3 S.R. Johannes: Walking the fence in publishing

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Walking the fence in publishing

I can't help but at times feel that I still want it all.

Both a traditional path and self pubbing path.

Maybe it's my awkward need or my want to belong. Or maybe I don't like to be pigeonholed. Not force myself into one box or standard. Maybe I'm greedy. Maybe I have a dual personality.

I don't know what it is, but I find myself looking at my future with both sides of the fence in mind.

This side of the fence is hard!

Why do I still pine for the "old flame"sometimes ? Because indie publishing is soooo HARD!!!!! It's so fun and I love the control, but I'm exhausted.

I've had a great start. In 9 months, I've sold almost 15,000 books (5,000 just since September) but I admit I still feel a need to be a part of the traditional industry in some way.

As I've mentioned in the past - I wear soooooo many hats and with each book that comes out - those hats multiply exponentially. I have tried to put things in place to help to lighten my load but I'd admit - I over commit and there is always so much to do. Especially in marketing, which I have a hard time not doing. It's in my blood.

For example - today I want to do write but I have to gather and track my quarterly reports just to keep on top of my sales. And this is for every channel (which there are more than 5 for me right now)

My intern, Kate, has helped keep me stay organized. Love her!  But that is only a few hours a week. I miss those days of my agent cheering me on, giving me advice, complimenting my writing, and standing behind me. I miss having that one person on my side. At times, when I get tired, I find myself wishing I had someone invested in me again, someone that believed in me and my writing. Someone besides me and my mother :)

To keep self pubbing, I have to stay on it every day.

And some days I just want to write. Or breathe. Or watch TV or just be lazy.

But there are always many, many on my To Do list. And they all seem urgent with some kind of timeline. Besides PTA, family, personal, and girl scout stuff, there is all the other stuff that comes with self pubbing - the stuff beyond writing and promotion. And you have to do them all -  across several different projects. Keeping it all straight is almost impossible.

No matter what the opinion is, indie pubbing gets lonely and difficult. And it's HARD doing it all on your own. It's like owning your own business and it's growing but you can't hire any employees because it is not a guarantee.

I'm not saying traditional is not hard. But in self pubbing - you are a one man show. Always. For everything.

Walking the fence

Even as I pave my own way or find some level of success in this crazy publishing biz, at times, I still feel like the "odd man out" - on both sides.

In general, the traditional side of me questions some parts of self pubbing - how it is flooding the book world with a lot of "not so great" stuff. So, part of me wants a traditional publishing opportunity (that many self published authors don't agree with at all) so I can be the best I can be. I'm a good writer but I still make mistakes and I want to learn more.

But, then there is my self pubbing side which questions the validity of the traditional vetting process and the growth opportunities for authors (which of course many traditional authors don't agree with at all ).

So because of this outlook, I don't feel like I really belong to either side of the fence, therefore, always feel slightly awkward. Whether I am at a school visit or selling books at a conference. It's like high school all over again. I was a cheerleader but didn't really fit in b/c it wasn't quite me and you could tell. Yet because I was a cheerleader, other kids avoided me just because of the stereotype of a cheerleader. I should have just stuck with soccer or music.

It's hard to want both in this industry. It's like a war or something - everyone saying I "have" to choose. So what ends up happening is I sometimes get the feeling of walking down the middle and both sides firing because they don't know whose side you are on. Yet I don't want to put down either side and I want to be a part of both sides.

What about strategic decisions?

I believe there is a specific place for everything.

Why can't my decision to self pub just be a simple strategic decision in my career as an author? Why does it have to be one or the other based on opportunity or skill?

Self pubbing doesn't have to be a "way out" - you do skip the agent/editorial vetting process (no matter if you even want it) but it's hard to stand out. Hard to do it all on your own. The readers are the vetters. And trust me, indie authors can't get away with anything. Whether it is a couple of typos that slipped through your copyeditors fingers or the stigma, it always hangs over you.

Yet, trust me, for most self pubbing is definitely  not a "way in" either - generally it isn't a way in to traditional anyway so don't go into it for that. Agents and editors generally aren't seeking self pubbed books to redo. That is a very small percentage. And no matter what you hear, it's not 15,000 copies that gets you there, it is mostly luck or 100,000 sales with some press.

Self pubbing is about what works best. it's not always fair just like traditional pubbing.  In indie publishing - certain books sell better than others. YA suspense, contemporary, paranormal, and romance. New adult and adult romance as well as adult thrillers. Like it or not, you can have the best historical fiction but chances are it won't do great in indie pubbing.

What is my future? (rhetorical question ;)

Well, I am not someone who can just write to sell. To stay with the same series even though it makes money. That is probably good business sense for self pubbers and works well for many but I have other ideas I want to put out.

From a marketing perspective - some of my books just don't make sense to self pub and some do. Not all of my work would fit on both sides anyway. So why not choose some for one side and some for the other side?

So today, I am making my declaration public to the universe - I want both! Is that so bad? There are pros and cons to both sides and I want to experience both because sometimes you can only go so far unless you learn failure and success in new ways.

Yet I wonder if there is a place in the middle for hybrid authors to take the best of both worlds.

That one special project

Now I have one special project that could go either way in this industry. It's now choosing the way that is the hardest thing.

I have a new project - a timely YA cyber thriller that I think has great potential - but which way do I go? Do I self pub it and continue down that path knowing how hard it is? Knowing that sometimes there is only so far you can get on your own? Possibly limiting my readership potential due to limited distribution.

Or do I query agents/editors and start all over again? Knowing the book is timely and probably shouldn't wait 2 years. Yet knowing it has huge commercial potential.

