Saturday, 12 June 2010

An Exciting Time to be Indie!

LK Hunsaker “More and more, you will see books and publishing ventures aimed at very specific niches.”

Richard Curtis, literary agent, quoted by James McGrath Morris in The Huffington Post

I was indie when indie wasn’t cool,
as the song says (well, it says something like that).

Back in 2003 when I finished writing my first novel to be complete, Finishing Touches, I was already beginning to research the publishing industry to figure out what to do with the book once the writing was done. I’d learned about Writer’s Market and several of the big online Market spots and had used both while hunting a publisher for my children’s story. Wow, that first rejection does sting. I suppose they all do, but the first one shoves deeply into a new writer’s soul like no other, as it brings a bucket full of reality with it. I learned a lot trying the traditional path with that book although it was really just a little side project for my kids. Research led to more research, to the way novels are published, the way the industry works.

Scary thing, the book industry.

I wasn’t scared, however, as much as disheartened. Publishers want a certain genre, and particularly whatever genre is best selling at the moment. My book didn’t fit any publisher or agent I found. It’s a mutt: a half breed, if you will. Just as too often the mutts are left in shelters while the purebreds are taken home, I didn’t see much chance to get my own mutt out there.

That is, until I found companies offering to take your mutts, uh books, under their shelters and give them homes, for a small fee. So the research shifted. Sometimes the fees weren’t so small. Sometimes they didn’t have the kind of home I wanted for my book. Sometimes they were complete rip-offs. I read lots of forums to find authors talking of their experiences and read the fine print on each company’s site. When I found Infinity Publishing, a small independent company out of Pennsylvania, I knew my book would be comfortable there.

During this week of indie publishing posts, I’ve enjoyed all of the experiences by authors willing to do things differently. Back in 2003 when I decided to go that route, self-publishers were truly the mutts of the writing world. And not only the mutts, but the dirty unkempt disease-ridden mutts.

Still, I figured it was my only shot, other than switching to write a genre that “fit.” I’ve never been one to fit, though, or to give in.

My experience with Infinity was wonderful. They answer emails immediately. They pick up the phone in person. The books turn out beautifully and they help with formatting when you need it. Within a few weeks of sending my files to them, I had a box full of my first novel! How exciting is that??

Ah, then comes the marketing but that’s a story for a different post. I’m trying not to be too long-winded.

So, very long story short, my next two books went to Infinity, as well. But I never stopped researching, following publishing trends, especially indie publishing. It also wasn’t being called that yet – there was a debate as to whether authors using POD services were actually “self-published” and much yelling about it by experts of some sort, so when I started a group for those writers doing it on their own, I called it indie publishing, in the vein of indie musicians. I was often asked just what I meant by “indie author” and was glad to explain. My group grew quickly. It seems lots of mutt authors were looking for homes.

Within the 7 years since I began, the indie scene has begun to burst, and I can’t be happier to see it.

My research, though, took me to another path. My two newest books, Off The Moon & Protect The Heart, are published by Elucidate Publishing, my own company. It entails a heck of a lot more work and a huge learning curve, but it also makes my books less expensive and gives them much better distribution. (This post is too long already to go into the process, but I have an indie publishing section on my own blog and I’ll add that there soon.) EP is in process of expanding to include other independent authors whose themes match its orientation: a writer’s artist colony of sorts. We offer print books, with assistance if needed to set up ebooks at (see below for all of the raving about how wonderful Smashwords is! I fully agree, and it’s the best way for authors to dip their feet into indie publishing). Watch EP for the newest authors to join the team!

A warning for writers considering going independent: it’s not the easy way. Make sure to research your options first. Watch for companies who will cost you more than you can afford, not only monetarily. Talk with other indies (or read blogs such as this). EDIT! and get critiques. We serious indies are dismayed by all those who put out first drafts because it makes our mission harder. Be prepared to do all of the footwork yourself. It takes a lot of time. Can you afford it? Do you have the stamina and determination? It takes plenty.

It’s also an unbelievable feeling, once you’ve gone through all the work and hold that gorgeous book in your hand, to know YOU did it.

Good luck!

