When writers have to make tough decisions
Writers make difficult decisions, every day of the week. Should I kill this character; should I let these two characters fall in love? Should this book be a stand-alone or the beginning of a series? Should I set this story in Kansas or Canada or Connecticut? While most of our choices revolve around a current work-in-progress, there are other decisions that need to be made, as well.
Things like, ‘Am I writing for the right market’ or ‘Should I quit my day job’ come up frequently. As well as the familiar, ‘Do I really have what it takes to be a writer.’
However, the most difficult decision I had to make recently wasn’t any of these. It was the decision to self publish one of my novels.
See, I wrote my first young adult novel about a year and a half ago. It completely surprised me. I already had two adult books published (Afterlife and Feast, both by HarperVoyager) and I never planned to write YA. But then this character and this story came out of nowhere and I HAD to write it. The character had a such haunting voice and compelling story, that she wouldn’t let me rest until I did.
Writing that book changed everything, though. I ended up switching agents, since my then-current agent didn’t personally represent YA, and then after much editing of that book and shopping it, my next-agent and I parted ways after a year. A year and a half after writing this book, I was suddenly alone, with this gorgeous manuscript taking up room on my hard drive. At the same time, other books similar to mine were now being published; they were cropping up on Amazon and on bookstore shelves, people were talking about them on Twitter and blogs—books that were purchased back when mine was being shopped. I finally realized that if my YA book was ever going to reach an audience, it needed to be now, when public interest for this type of fiction was strong.
You’d think that the decision to indie publish would have been a no-brainer, what with all the current praise and acceptance of self-publishing and e-books.
It wasn’t. I’m probably like every other author in the universe, in that aspect. I over-think everything.
I worried, What if this is end of my career, instead of being my YA debut? What if no agent ever wants me now? What if no editor will ever publish another one of my books?
I had plenty of things to think about, things that kept me awake at night and kept me distracted during the day.
But ultimately, it was the voice of the main character that convinced me—Kira Callahan, the sixteen-year-old protagonist in FATHOM. Her story was too beautiful, too timely, too important for me to keep it locked away inside my hard drive. This book would either successfully launch my YA career or quietly sit in the shadows unnoticed, but it could not be set aside any longer.
I used to be a graphic designer and illustrator before I became a writer and editor, so I designed my own cover and formatted the interior pages of the manuscript. I contacted blog owners and requested reviews, offered guest posts and interviews and giveaways. I knew that if I did all the promotion and marketing on my own it would take a lot longer for the book to gain public attention. But I also soon discovered that there were readers out there who loved this story as much as I did. I’ve already received some excellent advance reviews. Plus, back when this book was being shopped to the traditional publishing houses, there were a few editors who liked it. One in particular wanted to buy it, but eventually couldn’t because their publishing house already had something too similar.
The indie road may not be an easy one, but for authors like me who have books they really believe in, it’s a welcome road. It may have been a tough decision to start on this path, but I’m not going to look back. I’m looking ahead at the mountain I’m climbing, one step at a time.
And I’m excited for the journey.