway, even as a lounge singer or an author for a traditional publishing company.

The decision made itself. I would self publish my work as e-books. I would become an Independent Author. Success or failure would rest in my hands. I could deal with that.

My goal, clear at last, was to get my books into the hands of readers and to make a living wage.

The path is equally clear. Make my books the very best they can be by seeking and obtaining the help I need from people I have confidence in. Market and promote my books to my audience in smart ways. Self-publish.

Essentially, there are three steps—with sub-steps that can be tweaked as necessary.

Will I achieve my goals? I know I'll achieve at least one: I will get my books into the hands of readers. That is the one item being an Independent Author can guarantee me over the traditional route that may never be opened to me. I'm thinking the fate of my other goals is more securely in my hands as well, but that remains to be seen. I know I'll work at it. That's a given.


  1. Susan, you are a truly a pioneer. I salute your decision to take your career into your own hands, and am looking forward to downloading your book. Err...I'd like mine autographed, though. Will you mail me an autographed postcard? I'm thinking a bulletin board with autographed postcards of book covers may replace the signed copies :)

  2. Good for you, Susan! I can't wait to read the books. I agree with you -- with all of this technology, authors are in a position to become entrepreneurs.

  3. Very thoughtful post, Susan. You've blogged as you're making your decision, which is what I did. Some of the feedback from my blog tipped me over the line to the small press route (plus coincidental circumstances, like a deadline for submissions).

    This decision feels very right for you, with the platform you've established. I think it's the right one, too.

    Susan, autographed postcards are an excellent replacement for the autographed dead tree book.

    We're living in exciting (scary!) times!

  4. Thank you, all!
    Susan--good idea about the postcards. They're easy to mail out, too.

    Stacy and Kaye--I think with new technology and new, innovative business models we will see an even greater variety of options opening up for authors, and the publishing industry as a whole. I'm hoping we'll have more flexibility in the future as well, and not get stuck in a path should our own circumstances change and that we find the path we chose no longer works for us.

  5. You're making me think more seriously about self publishing. It's so hard to get your foot in the door the traditional way!

  6. You're very right, Maria. We're in the beginnings of a revolution, in my opinion, and traditional publishers are hunkering down. This is the perfect time to examine your own goals and needs. While self publishing isn't right for everyone, it's no longer for the same old reasons. Whatever choice you make as to the route to get your work in the hands of your readers will have both positive and negative aspects. Find out where you're comfortable and what complements your personal goals. That will be the right choice for you.

  7. Susan, as one of your critique partners and biggest fans, I know you did not make this decision without intense research and investigation. I applaud your decision and anxiously await your February pub date. You have my deepest respect and admiration. I'm looking forward to seeing Thea on my screen soon!!

    Thanks for forging a path for the rest of us.

  8. Thanks, Lisa! No way could I do this without the support of my friends!