I’ll be around to answer questions if anyone has any. LK Hunsaker
~Literary Romance with an Artsy Twist~



StephB said...

I think it's great you've been able to go on your own. Continued success!


Lindsay Townsend said...

Loraine, you've been a trail-blazer! I wish you lots and lots of success and am delighted to see indie publishing thrive.

Thanks for sharing your experiences and looking forward to hearing more about your new company.

LK Hunsaker said...

Thank you Steph and Lindsay! I've enjoyed all of the posts over the last week. Great resource for info. :-)

Francesca Prescott said...

The literary world could do with some more LK style "mutts". Good luck with your company!

Savanna Kougar said...

Wow! Am I more than impressed. Go, LK, go!

When I can get a breath I'll look more into Smashwords. Right now, I've got the edits for Branded.

Certainly, it is an uphill battle when rough drafts or poorly edited books are put out. Still, I would think that is what excerpts are for, or even first chapters. A reader should be able to get an idea of how well the book is edited, or not.
I mean, heck, the excerpts I've read for 'some' released books have so many errors in them, at times, I just shake my head. And, no, these aren't writing style choices.

Hey, he stole my words!!!

“More and more, you will see books and publishing ventures aimed at very specific niches.”

Richard Curtis, literary agent, quoted by James McGrath Morris in The Huffington Post

Linda Banche said...

Good for you, Loraine. We need more people like you who are willing to take on the world. Maybe then we can get some of the books we like, rather than what's forced on us.

Celia Yeary said...

LORAINE--You know that I admire you immensely for your independent nature and work. I also appreciate your attention to details, such as a perfectly written and edited ms before you publish it and put it out into the world. I've seen too many self-published books that are loaded with grievous errors, and the author gets away with it. While Indie Publishing is admirable for the perfectionist,those that don't know the meaning of the word "edit" makes a black mark on all. However, if standards were put in place by some agency before an author could self-publish, the appeal of Indie work would be tarnished. So, right now, there's no solution. (When I have time, I'll tell you about one such author--you'll cringe.) Celia

Rebecca J Vickery said...

Hi Loraine,
So much great info here! Thanks so much for the helping hand you offered when I was making my decision on Indie-publishing. I hope I have now passed that on and added to the chain of Indie-Authors who believe in doing this the right way with edits and beautiful covers.
You are definitely an inspiration to all of us. Wishing you and Elucidate Publishing balmy breezes and calm seas all the way to the top.

Linda Acaster said...

Loraine: I'm full of admiration for all your effort. I crit typescripts as part of my "other work", and the time and creative energy it swallows is huge. How you manage to run a publishing company as well is beyond me. I look forward to your piece on marketing on your blog.

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Loraine,
Interesting blog.You have proven that with determination there are no publishing obstacles a writer cannot hurdle.
Best of luck with all your ventures.



LK Hunsaker said...

Cesca, aww, thank you!

Savanna, yes, I always emphasize to other indies to be sure to have plenty of samples of your work easily available! I even give free printed samples at book signings for those who seem interested but unsure, and then tell them where they can find the books later. I've had people turn around and come back after reading the sample to buy the book.

Linda, agreed. I love that we can have more variety, also. I think that will equate to more readers.

LK Hunsaker said...

Celia, I'd rather sift through the good, bad, and ugly than to have some kind of authority watching everything that goes out. That's against the whole idea of being indie. Agreed. Unfortunately, you get that a lot in small press now, also, since anyone under the sun can start a publishing company. I think these days there is no difference between small press and indie quality. Some are wonderful. Some need a lot more work. But ... I won't begin to claim my books are error free. I try to get close to that, but perfection is a very hard thing to master.

LK Hunsaker said...

Rebecca, you're so very welcome! Glad to see you rolling along so well and spreading the flame. :-)

Linda A, I have to say that if (when?) the business takes off better, I'd rather hire out some editing! Until then, yes, it's lots of time and energy. I'm taking the growth of EP slowly because of it. I can't give up too much writing time. I'm a writer first. Luckily, I have a few people willing to go over my final drafts just because they want to help. That makes a difference!

Margaret, thank you!