Monday, November 7, 2011

I'm baa-aack! Plus Conferencing and Why I went Indie

And I am back! It's good to be back. My kids stumbled in to say hello at 5 am and I've got a tennis match this morning, which I am going to lose at like nobody's business. Unless eating three pounds of chocolate cake in a four day period and not exercising for several weeks is actually good for me, then today's outcome is a foregone conclusion. If someone finds my competitive spirit, please return it.

The conference was very interesting. Every day my brain hurt. If you are a writer and are thinking about conferences, let me tell you, I've been to a fair amount in the last year and there are some stinkers out there. My opinion is that RWA and your local chapter is a great jumping off point for info and contacts. A big conference like RT or RWA National is good too, but if you want craft, it's better to go to an all day course from someone like Bell, Vogler, Dixon, Hague or Maass. The Hero's Journey and story arcs, all that stuff is fascinating and can not be covered in a two hour time period.

I've been asked why I independently published and if I tried to go traditional before Independently Publishing. And to a certain extent I did. I finished LID at the beginning of 2011 and went to a pitch conference. I was told by an agent who is very prominent in Paranormal/Urban Fantasy circles that vampires were dead-dead. And that the odds of me getting it published were very low (she said this without reading a single word I had written). I cried. She was really mean. And although writers are told to expect mean agents, it still sucks when it happens.

Then I sent out half a dozen query letters and got rejections back so quickly it made my head spin. Rejections are supposed to take awhile, like weeks, so how come I was getting a 12 hour turn around? Was my query that bad? No. I will say my query was good. It was a variation of the book blurb and had been seriously worked on. Yes, six queries is nothing. Maybe I should have continued but I really didn't want to.

The last rejection letter I received said 'I have no idea if your story is any good but we are not acquiring that genre right now.' My first thought was 'Oh.' My second thought was 'Oh, shit!'

I had finished a book for a genre that agents and editors were saying was dead. But I loved Valerie, Jack and Lucas. Truthfully, I loved Marion too. She cracked me up. And I didn't want to put it aside, start on another book and hope that the vampire 'trend' would come back around in ten years and some publisher might be willing to publish the book. Perhaps I could have gone small press or an e publisher but I didn't see the point.

I also toyed with making them not vampires. If you've read a dragon book you might ask yourself if it was originially a shifter/ vampire book that got changed.  It probably was. Cause who really wants to bone a dragon? No one. But it was different enough two years ago that it might have been published.

After more revising and revising I published LID in August and I think it's turned out pretty damned well. Additionally, the industry is in a state of change. Like DVD's and music, book sales and the way books are consumed is changing faster than the industry would like. Everywhere I go, when I meet someone who is an 'insider' I always ask, 'where do you think the industry will be in five years?' and the answer I get is that one of the big six probably won't make it but they might survive on non-fiction (which is super profitable), and that with the collapse of book stores and lack of shelf space, publisher's time and money will go to big authors.

Mid list and new authors are screwed.

I have also heard murmurings that the industry is waiting to see what will happen with Amanda Hocking. If she sells well and makes the jump to traditional with a lot of sales, then I believe (and others who actually know something seem to agree with me) that most new authors will be forced to build up a following independently and prove that they can promote themselves.

If they make enough sales and get enough followers then the big six might make some effort to scoop them up. In my opinion, that's better for everyone. Right now authors don't get a lot of money and their book can drop into obscurity and there is nothing they can do-- the rights are gone.

Also, the industry doesn't want to give a lot of money to an author who can't perform. So if an author is making a lot of money independently, a traditional publisher will have to make it worth their while to give up that profit, which makes them more invested in a book and less likely to give it a low print run and have it disappear. Everyone becomes invested.


  1. This is a very interesting post, Caroline! Thank you for sharing.

    One thing that I did want to point out is that agents wouldn't even take a chance on LID, and look at it now. Obviously, the genre is SOOOO not dead. The readers STILL want it. Your sales prove that! And I wouldn't be at all surprised if your book breaks into the top 100 AND can STAY there! Yeah, eat your hearts out agents!! :P

    I can't even begin to understand agent and publishing houses' theory on how the genre is dead. Um, can you say True Blood and The Vampire Diaries? People are still watching these shows. It's not going anywhere for a while. And the fact that readers on Amazon are comparing LID to Sookie & the Fever series tells me that these "gatekeepers" are really pushing themselves out of the industry. That's just my view on it.

    The nice thing about where the publishing industry is right now is that us authors can write what we want to write, and the readers can still get genres and stories that would otherwise not be available. :)

    Keep rocking the ebook world, Caroline!!

  2. I agree with Angeline, the genre is definately not dead. Hollywood is starting to pump out more and more sci-fi/fantasy movies and Karen Marie Moning is apparently getting a movie out of her fever series.

    I do agree with the industry take on where things will be in five years. I personally own many many more e books than print. I also prefer e books as I can use my blackberry to read them and am literally never without a book. HEAVEN!

    My MS did have vamps in it and I did end up editing them back out on the gut feeling that dragons are going to be "the next big thing" and I ran into the same problem... who wants to bump uglies with a dragon. So because I didn't want to write beastie books, I made my dragons shifters, lol. BUT... I WILL ALWAYS have a soft spot for vamps and if a book is well written, it will be read (with the proper exposure to the public).

    Caroline your writing is fantastic! I will definitely read whatever you write!

  3. Hello Caroline - I think the most promising aspect of independent publishing is that consumers will determine the trends rather than hypercritical agents or big-name publishers. I've read too mucy hyped-up promotional press for Big Six books that end up being no more than expensive dreck. There's a ton of money being dumped into poor writing by these literary corporations, while many talented still-developing writers are pushed to the margins. The beauty of indie is the prospect of producing a book from a story in which you believe and over which you've labored lovingly, bypassing a thousand levels of approval from agents and others who amount to salespeople and pitchmen, and delivering it to readers who will actually appreciate your work without having to be told that they should - and without you as the author being told you aren't worth it. If the true purpose is to make a living at being a writer rather than fame and fortune, there's no reason it can't happen for the independents of the world. Bravo to you and every other bootstrap author out there who keeps paving the way for DIY literature. The revolution is ours!

  4. Lol! That's true. When the revolution comes agents will be first against the wall. A friend of mine just came back from a conference where the agent listened to pitches and rolled her eyes, cut people off and generally treated them like dirt. And you know what? Two years ago we would have put up with it because we had to. But agents are becoming so irrelevant that the idea one would be rude to the people they depend upon for money is crazy. It's not hard to smile and nod. We create the work and yet have no control. It's an odd and backwards system and I can't wait to see where things are in three years. Thanks for your thoughts!