Sue Grafton isn’t the first to say this, and RJ Keller and I don’t necessarily entirely disagree with her, because self-publishing can be the lazy (or easy) route. However…
A few weeks ago, in “Kill the First Novel? Are You Insane?” I responded to Edan Lepucki’s decision to semi-permanently put away her first novel after it received a series of rejections. In her piece, Lepucki touches on self-publishing as a possibility and then quickly dismisses it as an option (for her).
This week, in “Do it Yourself: Self-Published Authors Take Matters Into Their Own Hands,” Lepucki examines the benefits and pitfalls of self-publishing and presents a few ideas that beg to be addressed.
As self-publishing becomes an increasingly popular option for writers of all kinds (the good and the not so good, those who have tried the agent route and those who haven’t), there are those who continue to cling – and probably will for some time – to the idea that self-publishing is an avenue for the author whose work just isn’t good enough Continue reading
R. J. Keller, author of Waiting for Spring and the forthcoming The Wendy House, my partner in the PaperRats writers’ relief YouTube series Inside the Writers’ Studio, Backword Books member, and obsessive Star Wars fan, has recently had her independently released novel, Waiting for Spring, picked up by Amazon’s Encore imprint. Here, she answers some questions about going to the dark side.
Congratulations on Waiting for Spring‘s move to Amazon’s Encore imprint! What kind of day were you having when you heard from them, and what was the rest of your day like after that?
Thank you! The truth is I was having a rather shitty day (pardon my Bulgarian). The rural convenience store where I work, in the very rural town where I live, had recently burned down and I was transferred to a location in the city of Bangor (“city” is a relative term in Maine). My first shift was fairly hideous. The store is busy beyond belief and patronized by a rather rough crowd. Customers without proper IDs were refused alcohol and tobacco. Obnoxious kids spilled sticky Slush Puppy beverages on the counter, then burst into hysterical laughter. Insults and objects were hurled (not at the kids, although they deserved it). After ten hours of chaos, I was physically and emotionally drained, but by the time I got home – at shortly after midnight – I was too wound up to sleep. I checked my email and found a letter from AmazonEncore acquisitions editor, Terry Goodman, in which he offered to take on Waiting For Spring.
My first reaction was shock. It was one of those moments you hear about when you literally can’t believe what you’re reading. Then, of course, I “squeeeed!” a little. Or maybe it was a lot. Then I got nervous. I was afraid it might be a scam and I didn’t want to be taken in like an idiot. I’d heard of AmazonEncore, of course, but as I sat there in my Slush-Puppy-stained convenience store uniform, it seemed a little unreal that this email could actually be from them to me. Finally, I sent a copy of it to Craig Lancaster, whose novel The Summer Son had recently been acquired by Encore, with a note that asked, in part, “Is this the real AmazonEncore?” His response was, “This is the real deal! Congratulations!” After that, the Slush Puppy and obnoxious customers faded from memory.
As a rejected writer who has found success outside of that system, though, I will admit to moments of irritation about this practice. I personally think that if publishing houses looked at readers, instead of bookstores, as their customers, they’d be able to more accurately judge what The Market is really looking for and they wouldn’t be struggling to stay afloat. More importantly, maybe we wouldn’t be anticipating Snooki’s upcoming memoir.
I can only speak to how AmazonEncore works, but I think what I find the most surprising is how quickly things are going. I signed my contract in September. Here it is, a little more than a month later, and my book has already had a thorough copy-editing, promotional material is being readied, and the new book cover is ready. My head is spinning with how much has been accomplished so quickly.
First of all, I cannot sufficiently express how much I love the new cover. It so perfectly conveys the tone of the book. I don’t think I’ve stopped smiling since I got it.
But my biggest moment of WHOOPIE came when I received the promo material to look over. I had to call my friend and editor, Amy Rogers, right away and scream girlishly for awhile, because that’s when it hit me: There are people who are being paid to read my book and to think of ways to encourage other people to buy it. It was The Moment for me.
I feel very fortunate to have been involved in every step so far. I very much appreciate how open everyone at Encore has been to my input and how much they’ve included me in the process.
I won’t deny that, in the deepest corner of my wildest dreams, I sometimes imagine movie deals and appearances on The Daily Show. But my original goal in putting my book out into the world still stands. I want to get as many people to read it as I possibly can. Encore has the resources to put it into more hands than I could ever dream of doing on my own.
The official re-release day is May 11, 2011. There will be much eating of pie and drinking of celebratory beverages. And I’m trying to figure out a way to share the day with my very loyal and very vocal readers. They’re the ones who have helped WFS get this far.
If, once it’s finished, they’re interested in publishing it, I’m definitely up to letting them do so.
(I interview R.J. Keller about The Wendy House, when it was just a work in progress, here.)
1. The Backword Books Contest: Win 7 Books by Backword Authors! (Paperback, that is.)
2. SELF-PUBLISHING AND THE AMERICAN DREAM
Self-publishing is one of the many examples of people using their ambition, ingenuity, creativity, and drive to achieve a personal – and even professional – goal. Self-publishers utilize every creative skill they possess (or, if they don’t have a particular skill, find and pay experts) and spend weeks, months, years on creating, designing, and marketing their work. They become a one-person small business.
