I am going to preface this post with a disclaimer. I do not have official qualifications in publishing. I am simply a writer who chose to self-publish. My education is in writing not publishing and the information given here about self-publishing is what I learnt from my own experience and is in no way comprehensive of the world of Publishing; Traditional or Indie. As there are many types of writers there are also many types of publishing experiences. I share my experiences with the intention of helping, or at the very least entertaining, my readers and fellow Indie authors.
I’d also like to take a quick minute to thank Nina Smith (fellow writer and Indie publisher) without whom I probably still wouldn’t be published. I relied heavily on her advice and experience (she has self-published five novels all of which are available from Amazon) in order to actualize my own dreams.
If you’ve read the first post on this blog you will already be familiar with some of the information I am sharing in this post. I chose Indie Publishing primarily for one reason: I wanted The Kingston Chronicles published. Traditional publishing can be a very hard industry to break in to and this is for several reasons. In the interview (see First Blog Post dated Jan 7, 2018) I did with Nina for her blog I explained how one of the reasons Traditional publishing can be such a difficult avenue for authors is simply a matter of mathematics. If you look at the number of manuscripts sent in to publishers each year and compare them with how many titles are published for the corresponding periods you will see that there is a high submission rate and a low publication rate. This does not reflect the quality of the submissions. You could write an amazing story about mermaids but if the publishing house is focusing on re-telling fairy tales, for example, your manuscript could potentially get turned away simply because it isn’t what the publishing house wants at that time. I’ve paraphrased this example which was used in a class I took in university by a lecturer (although I believe she used vampires and angels as her example) who wanted us to have realistic expectations. When I was still at university Vampire fiction was seemingly petering out and being replaced with Fallen Angel fictions. Although now it seems like Faeries are the newest hot deal which doesn’t phase me because with Indie publishing I do not feel the need to be constrained to what is “popular”. Plus my favourite things to write about are Witches, Fallen Angels and Demons, Mermaids and Faeries.
Another reason I chose to self-publish due to the difficulties of Traditional publishing has to do with the process of Traditional Publishing. As I understand it, and please correct me if I am wrong, the usual Traditional publishing route requires a writer to retain the services of an agent. As I understand it; it is almost impossible to get published without the agent’s services. I’ve heard stories of writer’s submitting unsolicited manuscripts and managing to get published but these stories appear to be the exception to the rules and not the general experience. I looked into agencies when I was still making my decision as to how I was going publish The Kingston Chronicles and, once again this is how I understand it, it seemed that it is extremely difficult to get an agent to represent you. It seems that Publishing Houses and writing Agents are looking for “sure things”, that they want to know that they are going to make money off a title and therefore are rather discerning as to who they take on as clients. It seemed at the time that the only way to get published was that you had a demonstrated history of providing quality content either by having short stories or articles published in magazines, journals or short story collections, or you had won (or at least placed) in literary prizes. The other main way seemed to consist of already being “famous” or being an authority in the field in which you were writing about. As I said before, this is my interpretation of the information that was available to me at the time and is not necessarily representative of every writer’s experience. I know I wished with every submission that I would be that author that won the “writing lottery” by winning a writing prize and then having an unsolicited manuscript accepted for publication on the first submission. I dare say that all writers harbour this fantasy even knowing that it is an unlikely outcome.
So I spent many years submitting short stories and poems to journals and competitions and receiving polite rejection letters advising me that while they enjoyed my writing that particular story wouldn’t quite fit in with the theme of the upcoming edition and to try again at a later date, if they responded at all. The majority of the time my unsuccessful submissions were unknown to me until place winners were announced online and my name was not among them. I understand that with the volume of submissions received it would be difficult to respond to every single submission, but it is still annoying at best and disheartening at worst.
I know quite a few writers, both Traditionally and Indie published, and I asked my friends about their experiences. I did some research into self-publishing hosts and when there were Author Talks that I was able to attend in my area I would go (and sometimes to ones outside my area). Two of the talks I attended that really stick out in my mind are talks given by Patricia O’Neill (author of The Hatshepsut Trilogy – which, quick plug, I adored) and Michael Barnes (author of Shot Through The Heart). Patricia was very accommodating with questions relating to Traditional Publishing as Michael was with questions about Indie Publishing, and I think this is the foremost piece of advice I could possibly give; Ask questions. Go to Author talks, if you have friends who are authors ask them about their experiences, if you’re taking writing classes with the intent to publish ask your teacher. If you’re taking writing classes then you’ll no doubt have friends looking to publish (or being published, or who have been published) so make use of those connections. Ask them the perks they found as well as the disappointments. Ask them what they wish they’d known before they made their decision. Ask me (there’s a comment button below and a contact the author form on my contact page). No one has the definitive answer of what your choice should be but everyone will be able to tell you what did and didn’t work for them. Use that information to your advantage so that you don’t make things harder for yourself than they have to be.
In the end I was unsatisfied with the Traditional publishing route and felt that if I chose the Traditional route that I may never achieve my dreams. To be honest I’m pretty sure that my friends and family where not surprised with my choice. I’m generally pretty determined (some would use the word stubborn) and unwilling to leave my fate in the hands of others. I’ve always been a bit of an outsider and focused on doing things my way. I also had several years where life was unkind to me. I felt at sea in the world and didn’t like where I was so I took steps to change that. That attitude is still with me. I still feel that our lives are in our own hands and that our actions are what push us forward. You can only get to where you are going by pointing yourself in that direction and taking one step after the other. So, while Traditional publishing has perks the call of Indie publishing pulled at my heartstrings harder. With Indie publishing I am beholden to no one and I get to manage my projects completely. It is harder yes, as this literally means that everything is down to me; cover art, marketing, editing, quality control, PR – literally everything is my responsibility and takes my time to do, but it also means I am not stuck with the choices of someone else. Things like Titles and Cover Art are not determined by someone else. There’s no one asking me to change fundamental characters or story lines in my books because they think they will sell better. I will go more into these issues in further blog posts but it is something that unpublished authors should keep in mind. Although considering the difficulty I’m having coming up with a title for my current manuscript, a sequel to The Kingston Chronicles, sometimes having other people have a vested interest in helping you isn’t necessarily a bad thing. 😊
In my next post I will discuss how I published The Kingston Chronicles so if you have any burning questions email me, leave a comment or pm me on social media (you can find me: @b.forrester.author on Instagram and B. Forrester – Author on Facebook).