I get a lot of questions in interviews about how I got my start in the world of writing and publishing. I never get tired of the telling the story, because reminding myself of how hard I had to work (and still have to work), to make a name for myself in this business is a constant motivator. I look back to where I was before I published my own work, stuck in an endless pool of rejection letters, doubts, and depression. It was not a good time for me, or my self-esteem as a writer. After reminding myself of the then versus the now, I am so grateful to anyone whose ever helped me in any way while on this journey. Doing this has been a learning process for sure. It is something I’ve learned to get better at as time has gone on, and I’m grateful for the wisdom, advice, and friendship of my author, reviewer, blogger, and publisher friends.
So here’s the story. I began writing when I was twelve years old. My dad was a teacher at a private school and was able to get two old desks (they were replacing them with new ones) for me and my little brother. It was set up in front of the window in my room, which faced the street. I would sit there with the blinds open and a stop watch at my side, timing myself to see how long I could sit and write in one sitting. Mind you, this is before the days when everyone had a computer in their home. We didn’t have one yet, so I was doing this with a pencil and notebook paper. I wrote a short novel (a big accomplishment to a 12 year old). I believe it would have been about 40,000 words typed.
I continued writing down my stories and ideas through out my adolescent and teen years. By the time I graduated high school, I had written about four romance novels, none of which have been read by anyone other than my god sister and close friend, who was as addicted to romance novels as I was. She used to always tell me that I’d be a great writer someday. Little did she know that ten years later, she’ read her name on the dedication page of The Third Son, my debut novel. I also wrote for my school paper both in high school and the first years of college when I thought I wanted to be a journalist. After studying it for a year , I lost my enthusiasm for it … fiction was what I truly wanted to write!
Fast forward years later to just a few years ago. I was a stay at home mom and Army wife, who had gone to school but still didn’t know what to do with her life. I was devouring romance novels like candy between housework and caring for my daughter, and the reading began to inspire stories of my own. I’d actually written The Third Son years before this, but lost it in a computer crash. The story stayed with me, and I decided that I would try to rewrite it and attempt to publish it. So, during my daughter’s naptimes and often late into the night, I was writing the story of Damien and Esmeralda in the world of Cardenas. There was a second computer incident and I lost about five or six chapters in that made me almost give up again, but I did a THIRD rewrite with a few changes and the story evolved to what it is now.
I was so excited to finally start trying to get it published. I tweaked and polished and researched my publishers and agents for hours each day, making a list and working endlessly on my pitches and queries. I queried several agents a day and sent manuscripts to the paltry few publishers that will accept an un-agented submission. I was expecting the first rejections. After all, no one gets a ‘yes’ on their first try, right? Yet, my heart filled with hope each and every time I got an email reply from a publisher or agent … and with each rejection, my confidence in what I had written sank further and further, until I gave it up all together. Needless to say, the mopey, depressing time in life in which I just stopped trying lasted for almost another year. It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my son ( now almost 2) that I began to have ideas for The Second Son, and altering the story so that Serge’s character could live on (originally, he would have died in the carriage incident, thought not as quickly as Lionus succumbed to his wounds). Getting back into the swing of things with my writing put the fire back in me. It reminded me of why these books were so important to me. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t find an agent out there that believed in it the way I did, but by that point I no longer cared. I decided to get back on the horse and continue searching, writing, and sticking my foot through any door in order to get my work out there.
I got through several different phases of the submission process, and even got asked to send full manuscripts. Each one ended different. I was told many things, but the one thing I kept hearing over and over was that there was no market for my book. They couldn’t categorize it. It wouldn’t sell. No agent was going to take a chance in this economy on a book they don’t think they can move. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if I’d changed the setting of The Third Son to Regency England and made Damien a Duke and Esmeralda an Earl’s lost daughter, I probably would have sold it. Because that’s what sells in the world of the Big Six. But that was not the story I believed it, and it was not what spoke to me.