So why is self-publishing still, in many circles, one of those phrases that’s said with spite–and not a little bit of spittle?
I have a theory that it has something to do with the shifting understanding of the American Dream.
During an episode of Oprah I watched last year, Oprah said she was grateful. She had been allowed to live the American Dream: she was once poor, and now she’s rich.
She went on to say that the majority of Americans believe they can “have” the American Dream. And then an expert on her show said 85% of these Americans are incorrect – they will NOT achieve the American Dream, because they won’t experience financial wealth.
Then, nor were, I suspect, the first immigrants who came to America – and who were filled with hopes and dreams of a different future – benefiting from the “American Dream” if they didn’t end up living in mansions with six cars in their six-car garages.
They must have cursed their decision to come here when they ended up living in a one-bedroom apartment, instead.
They must have been, like, so disappointed? Maybe even ready to turn right around and go back home to their oppressive countries, where wearing something like a cross could result in the worst kind of persecution. I mean, who cares if you’re allowed to wear a cross if you’re not, like, wearing it while sweating pure pleasure in a ten-person hot tub overlooking the world you’re quite sure you own? What good is having the opportunity to get an education (or express a personal point of view, or pray to your own god or not believe in a god, or start your own business, or get paid a reasonable wage, etc.), if you can’t do it in the hottest, trendiest, $2,000 jeans?
Here’s how I see the progression (for lack of a better word) of the “American Dream”:
American Dream #1: “The Original” (images 1 – 6)
American Dream #2: “Revised” (images 7, 8 )
The American Dream #3: Today (images 9- 14)
The new “American Dream” ideal – dangerously infecting our youth culture – seems to also have infected a portion of the writer community.
In that particular community–the one that steadfastly maintains indie-publishing is for hacks–“success” is not defined by creating, working, learning, striving, and producing something of quality. Rather, “success” is only achieved if the highest tier (traditional publishing) is reached.
Kind of like how you’re only living the “American Dream” if you’re rich.
I don’t know – maybe it’s just me, but it seems like the time has come for something of a re-evaluation.
A reminder that whatever a person’s ultimate goal – be it to have the tannest skin in all the land, the most diamonds in one ring, a taco stand, or just enough money to support a passion (and maybe, someday, be able to afford a silver Mini Cooper S) – it’s not the end result that defines the American Dream, but the opportunity to work toward whatever is desired while living a life of relative freedom.
And if opportunity and freedom is what it’s all about, then I’d say a hell of a lot more than 15% of Americans are actively living the American Dream. It’s probably closer to 100%.
Indie-publishers, while certainly fantasizing about a traditional publisher (the everyday man’s big house and six cars), should be no less respected for their individual efforts and smaller-scale success than should the family down the street running their own bakery with just enough customers to keep it going.
P.S. Don’t forget about the contest! Enter here.
Yesterday, I posted a blog entry arguing with author J.A. Konrath’s idea of a “confident” writer.
Today, he posted his rebuttal in the comments section at Backword Books.
Thanks, J.A., for joining the conversation.
A Real Publisher puts you on any number of bookstore shelves once they publish you, because–since they’re apparently not doing much marketing for their authors, anymore–that is their primary power.
But getting on a shelf yourself? How can you not feel an incredible sense of accomplishment? (Is it disgusting that I took a picture of my independently released book on a bookstore shelf? Say what you will. I did it, anyway.)
That was in Nashville’s Davis-Kidd Booksellers. Since they wrote me the letter saying they wanted Homefront for their store (after I submitted it for review, that is…they made sure to read it, first, which makes their invitation that much more significant), I’d been back twice: once to look at it on the shelf, and once to do a reading.
This third visit, I just wanted Ian (my husband) to look, to see what I saw: that all of those books surrounding Homefront were distributed by major publishers, and I–sans agent (for that book), sans Real Publisher–was still able to include mine among them. (I make no comparisons here when I say I’m just a shelf away from Mark Twain! Why, it’s like walking around in his neighborhood! And, while we’re on the subject, if you’re ever in Connecticut, I highly recommend visiting the Mark Twain House.)
In March of this year, The Publetariat creator April Hamilton drew attention to a February blog post by bestselling detective/crime author J.A. Konrath, whose blog site is titled “A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing.” Hamilton points to this passage:
“Are you confident or delusional?
Chances are high the delusional people will believe they’re confident, since self-awareness is in short supply in the writing community. Here are some questions to ask yourself.
Have you been published by an impartial third party? Confident writers eventually get traditionally published. Period.”
And to this:
“Would you rather be paid or be praised?
Confident writers know the best form of praise is a royalty check.”
Both of these assertions, as well as the following by Konrath, are worth responding to:
Confident writers work within the system, even though the system is flawed.
Delusional writers work outside of the system, even though they long to work within the system.
Let’s take them one by one, yes?
(read the rest, posted at Backword Books)