Monday, November 21, 2011

Some Thoughts on Going Solo (and Why I Did)

The decision to go "indie" or self-publish did not come easily.

I'm a gut guy most of the time, going with feeling rather than logic (even though I tend to score higher on analytic items on standardized tests--go figure). Sometimes my gut leads me in the wrong direction. Sometimes I make mistakes.

I wrestled with going solo for quite a while. I tried to play the game, querying for three novels before punting. I sold well over one hundred stories to paying markets (token to pro) and gave a number away as well. Close to one thousand rejections have come my way. I wrote Loathsome, Dark and Deep specifically with the small press in mind, and thankfully, Belfire Press published it.

I never planned to self-publish. I'm glad I started writing five years ago--self-publishing was cost prohibitive then and not a viable business model. I believed all the negative hype because most of it was true. If I would have self-published at first, I wouldn't have had any drive to be a better writer. Rejection is your friend, folks. Really.

Things change. E-books happened. My craft improved. The system failed me (i.e., disillusionment happened).

But being a gut guy, I worried. I worried about what some of my writing colleagues might think. I worried about them more than readers because, to be perfectly honest, most readers just want a good story. I hope I can supply that more often than not. I'm sure I've alienated some of my writer buddies (or at least have given them pause) by choosing this path.

But it is the right path. For now.

Here's why I ultimately decided to go "indie" (a moniker I don't wave like a battle-flag as some do--I'm a writer first):

The first two reasons could fall under the sub-heading How I've been treated by agents:

I know it's bad form to snark about agents. I don't care. Unrepresented authors need to stop being afraid and demand humane treatment. These are not our overseers, folks. Too much power corrupts. 

1. Once upon a time an agent showed interest in one of my books. Said agent suggested he/she would call and talk about some revisions. I played hooky on the prescribed day, calling in sick and hanging out around the house, waiting for the call which never happened. Later that evening, I received an email: sorry, I was having drinks with so-and-so. Clean up your book and send it in again.

Yeah. Right. I guess I was the naive one. 

2. Once upon a time I sent a query for a book. Six months passed. I sold the book to a small press. The agent I queried half a year ago asked to see a full. I told him/her the book was no longer available. The reply: "bad form, man".  No--bad form was making me wait six months without reply. At that point, I assume rejection. Time is the most precious commodity, and six months is a long time.

3. Running a small press (the now semi-defunct Strange Publications) taught me that most modern small presses were just folks doing the same thing I was: using desktop publishing technology to churn out books via on-demand printing. I learned all about layout and book design. I know I can do it better than some of the crap I've seen from so-called "small presses".  Some are top notch outfits with solid followings (Permuted Press and Belfire are both prime examples); many are hucksters and glorified vanity presses.

4. Self-publishing has moved beyond a vanity affair to a viable business solution. The up-front costs are not prohibitive (and really nothing but time and effort if you e-publish and are willing to do the work yourself). Authors are making money.  I know some want to claim making money isn't important, but I'm not going to lie. If I wasn't making any money writing, I'd have to quit and find a new part time job. That is the reality of my economic situation and the pending birth of our third child. Time is the most precious commodity--and you can't just print more.

That's my story, more or less.

I'm not perfect. I'll continue making mistakes. I'll continue writing.I will work harder.

Have a good one.


Erin Cole said...

I've always stuck to the belief that what really matters in the end is the quality the book itself. When a reader goes to click the number of stars for a review, it won't matter to them at that point in time if the book is self-published or not.

Good post, Aaron. Thanks.

K.C. Shaw said...

I don't know any authors who can't supply agent and publisher horror stories--like the agents who request a full and then disappear, or respond a year and a half later with a breezy "sorry I didn't reply sooner." Both happened to me.

Even just a year ago I was iffy about self-publishing. I've come around to it now, not because of the 'rah-rah indie yay' folks, but because of people like you. You're an excellent writer with great stories to share. That you couldn't get anywhere with commercial publishers is a shame. I'm just glad we've got other options these days.

Unknown said...

I completely agree. Our stories are quite similar. I turned to the indie side because I couldn't bear to write another novel only to send it off to a handful of agents that would either not reply or reply several months down the road.

It was the wasted time that was killing me and I almost quite. Being able to skip the gatekeepers and get my work out to the people is what saved me.

Your post hits the nail on the head. Love it.

Cate Gardner said...

That first story is appalling and absolutely gutting for you. I bet your wife was fuming that day. I've been lucky and don't have any agent horror stories. Except the 'I don't have an agent' horror story.' :D (Why am I smiling?)

The agents I've had contact with re fulls have all been lovely and helpful - or maybe they worried I was as odd as my stories and didn't want to chance my wrath. Muahaha.

Unknown said...

The more I learn about the perils of publishing, the more I wonder why I'm compelled to even write. Ah well, it's that or find a hole to die in.

It seems the more I learn, the more I am likely to steer towards self-publishing as well once I've got something worth publishing.

Bobbie Metevier said...

I tried to comment on this post before but kept getting kicked off line.

Aaron, you have obviously paid your dues and I fully support you.

We writers have to stick together! In an industry that wouldn't exist without us, we are the last consideration. We must be respectful of antiquated etiquette . . . manners that are rarely reciprocated. When the hell did that happen?

Carry on!

Katey said...

I am a week and more late to this party -- almost two now! -- but I really had to comment when I read this. I don't think anyone who's read one of your indie books could think your choice anything but the absolutely right one.