WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!
THE POST IS NOT MEANT TO DISRESPECT ANY FORM OF PUBLISHING WHATSOEVER.
Just so there isn’t any confusion about what I’m about to say.
So I was invited to participate in the Indie Fall Fest by Krista and Kristen. My very cool press BookFish Books hooked me up with them and I was excited to have a chance to share my latest novel, This Is Sarah, with the world. Both Krista and Kristen have been unbelievable – juggling a million different writers and blog posts, handling interviews and giveaways. Honestly there are 141 books being given away. This thing is huge.
So part of the procedure involved me filling out a questionaire and the first question on there said:
Which was the first Indie book that you can recall reading?
And I stopped right there because I wasn’t sure how to answer that question. And the reason was because the word “Indie” means different things to different people.
To some indie means what it has meant since bands started their own record labels in their garage in 1983. It means “Independent.”
But these days, in publishing indie can mean small press OR it can mean self-published.
Now, at this point I emailed for clarification. Because I wanted to double check and see. Did they think that I self-published This Is Sarah? Was that why I was invited? NOT THAT THERE IS ANYTHING WRONG WITH SELF PUBLISHING but my press and my editors at BookFish worked really hard on this and the last thing I wanted was for people to think it was all ME. Cause honestly, this cover?
Not me. So very much not me. I couldn’t even begin to figure out how to make something like that nor would I even know how to go about finding someone like the talented Anita who made the cover.
Mine would have a stick figure. And not even a good one.
And the scene in the book where Colin gets into that fist fight with Michael. This one:
I hang up just as Michael grabs me and pulls me out of the closet. The phone falls out of my hand, clattering to the floor. I don’t have time to balance myself, let alone get him off me, before he throws me against the wall of lockers.
Just for the record, you see this sort of shit in movies all the time―people getting thrown into walls and doors, and they just bounce right back like the whole place is padded or something. Well, the lockers sure as shit aren’t padded, and as one of the locks grinds into my lower spine, I can promise you, it hurts way more than you imagine. White hot pain shoots up to my shoulders.
“What the fuck did you say to her?” Michael growls.
For a moment, everything goes blank, and I curl my hand into a fist. Michael lets me go, and I turn to walk away. But he’s not done, and now, he grabs me again by the shirt and throws me back against the locker.
More pain and then something just snaps in my head. I picture them together. I see Michael kissing Sarah, taking off her clothes. I see him whispering in her ear. In my head, everything goes white, and I swing.
My fist connects with his jaw, and his head snaps back. I swing again, even though my hand is on fire with pain, and I worry that I broke at least a few bones.
I might have written those words, but the scene itself was suggested by Mary and both Jen and Erin cleaned it up so it didn’t sound like crap.
This is what I’m getting at with Small Presses. They take care of you. The pick you up, dust you off, make sure you don’t sound dumb and push you out the door like a kid on her way to 2nd grade. They walk you to the bus stop, wave as you go and when you get home they’re right there waiting with cookies to hear all about your day.
And they bust their butt promoting your stuff online.
Back in 2013, I wrote a post for Pen and Muse about how my first novel was rejected by every major press in America. It was both utterly liberating and utterly humiliating to talk about. No one wants to talk about failure right?
Except maybe it isn’t failure.
I understand that my first book – a story about a girl who discovered she was the last living descendant of Shakespeare and gets swept away to a magical version of New York – might not be a marketing department’s cup of tea. They all let me down real easy – “thanks kid, you can write but this just isn’t for us.” kind of thing. So instead it went to a small press.
And when I wrote This Is Sarah – it was just a novella – not the sort of thing a major press would be interested in especially from a nobody like me. But there again was another small press ready to talk.
Marketing a book these days is not easy. It’s an incredible amount of work – work done by both the press and by the artist. There are blog posts and facebook posts and tumblr and tweets that need to be going all day. And they can’t ALL be about your writing because then you’re one of those really annoying people on twitter that only talk about their work or their book, this unending noise of “BUY ME BUY ME BUY ME!”
Instead it has to be this suave version of “hey i’m really funny and interesting and that’s just me being me and oh, what’s that? Oh yeah, I wrote a book. No biggie. Here it is. Shrug.”
Not so easy, especially for us (*ahem*) less than outgoing types. I was so thankful for all the extra promotion that Bookfish got me – setting up the cover release tour and book reviews and tweeting and facebooking their little hearts out when this book came out. I couldn’t have done all of that by myself. Which means those self-published people who have no press support got it even harder.
I was talking to a blogger named Rosie who read a copy of Sarah and we got talking about presses and different kinds of publishing choices and she said the following which I thought was incredibly insightful:
It’s authors like you that make me want to urge people to look past the books being pushed by big publishers occasionally and not be afraid to books published by smaller publishing companies or self-published authors…..
Before I had a Kindle I’d never even thought that their might be small pressers or authors funding their own books, which was very naive of me but on the other hand I’d only had access to what bookshops are pushing which is always big publishers.
When I heard that people self-published on Amazon, it was like discovering a whole new world and I started looking for smaller authors and I’ve discovered some amazing books. There does seem to be a bit of stigma around self-published books or small publishers, like they aren’t good enough because Harper or Penguin didn’t want them but I’ve read some bad books published by big publishers and some amazing books that are self-published or small press. The size of a publisher isn’t a reflection on quality.
I think what I like best is that authors like you are writing because you love writing, not because your publisher wants to make more money out of you. I’m fed up of reading trilogies that don’t need to be trilogies. “
This was very encouraging. This idea – that online book sellers give you access to more than what is in the store – is especially telling. I know that Amazon is a behemoth and there is the Hachette dispute but the fact is, that is where many many people get their books from. My press told me that 90% of their sales come from Amazon. So that begs the question how many readers am I missing by not being in brick and mortar bookstores?
I’m not really sure. I just know that ebooks have opened up a lot of doors for writers to get their work in the hands of readers – with or without a press. Plus the work that Katie and Kristen are doing to get people familiar with small press books makes me think we have a stronger voice after all.
Maybe we just need to all shout at once.
Anyway…many thanks to everyone who read, reviewed, promoted, supported or gave me a shout out when I was writing or promoting This Is Sarah.
I do write because I love it. It’s the best thing that I do. I just want to keep doing it.
Peace Love and Starbursts,