This morning I woke up to an unusual silence. When I looked out the window, I saw the trees wrapped in such dense fog that I could barely see past my neighbor’s yard. And yet, I found something comforting in all that moisture. The big grey blanket of mist had a kind of muffling effect, a packed in cotton sort of world without the sharp edges of a bright sunshiny morning demanding attention. I padded downstairs and remembered I wanted to write a blog post first thing. But what to write about? Since Friday, when I came across a blog post about writing which discussed the difference between the “one book writer” and the “career writer,” I’ve been thinking a lot about that concept. Here are some of my thoughts.
I came to Kristine Rusch’s website through an email from Joanna Penn, another writer whose blog, The Creative Penn, I’ve been following for some time. http://www.thecreativepenn.com/blog/ I’m so glad I clicked that link to Kristine Rusch’s website, where I know I’ll continue to find loads of valuable information on writing and publishing. In the article I first clicked on, and have been thinking about all weekend, The Business Rusch: A Career Versus Publication, Rusch suggests that the way we writers think about our writing goals affects our writing lives in significant ways. Is our goal to publish a novel in the traditional way, or have a writing career? If the goal is to publish a novel in the old-fashioned way — pitching it to agents and waiting for a publisher to offer a contract — she suggests we have a lot to lose. Instead, we might think of embarking on a writing career in which we write with the goal of getting our words into the minds of readers by getting as many of our novels, essays and stories into their hands as possible, and making a living at it. We can become career writers by writing daily, being prolific, and focusing not only on craft but also on the business of writing. She gives some solid evidence to support her view that one can make a living as a writer by taking control of one’s writing life in this way. This includes indie publishing (publishing your own writing either with the help of a flat-fee service or by doing all or most of the work yourself, producing both e-books and paper books, and learning how to market them to bookstores.) Rusch recommends hiring a lawyer rather than an agent to assist with publishing contracts and especially taking control of copyright. See the full post here: http://kriswrites.com/2013/08/28/the-business-rusch-a-career-versus-publication/
So, what do I take away from this? At first, I’m very excited because I think, hey, I can do this! And, yes! I want a writing career! But then I start flipping around the internet and land on the Huffington Post, which has scores of articles on the topic of Indie Publishing. Find them here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tag/indie-publishing From the author Christiana Miller who self-published her novel, Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She’s Dead for a remarkable $125.00, to Holly Robinson, who went from traditional publishing to indie and back again. I’m getting different opinions here on which one is better, and getting more bewildered. When Miller decided to try indie publishing, she had lost her job and needed the money. She had a manuscript and very little money in her checking account. She says: I quickly realized that if I took it the traditional route, I would be looking at years of submitting and submitting and hoping before I ever saw a penny. Unfortunately, I couldn’t fry up hopes and dreams and serve them to my kid for dinner. I tried, but they kept floating off the plate. Hopes and dreams are the original empty calorie meal. All fluff, no substance. She had no idea that her novel would become an Amazon best seller and be downloaded over 150,000 times. She made enough money (around $50,000.00) on that experiment in indie publishing to live comfortably.
Then there’s Holly Robinson’s article about why she went from traditional publishing to Indie publishing and back to traditional publishing. She’s got cred — an MFA and five novels under her belt but after years of trying, she could not get them published in the traditional way. Finally, after years of writing articles and essays, ghost writing celebrity memoirs and health books, she wrote her own memoir thinking that might have more potential for publishing success. And it did get picked up by a publisher. But her novels were moldering until she published one herself. Just after she self-published one novel, her agent found a publisher for her latest novel. She lays out the pros and cons of indie v. traditional publishing but comes out on the side of traditional. Because seeing my book in an actual bookstore is a thrill unlike any other. And she likes the relationship she’s developed with her editor. But I want more information from her — like how much money she made on the traditionally published v. the indie published novel? Because if I believe Kristine Rusch, I’m afraid Robinson has the potential to make more money and to publish more books the indie way. But just reading her article pulls me back into the belief that traditional publishing offers more benefits — like editing and marketing. Because, we want to WRITE not SELL our own books, right?
That said, I’m watching a writing friend currently going the traditional route and am shocked to learn that she’s not making more money now that her mystery series is popular. (I base that on the fact that the first book in the series has gone to a second print run and has been on the bestseller list at my local bookstore and Seattle Mystery Bookshop.) Yet she’s expected to do a lot of her own marketing, and go to writing conferences on her own dime in order to sell books. So I wonder what she’s really getting from her agent and publisher. Hmm. She does seem happy about her publishing success though. But disappointed in the lack of control — the publisher telling her, for example, that certain things simply can’t be included in what is called a “cozy” mystery. There goes that idea for a plot. Yikes. And yet, that book sure looks great on my local bookstore’s table of “Summer Reads.” I always smile when I see it displayed.
I guess I’m still in the collecting information stage and can’t make up my mind yet. I know I truly dislike the rejection inherent in all those queries I’ve sent to literary agents. I convince myself every time that this is the one query that will do it and then when that rejection pops into my inbox I try to square my shoulders and take another look at the different agencies, wondering which one employs my champion. But maybe I need to become my own champion. Or, maybe I need to wander around in the murky fog of traditional v. indie publishing for a little longer. It’s comfortable here, and quiet.