And then if I go traditional with this story... do I query under an alias and hide all my sale information to get away from the stigma? Because like it or not - there is a stigma - whether you have great sales or not. Or should I proudly use my name and sales, knowing it could impact my book's chances. Maybe I should just hope to find someone who can look past the stigma of self publishing and focus on my skill and the book's merit. See my self pubbing as a win/a strength more than a weakness.

I've decided I want to be a hybrid author. Someone who is on the fence doing both - but committed to putting out good out books in the best way. Whether that is possible or not is the question.

This is not a popular view. I tend to choose those somehow. Many self pubbed authors want you to commit to self publishing, while many traditional authors say you are a sell out if you choose self pubbing. In addition, many agents and editors say you can't have it both ways.

I say why not? I truly see benefits in walking the fence.

How is now my question.


Caroline Starr Rose said...

Blaze a new trail! I believe in you. You have nothing to prove to anybody and are beholden to no set of rules.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I think it's totally fine to want both and to pursue both. Neither path is right or wrong. It's just what's right for you for each project. I could see that the self-publishing is a huge amount of work, which is why it's not right for me with a family and a full-time job. I couldn't do the fantastic marketing you do.

So don't feel guilty. Do what's best for you. And you should be proud of your self-publishing successes.

Elizabeth O Dulemba said...

I agree with Natalie. With your talent and marketing savvy, I think you'll succeed at whatever you set your mind to. Although I do understand your struggle, I think you're brave and paving a path where many others will follow.

Eliza Tilton said...

You've had great success already. Proof that you can continue down which ever path works best for you.

Kimbra Kasch said...

I have a Great Quote on my Pinterest Board (yeah, I'm addicted to the boards) anyway, it says "You don't always get what you wish for - in this world - you get what you work for."

Work on!!!

Mrs. Jones said...

Well, I think that there are a lot of authors like you, who want both. Really, Im pretty sure (*ALMOST) every indie author TRULY wants a traditional deal!
I mean, who wouldnt. They do it all, they do the marketing, teh editing, the promotion. They do all the extra hard work that indie authors have to do on their own.
BUT- the reason MOST indie authors self pub is because they cant (or didnt at first) get the traditional deal they wanted.

I so go for it. You have done so well with your books so far, you can only go up from here.
Query those agents, get one again. and try thr traditional route. if it doesnt happen for you after (however long it takes for you to get tired of waiting for it) then self pub it.

I have been querying agents now for about 6 months. Yes, I know that really isnt a VERY long time, considering, but it is long enough for me. Now I plan on Self-publishing because, Im ready for my book to be out there. Im tired of rejection after rejection.

I think you will do well, no matter what you do! :)
Great luck!!!

Jemi Fraser said...

There are no easy decisions in this process. I've seen you and several other bloggy friends who've self published successfully (in my opinion!) and I agree it is hard! I want to make a decision about which route(s) I want to take in the next few months. Lots and lots to think about.

Kelly Polark said...

I'm with you, Shelli. I want to be a hybrid author, too. I want control over some of my books and self-pub, and I want someone else to figure out other books for me too.

So that is what I am doing. I have one picture book app out with a publisher, and the next picture book I will self pub. But the following one I will submit to agents and editors. It's my mg that I'm not sure what I want to do with. I'm torn whether to self pub or traditional on that one.
Good luck to you!!! Whatever you decide, don't look back and go for it!

J.L. Murphey said...

I do both, indie (fiction)and traditional (nonfiction). Try it you'll like it or try it and you don't like it.

I still receive royalties from both sides of the street. I must admit while being an indie is a lot of hard work and many hats, the monthly and quarterly income is a lot easier to manage than the semi yearly traditional royalties.

Laura Pauling said...

I think we'll see more and more trad. author self publishing and vice versa. I think the polarization will still be there but it will decrease.

And I do think for someone who had an agent, has lots of trad. pubbed friends - it's harder. You lived with that dream and got so close. That feeling isn't going to just fade away.

Ultimately, it sounds like you know your goals and it's not all about money or fair contracts. That's what we make decisions on.

I think we'll see more and more hybrid authors.

Unknown said...

Many agents and editors refused to see New Adult as a genre before now, too. I think their opinions about hybrid authors are changing quickly.

Amanda Hopper said...

I am so proud of you! Do what you think is best for you on a work-by-work basis. I get really tired of people trying to put authors in a box, the whole point of writing is to think outside the box:)

Heidi Willis said...

Thank you for your honesty about the difficulty of these decisions. I'm wary of people who can only see the good of one position and the bad of another. Today, there are so many pros and cons of both traditional and self-pubbing, and making either choice requires sacrifice.

Bravo for choosing (again) what is best for YOU. I know some people who have walked the fence extremely gracefully and successfully. I have no doubt whatever path you take for each project, you will find success as well.

Leigh Ann said...

"Committed to putting out good books in the best way."

You are amazing. Doing a wonderful job. I know it's SO SO HARD but I admire you like crazy.

And strategic decisions are the best anyone can ask of us. You're doing great.

Meradeth Houston said...

This is so what I needed to hear this morning! I'm with a small press, but the next book I have, I really want to go the more traditional way--agent, book deal, the works. It's going to be a lot of work too, and I know that better now, but the questions of hiding my former books, writing under an alias, etc, they're all there. But, that's what I want, and I'll do my best to get there!

Stina said...

I know a lot of authors who are doing both. Saying you can only pick one path or the other is like saying you can only writing YA or adult books. Yeah, I don't think so.