Jilly: Taking the Long View

This week, Justine and Jeanne shared their reasons for deciding to opt for indie publishing instead of pursuing the traditional route. Next year I’ll be joining them on that journey, and I decided to use today’s post to explain why.

It’s interesting that none of us are doing it because we think we’ll make more money (though wouldn’t that be nice?). For Justine, it’s about having control of the process. For Jeanne, it’s about being master of her own fate. For me, it’s both of those things, but also—mainly—about the time and investment I think I’ll need to give myself the best chance of success.

I’ve never been much of a first impressions kind of person. In my business life, I rarely wowed interviewers or clients in the big meeting. I’m more of an acquired taste, though as I worked with people, I usually grew on them. Over time, I built up a network of trusted connections. In a thirty-year professional career I changed employer just three times, and all my opportunities came through personal recommendations.

The same pattern holds good in my personal life. I’m still married to the man I met aged 18, and I have a small group of close friends, accumulated over a long time. The 8 Ladies were classmates for a stressful, labor-intensive year. We knew each other pretty well by the time we started this blog.

Told you that to tell you this: I suspect my slow burn style is more suited to indie publishing than trad, and here’s why.

My stories are genre fiction, but they’re not mainstream, and it’s quite difficult to find comparative authors. My Alexis fantasy stories are a blend of the heroine’s journey, romance, world building and action that may turn out to be too character focused and low key for readers who enjoy sparkly magic, dragons and battles. My contemporary romances are set in London and Scotland, which apparently works better for historicals. They’re also big, bright, smart, business-y stories, not gentle village encounters over tea and shortbread. I believe my books will find their niche, but I suspect it may take them a while.

I’m also a slow writer. The more I learn, the more I expect of my scenes. I write sequentially, and if I get stuck I have to keep spinning my wheels until I get clear of the mire. I’m probably the only publisher in the world willing to give myself the time to write my books the way I want them written.

I’d like to be writing and publishing for at least a decade, ideally two or more, so I’m prepared to take the long view. I think the fact that my books are a little different gives them the possibility to develop what Courtney Milan calls a sticky readership. I hope a slower publishing cycle will not be a barrier to success so long as the stories are of good quality and the timing of their release is consistent. I’d love to be able to deliver two books a year (this is snail’s pace compared with many indies), but we’ll see.

I’d love to be financially successful, but it’s not likely in the short term. I expect to charge a relatively low price for my books, making it less of a risk for a new reader to give me a try. Even if things go well, I’ll likely sell a fraction of the volume a traditionally published author could expect, though I’ll keep a much higher percentage of the sales revenue. My goal will be to build up a body of work and use new launches to achieve read-through of my previous books.

To do this to a consistently high standard requires a substantial investment of time and money. As a total unknown, the only person with a strong incentive to take the long view, invest in as much editing as it takes to get the book in shape, to launch the book when it’s ready and not before, to change the title or cover design if the first effort doesn’t hit the spot, to refine keywords, test online ads, and keep improving my approach, is me.

I’m fortunate that I have the time (I hope!) and financial resources to support my approach. I have a lot to learn, but I’m hoping thirty years of general business experience will help. And most of all, while I doubt I’ll ever become an expert in the business of publishing, I reckon I stand a very good chance of becoming the world expert in the narrow field of publishing myself.

I hope I’m still around in a decade or so to give you a progress report 🙂

4 thoughts on “Jilly: Taking the Long View

  1. Here’s the journey, one day at a time. Let’s see where you stand each YEAR as you head to that decade mark!

    • Everything you said, sehbicycle 🙂

      With luck and a following wind, I’m hoping to have measurable progress to report by this time next year. And between here and there, every single day is an adventure and a privilege.

  2. Everything that you said applies to me, too. If I were to get a traditional contract, they’d want books faster than I can produce them, and that’s not a recipe that’s likely to make anyone happy.

  3. I find self-publishing to be very attractive for the same reasons you Ladies do — control, and “my pace” is the right pace. Plus, any mistakes I make are firmly mine, and I’m the one who does the scolding.

    But . . . I’m the world’s worst marketer. I was a Mary Kay Lady for three months, and managed to sell stuff to relatives who were already sold on Mary Kay — and a lipstick to one person outside my family. I hate asking, and I hate the possibility of rejection. And so I’d HATE having to find a home for my work, but at least I’d only have to query a limited pool of publishers. Having to ask millions of readers to give my work a try? That paralyzes me.

    Ah well, gotta have a product before you worry about marketing it, though, so I’m basically borrowing trouble. I believe self-publishers can get lucky and find people who will connect them with larger audiences — the Connectors, the Reviewers and the General Passers-On of Information will make sure a good product sees a good audience, and you guys have good product. It’ll work out!

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