It’s been almost a week since my release of Unintended Guardian, and I’ve been getting lots of questions about how I made my decisions for what to do with my books. There are several blog posts worth of brain dump I can provide on that topic, but let’s start at the beginning:
How did I decide on my publishing path?
For that, we have to go back several years to when I first started on my writing career path. Back before the Kindle and Amazon made self-publishing a standard option. Back when traditional publishing was the only way to go. *smile*
In the Beginning… (No, Not That Far Back)
When I first started writing, my stories were more urban fantasy with romantic elements than my current paranormal romance series. Back then I was also doing the plotting thing because that’s what I thought “real” writers did. Although I love that series, the stories lack voice and need to be rewritten.
In the middle of editing the first book of that urban fantasy series for the 100th time (I’m probably not kidding—that story was my learning curve), I got the idea for a dragon shapeshifter character in a paranormal romance story. Yep, that was Elaina Drake, heroine of Treasured Claim, which is available for pre-order and will be my debut novel this spring.
I didn’t have a clue what was going to happen in that story, and I experienced the joy of writing by the seat of my pants for the first time. *smile* The strength of Elaina’s voice and personality burned away my ideas of how I thought I was “supposed” to write and taught me what my writing voice sounded like.
Back then, paranormal romance was trendy and selling oodles of books. I didn’t (and still don’t) care about trends. I wrote that story simply because it demanded to be written, but my writing skills weren’t yet up to snuff to sell.
Fast-forward several years of learning everything I could about writing, entering over a dozen writing contests to watch my writing skills progress, and querying agents in between.
By the time my writing had reached a contest-winning level, paranormal romance was no longer trendy. In fact, it was being called over-saturated and dead.
The Black Moment of My Writing Career
I started getting comments with my contest wins like, “I love this story, but I know I couldn’t sell it.” Ouch.
I did get contract offers, but they were from publishers with a smaller platform than I had, so the value they could add was limited. The contracts also demanded every right in the universe, plus some (movies! translations!), even though they had neither the plans nor abilities to exploit those rights. Um, thanks, but no thanks.
One agent did want to represent me, but despite her good reputation, I was not impressed by her business ethics. At all.
(She submitted my story to publishing house editors before an official offer of representation had been made or accepted, and she never asked for or received my permission to speak to these editors in an unofficial role either. For all this agent knew, I had just signed with a different agent or had already been rejected by these editors. I don’t know what she thought she would have done if one of the editors wanted to make an offer—corner me into using her as my agent? Not cool.)
Some people might have accepted whatever they could get, and I don’t judge them. We each have to make the right choices for our situation. But I was too stubborn to accept a situation I wasn’t happy about just because of desperation. Yet the whispers of the “death” of paranormal romance became louder, regardless of the fact that readers were still buying them.
My Plan B If Traditional Publishing Didn’t Work
Long ago, a friend of mine told me that I should self-publish because he’d noticed that I’m kind of a control freak, er…perfectionist. *smile* For years, I kept the option of self-publishing in the back of my mind.
My family wanted me to self-publish because they believe in me. They wanted me to get my work out there and not wait indefinitely for an opportunity to prove those death rumors wrong—an opportunity that might never come.
So I made myself (and my family) a deal. I’d pursue the traditional publishing path—querying and pitching—until I had three books completed in my Mythos Legacy series. If I still hadn’t succeeded with a traditional publishing deal by that time, I’d go the self-publishing route.
Why three books? Because three books for a slow writer meant I could build a backlist fairly quickly.
I finished the third Mythos Legacy novel and the Unintended Guardian short story about a year ago. Since then, I’ve been studying and planning, writing business plans, and searching for editors. My genre was still being called “dead,” and it was time to pull the trigger.
My Chosen Path for Publishing
Many self-published authors create “imprints” for their books. Some want to create an impression of professionalism, some don’t want to look like self-published authors, some do it for tax reasons, and some create a company that could publish other authors in the future. I took the latter route.
Blue Phoenix Press is a publishing company I started along with family partners. The goal was to create a company that’s committed to professionalism: a minimum of three rounds of professional edits (even for my short story), professional covers, etc.
This route gave structure to my perfectionism. (In other words, it’s about being professional, not just looking professional.) But it remains to be seen how much we grow the business beyond just my books. I guess we’re keeping our options open. *smile*
So for me, the “dead genre” label drove me to find another way. I tell you all this not to claim that my way is the best way or to recommend (or even suggest) that everyone should make similar choices. My decisions were right for my situation, my family, and my personality.
That said, I’ve been very happy with my choice so far. I believe that I’d still be waiting for a call that might never come if I stuck with the traditional publishing path. Or I might have felt pressure to abandon this series and write in a different genre.
Instead, I now have one book out and three more on the way this year. The support from all of my friends and readers here and on social media has been astounding, and I can’t thank you enough. I’ve been getting misty-eyed on a regular basis at the thought of how many people have bought my books and/or shared my news. Even my cover model, Sean Smith, came out to support me. How cool is that? *grin*
Unintended Guardian is now free at all retailers (except the non-U.S. Amazon stores—I’m still working on those). (I’ll be sharing my reasoning for going free with this short story in a future post.) And over the weekend, it climbed the bestseller rank in several categories (and is still there!).
And super-huge thanks to those who have left reviews. We all know how important reviews are for all books, especially new ones, so every review (even a negative one) is greatly appreciated! *hugs for all of you*
P.S. On an unrelated note, if you missed my Twitter #RWChat about Story Structure this past weekend, Angela Mayfair created a Storify of the main tweets from the chat.
So do you have any questions for me? Have you been told your genre is dead? Have you struggled with how to proceed with your “dead” stories? What direction are you leaning toward and why? What would you have done differently (and why)?Pin It