Friday, May 6, 2011

The Decision

By Peg Brantley

Traditional or Independent?

How will one of my best friends in the writing world feel when she finds out my vision has shifted? Will she think I’ve abandoned my dream? Will she think that since I’ve redirected my focus to readers rather than publishers my talent is less? Will her nose suddenly begin to look like a pig’s snout whenever she hears my name? (Ugh. Didn’t mean that to sound ugly. Really. And she wouldn’t. But still.)

There is, beyond any doubt, the question of affirmation. When an agent champions you, and a publisher puts their money on the line, you know you’ve managed to convince some pretty key professionals you have what it takes. Nothing wrong with that. But for every worthy manuscript that goes to print via a traditional publisher, there are countless more, perhaps better manuscripts, that get rejected. I’m not the only one who has read some dogs, right?

But damn. What about when, as a writer, I’m done with the drama? When I decide I want to be truly self-employed and not subject to someone else’s idea of what might make them profitable? An employee driven to make the bottom line or risk losing his or her job? Haven’t we all had enough of that?

If affirmation is the thing (and for me it is), what are some of the other ways I can measure my value? Can you tell I’m an approval seeker? Yep, it sucks.

My dream, though shifted, remains as big and strong as ever. And now? The affirmation will come from readers—one at at time—that I’m so happy to meet now rather than later. Or never.

Come join me as I take this indie author thing on. My dream is muddled right now, but it’s clear in that I want to offer readers, when I’m ready, something they will enjoy.

What about you? As writers, what’s your dream? Is it for readers to get their hands on your story or a publisher to tell you you’re worth their investment?

And as readers, what are the things you’re looking for when you make the decision to buy a book? Is it the publisher? Does it matter to you if it’s a hardback on the bestseller list? What really, really matters? How do you separate the chaff from the wheat?

It’s all better with friends.


  1. We're all approval seekers, Peg! But you've nailed it. What aspiring writers need to decide is: Do I want a publisher's stamp of approval (& timetable) or do I want to get my story to readers now?

    If I had not left my publisher, I'd only have three books on the market, not seven, and I'd still be freelance editing and waiting for a laughable royalty check. Dreams can be altered for the better!

  2. Well said, Peg! I especially liked this paragraph:

    "But damn. What about when, as a writer, I’m done with the drama? When I decide I want to be truly self-employed and not subject to someone else’s idea of what might make them profitable? An employee driven to make the bottom line or risk losing his or her job? Haven’t we all had enough of that?"

    One of the main reasons I became a freelance editor, so I can definitely relate to that feeling!

    And with the current economy, I'm sure agents and publishers are reluctantly turning down all kinds of books they really like because they're not sure if the readership will be widespread enough to be profitable. We're probably losing all kinds of gems that way, so I say if you've got a good story to tell, and you've put your all into it, go ahead and publish it yourself!

  3. There was a time when I'd look for books published by St. Martin's and if the editor was Ruth Clavin, I was fairly assured it would be a good read. But Ruth has retired, editors aren't what they once were and neither is St. Martin's.

    As a reader/reviewer, I don't really care about the publisher. I've become accustomed to trade paperbacks but still prefer hardcovers. I have a Kindle but only use it when I travel, which is hardly at all anymore.

    I honestly tend to avoid the bestseller list unless it's an author I know I like. Otherwise, I've learned that popular doesn't always mean good. I used to discover most of my new authors through the collector's catalog sent out by Poisoned Pen Books as they often included a very brief opinion on them. Now, with more limited financial resources, it is from books/ARCs sent to me by publishers and/or sites for whom I review, but that's been a mixed bag, at best. Otherwise, it's through my mystery readers' group and talking about books other members have read.

  4. You raise some good points, Peg. I enjoy watching you go through the same process I did not so long ago. It wasn't an easy one for me, either--that is, until I realized that publishers were side stepping the readers' needs as their view of "what will sell" became more rigid over time. Suddenly, being able to say "I'm published with ...." seemed far less important than putting the decision back where it belonged: in the readers' hands. I'd much rather have them determine whether or not my work is publishable, since they are my consumers. They deserve the credit for being intelligent enough to make that choice,

  5. Right on, Drew! I like that - the readers "deserve the credit for being intelligent enough to make that choice." A no-brainer, when we stop to think about it. I say good luck to all indie authors - and don't forget us freelance editors, while you're at it! (I - and I'm sure all other editors - do the same conscientious editing job whether my clients are aiming to query agents or self-publish.)

  6. I'm with you. After 12 traditionally published books I decided to try indie. Even my agent supported me. It's still scary. You have control, but also responsibility. And even knowing I did a professional job, I still get defensive when people ask about my publisher. But it's not like publishing has ever been easy or for the faint of heart.

    Good luck!

    Kris Bock
    Rattled: romantic suspense in the dramatic and deadly southwestern desert
    Read the first three chapters:
    paperback $7.99, e-book $2.99:

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Well phooey, all I wanted to do was edit my post, and it got sucked up. Let me try this again . . .

    LJ, had you not left your publisher, your wouldn't have been able to have enough books out there—that readers love—and that now enable you to have the time to write more great stories. The Perfect Storm happened in your life, and we've all benefitted.

    Jodie, I see competent, dedicated, free-lance editors coming out way ahead of many publishing 'professionals' after the current kerfuffle becomes a memory. You guys are the often unsung heroes that take a recipe and help make it into a meal.

    LJ (Roberts, that is;-)), word of mouth has always been my key impetus for checking out a new author. And Kindle allows me the opportunity to sample a gazaillion of them at my fingertips. I have a friend who reads through the posts on DL with her Kindle at her side. I'm afraid that if a book isn't available in e-book format, it may not always make a sale.

    Drew, my brutha, can I just say your support means more to me than you could possibly know? It does.

    And Kris, what a cool agent you have! The legimacy of being an independent author grows when writers like you step through your fears and JUST DO IT!

    I've been thinking today (shock!), and I think I've figured out who should not publish independently. But I'll save that for a later post.

  9. I will read your novel no matter how you get it published. I believe and know you're a talented writer.

  10. Well said. There are a bunch of great writers who just gave up due to rejections from agents and publishers. Tragic. Reggie Ridgway Now with independent publishing and small presses who are more willing to take a chance on new talent we all have better chances to get noticed. Thanks for your post and love this blog. :)


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