From MFA, to agents, to indie publishing (and why I think it’s great)
Thanks, Michele, for inviting me to guest-post on your blog. The idea is to talk a little about writing so I thought I’d say a few words about “indie” publishing and how much I’ve been enjoying this experience I wasn’t particularly open to not long ago.
A few years back, I completed an MFA program (hey, Michele, didn’t I see you there?) and, within the same year, was offered agent representation for my first novel. The stuff of writer dreams and I felt sure I was on my way to securing a traditional publishing deal. A brilliant, hopeful, exciting time in my life while emails flew back and forth and revisions were made to the manuscript, preparing for the big day. Eventually, it was time to submit the novel to editors. I waited, fingers crossed. Then, radio silence. When I finally inquired, I learned that a few editors saw the manuscript (five or six). Some said nice things but they passed. I never heard from that agent again. Yep, really. So, I dusted myself off and decided to push on and keep writing. Before too long (a few years but, hey, we’re talking the writing world, after all), I was offered representation again, this time for a YA novel I’d been working on. A really nice agent, very well-known agency! So, the first round was a dud. No biggie, right? My moment had definitely arrived. A writer couldn’t possibly snag two agents for two novels and still have nothing happen. No way. Well, guess what. You got it. The process wasn’t quite as absurd as the first time around (in other words, the agent didn’t suddenly vanish into thin air) but the result was the same. A few editors saw my book and that was basically it. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am simplifying here to a degree. My second agent was a nice person who I enjoyed working with. However, when she suggested that I put the novel on the back burner for a while and move on, I decided otherwise (but we did part ways amicably). So, I was back to square one.
The fact is, I wasn’t sure I had the heart to start the process all over again. And, while I did start sending queries, in the meantime I kept hearing about writers gaining a readership through indie publishing. Yeah, I know it’s self-publishing but I like the “indie” designation since (at least, to me), the term signifies a writer who’s taking every step possible to professionally publish his or her work. So, I started looking at independently published writers in a totally new light. As a result, I read some fantastic (and, in some cases, very successful) books (for example, Annelie Wendeberg’s The Devil’s Grin and Hugh Howey’s Wool, the holy grail of indie publishing success). Soon, any remaining doubts about self-publishing were history. In fact, the more I looked at it, this looked like the new model. If not the definitive future of publishing, certainly a part of future publishing that wasn’t going to recede into the background again.
Fast-forward to the day I published my YA novel, Jump When Ready, on Amazon. No, it wasn’t the lifelong dream coming true. All the same, it was still a very exciting moment. People, actual readers out there in the world, were experiencing one of my novels! I had made that happen, without anyone’s permission, without waiting several more years. Amazon allows for free promotions, and on my first promo Jump When Ready hit the top 100 free list. Thousands of people downloaded the ebook version of the novel, which just amazed me. To keep this reasonably short, I’ll just add that I love setting my own deadlines, choosing my own cover art, the fact that I can add new reviews to my back cover or interior whenever I’d like, or change front or back matter as new ideas occur to me (for example, adding a link to a new mailing list or blog). And, when my next novel is ready (I’m working on another YA to follow the first one), I can send it out into the world too. I’m excited about that, although I’m editing just like I would if I was about to send it back to my agent for an editor to consider. So, it might be a few more months. Then, maybe I’ll publish that other novel I finished during the MFA program. Who knows, but the future remains wide open.
So, that’ how it went for me. From MFA to agents to indie publishing. To be honest, I was almost thinking of bailing, starting to wonder if my books might not, in fact, have what it takes. Evidently, not the case (knock wood), at least based on the reviews Jump When Ready has received so far from readers, bloggers and book reviewers (all of whom, I thank very much for their kind words).
In fact, here are a few of those review quotes below. How’s that for a segue? Thanks again, Michele! And to my fellow writers, whether published traditionally or independently, good luck!
"Whether you're 14 or 24, this is a fun read with endearing characters and a quick-moving plot. Jump When Ready is not a book to miss."
- Portland Book Review
"An engaging, poignant book that stayed with me long after I read the last word."
- Tracy E. Banghart, author of By Blood.
"I loved this book and am looking forward to seeing what the author will come up with next!"
- A Little Shelf of Heaven
"The combination of coming-of-age, philosophical and thriller story comes together to make a fascinating and engaging book."
- The Real Bookshelves of Room 918
"It impacted my thoughts in a serious way, and I will most likely spend the next few days going over it, and over it, in my head."
- Bound by Words
"There are few books out there that have characters that make you wish you had friends like them."
- Book Nerds
"This was a great story. I personally have never read anything like it."
- Reading is Better than Real Life
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