Buying a Kindle opened my eyes to the world of ebooks and publishing. It pointed me in the direction I ended up taking and I’m so glad that I did it. Long story short, after realizing that many of my Kindle books were independently published, I began to look into how to go about publishing your own work. And then I began to grow excited. Here was a way for me to create a platform and share my voice. I had to know if those agents were right and if there was really no market for my books. Turns out, they were wrong, as evidenced by the growing number of people picking up their copies of the Kings of Cardenas books. I am in no way rich or famous, but then that was never the goal. Sure, I want to make a living doing this. And I’ve nearly matched my husband’s salary per month, which is pretty darn good considering I’ve only been at this a year. The number of people following, reading, and writing to tell me how they feel about my work is growing steadily and I am writing and publishing new works with a confidence that continues to grow with every publication. I’ve even been given the opportunity to hand the reigns over to some small press publishers, which has also been great. They were the first to believe in and invest in my work and to the ladies at Anchor Group and Bottom Drawer Publications I will always be grateful.
If Avon called tomorrow and offered me a contract, would I take it? Without a doubt! I have nothing against the world of traditional publishing, though I do believe many of their practices to be antiquated and outdated. The world of Indie press and self published authors is growing and we are making headway in proving that our works are not inferior and that a group of six corporations aren’t the only ones who can recognize talent. For now, I’m happy where I am for the reasons I’m going to share with you now. Sure, being backed by the big names gives one many advantages, but I like to think that learning how to do things on my own has given me some advantages as well.
Here’s my list, the top 5 reasons why being and Independent Author ROCKS!
Disclaimer (I am not recommending self-publishing to everyone. It is not for everyone. You must do the research and understand the work involved before taking it on if it is something you are considering.)
1. Complete creative control: When you’re holding the reigns, you don’t have to worry about someone else changing your work to fit a brand or a mold. YOU are your brand, and YOU set the mold, which means that no one can turn your work into something you won’t be proud of. Sure, you can hire and editor who will make suggestions and changes. But guess what, YOU choose whether or not to accept those changes. It is an awesome feeling, though it comes with a great deal of work and responsibility. I think of it as rewarding.
2. Freedom to think outside the box: I don’t like boxes. I don’t like boundaries, and I don’t like being told what NOT to do. This is another reason I find this method of publishing so liberating. There is no pressure to conform to trends to try to fit that mold that the industry tries to set by determining what sells and what doesn’t. I’ve always said, there’s an audience for just about anything you can think of, which makes the possibilities endless! This is one reason by Indie book are making such headway. Fresher stories and new ideas attract people looking to take a break from the norm.
3.Getting a bigger cut:The standard contract with a big publishing house offers you a much smaller piece of the pie than one can receive working independently. Sure, the potential to make more money might lie with the big houses, but I’ve heard of books publishing by the big houses that tank and make hardly any money. Publishing a book is very risky either way you slice it, but I like being able to come away with as much of my pie as I can get. I like pie.
4. You control release dates: Come on, as much as you love your favorite traditionally published author, you know how much it sucks to get invested in a book or series and then have to wait a year or more between releases to get your next fix. Publishers have to deal with many authors, and editing, creating, and promoting for their authors and it means everyone has to wait their turn. When you are in control, and focused only on you and your work, you can write when you want, publish when you want, without making your fans wait eons for your next book!
5. An awesome network of people: Not that there’s not a network in the world of traditional publishing. Of course there is! But in the Indie world, I have met some of the nicest, warmest, most open people I’ve ever known, many of whom I count among my closest friends even though we haven’t met in person. While everyone has their critics, no matter what their platform, there are so many more people out there willing to embrace and lend a hand up to the next person. Because, the goal is the same for us all, even if we’re all in it for different reasons. We just want to write and sell our books. We want our voices to be heard.
There are more reason, but these are my top 5. As I said, this method is not for everyone, but I have found that it is definitely for me, even if for a short time in my life. Would I like to be published with a big house someday and make lots of money. Who wouldn’t? But I think a part of me will always want to be independent, and even if offered a contract for a certain book or series, I don’t see myself signing them all over. Part of me likes the creative control.
Whatever the case, and wherever my journey leads me, I will always be grateful that it began the way that it did. I like to think that all the rough patches were a bit like sand paper, polishing me up so that I could truly shine.