In my long-ago, faraway dreams (reality check: when I started writing in earnest 5 years ago), I had always intended to be traditionally published. In fact, if you looked at my goal wall displayed prominently in my office, the goal right smack in the middle (after writing a good book and before being a bestselling author) was “traditional publication” with logos of some of the big publishing houses. I was always so certain of it…publication, that is, even knowing much of that decision was out of my hands.
Over time, I became a lot less certain. Things started happening…fellow Eight Lady Jeanne won the Golden Heart (which used to be carte blanche in terms of getting an agent/editor), but no one picked her up (she has since decided to go indie. Yay Jeanne!). Last September, I went on a writer’s cruise and the editor expounded on the genres that she couldn’t buy…historicals being one of them. I was unnerved by that, but didn’t let it deter me.
Then I started hearing stories about publishing houses folding. Writers not getting paid. Royalty statements not going out. Writers who had been with agents forever, only to to be told they needed to write something else (as in completely change genres), rewrite their stories into something that wasn’t the author’s vision, or that the agents “just couldn’t sell it.”
April rolled around and I happened to catch a Facebook post about traditional publishers of romance. The author, Marie Force, stated that, based on data from Publisher’s Weekly over the last several months, traditional publishers were not picking up new romance authors, or if they were, they had to come with lots of followers, an established platform, etc. In other words, they had to already be successful as indie authors. That was discouraging.
Then, on tax day (April 15th), my critique partner forwarded me a screen shot of a Tweet by an agent…the agent was accepting new requests for representation, but these were her requirements:
- 5 comparative titles from the past 5 years
- A marketing plan
- A description of your WIP
- 5 alternate titles for your current WIP
It was the marketing plan that did me in. I’m a writer, not a marketer! Was I mistaken (or delusional) in thinking that the agent was maybe supposed to help me with some of that? If I have to do a marketing plan, then what the heck am I hiring her for?
While the gentle wave of events over the past couple years had me leaning more and more towards indie publication, it was the tsunami in the form of the agent’s tweet that did me in. Forget traditional publication. If I have to do the work marketing my book, I sure as heck wasn’t going to give someone 15%, particularly when royalty rates for trad are already so low. And I didn’t want to wait around for an editor to pick me up, either. I may end up waiting forever.
And so that day, April 15th, a switch flipped inside me. I became an official, soon-to-be indie author.
Because I’m a creature that requires some sort of dangly carrot before me in order to get my butt in gear, one of the first things I did was form an LLC (with me as a 99% owner and my sister as a 1% owner…my husband was a little pissed, but he’s over it now, LOL). There are certain tax disadvantages to that at present (mostly because I have to file separate business taxes rather than simply filing with my personal return), but I had already been writing off expenses for several years, plus if I ever get to the point of making money hand over fist (channeling positive financial energy here), it will be much easier for me to convert my LLC to an S-corp from a tax perspective.
There is something both enterprising and terrifying about owning a business. I’ve created this legal entity – not just a backyard, home-grown thing to making deducting expenses fly lower under the IRS’s radar, but a state-registered LLC with a separate tax ID and taxes to pay (when I make money) – and I can’t just let the writing thing go if/when I’m having a bad day or think “this is never going to work.” I have to make it work, which is why I set it up the way I did.
In GMC terms, if publication is my goal, then my LLC is the motivation. The dangly carrot.
Deciding to self-publish has definitely pushed me forward fast. In the span of a month, I’ve created a new brand for myself, redesigned my website (adding newsletter sign-up and prepping it for sales of my future books by moving it over to a self-hosted server…however it’s not ready to go live yet), hired an editor and a cover designer, come up with the book names for my series, and created a tentative business plan, complete with a very aggressive publication schedule. Oh, and worked on the book, of course. Not necessarily in that order.
As for my goal wall, it needs to change. Take out the traditional publication part and add in some specific indie-related goals, like getting one sale on every platform, or creating my first audio book, or putting out two+ books a year, or reaching a particular sales volume. If you have suggestions, I’ll take them in the comments below.
My mother recently asked me if I was disappointed that I wasn’t going to be traditionally published, and my answer was an unequivocal “No!” My primary reason? It doesn’t have much to do with profits or royalties. It’s about control. It is being able to tell people who ask “are you published yet?” – I think most unpublished writers hate that question – that no, I’m not yet, but my first book will be out in early 2019. Because it’s all in my hands now, for good or bad.
However, I’m channeling the good.