Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Getting Started: An Indie Frame of Mind

About 12 years ago, I went to my first writers' workshop hosted by a chapter of Romance Writers of America somewhere on the east coast of Florida. This was the first time I interacted with writers on any level other than online.  It was also the first time I came across people who had self-published their books.

I bought books from every writer who had a book for sale at the book signing.  An avid reader, I went home and started reading. Every single one of the self published books was quite terrible.  The editing was BAD.  The stories were BAD.  The plots made no sense.

From that moment on, my mind was made up about self published books.  My thought was, "If a publisher won't pick it up, it's probably not any good."

In my arrogance, I ignored all of the TERRIBLE books I'd read that had been published by major markets.  I ignored how angry I would get that "crap like that" got published when I KNEW I wrote better.

After that, all of my spare time was spent writing instead of reading.  For about ten years, I didn't read a piece of fiction. Right now, my reading list includes cookbooks, homemaking books, and Christian life style books, and I have a huge list of fiction I WANT to read and just simply no time to read.  So, while I have state of the art computers and a house that is so wired that my television talks to my hand held computer, I don't have an e-reader and haven't really delved into online reading.

Consequently, nothing ever really came across my path to change my impression about self published books until I joined the Kentucky Romance Writers. There I met a group of women who were amazing writers who had ventured out on their own and just published -- for different reasons and motivations. Some of them didn't have time to wait for a publishers. Some of them didn't have a publisher that fit their niche. Some were burnt out on traditional publishing and all of the bonds and chains that come with it. Whatever the case may be, they were independent published authors who were getting amazing reviews from their readers and were, by all intents and purposes, successfully published.

It really opened my eyes and it really encouraged me to step out there with them. I have a style of writing that will not fit into any preset "publisher" mode. It simply won't. It's too edgy for the Christian market and too Christian for the romance market. So, despite the prejudices of my youth, I ventured into the self publishing world. Doing so forced me into the world of marketing my book and REALLY introduced me to the world of self published authors and removed any blinders I had left.

It also really introduced me to how many people think, mistakenly, like I used to. 

Here is a for instance:

I sit on the board of an inspirational chapter of a major romance writing organization. I've been a member for four years and a board member for over two years. During a board meeting, it was discussed what to do about the definition of a "published" author because until this year, many organizations did not consider e-pubbed authors to "officially" be published. During the conversations, I cautioned the board about disregarding self-published authors because of the changes blooming in the publishing industry.

While there was a consensus from a very few members of the board that it is certainly something that will need to be addressed in the future, the discussion didn't continue. I don't think anyone really realizes just how much that NOW is what is forming the future.

When I published my book, Sapphire Ice, I was so excited.  I sent links and information to everyone I knew, including the email loop for this particular group. I didn't receive a single acknowledgement -- not a congratulations, not a good luck, not "great cover" -- not a single word. Recently though, a member got "the call", that one from a publisher that affirms "you're good enough". The support and encouragement and excitement flooded that particular email loop for over a week.

I think that instance, more than anything at all, really brought home to me just how much people STILL think like I used to think. I have been gifted by being surrounded by the extraordinary writers in the Kentucky Indies Writers group that publishes this blog. I have realized that despite preconceived ideas, I'd dare to say that MOST of the self published books out there, if they've been professionally edited, are probably quite good.

Organizations are going to have to change. Yes, we know that. Successful e-book and indie authors are leaving print authors in their prosperous wake.

But above and beyond organizations, the mindsets of the individuals who make up the general writing world need to change. I don't know what will make that happen other than time and exposure, or simply realizing that what we've always thought isn't what IS anymore. Times have changed, the industry is changing. Indie books are prominent in the molding and shaping of the future of publishing.

And, that isn't going to change.

Posted by Hallee Bridgeman


  1. Hear Hear! I agree with you, Hallee. I, too, had that same set of views until more recently. I didn't want to change with the times either, but I'm starting to see that what I thought I was "striving" for as a writer, doesn't have to be stunted by what I once believed. What I see happening in the publishing world- how it's growing and changing, whether everyone wants that change or not, it's happening and there's no going back. Whether we like changes or not, they're usually for a good reason because when we stay still, when we refuse to budge, life passes us by.

    It reminds me a lot of some of the things I've heard Bruce Lee say-

    “Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.”

    “Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless - like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”

    You have to be adaptable.

  2. Very well said Hallee. I'm sorry you didn't get the support you should have received from your other writing group. It shouldn't matter what you write or how you write, as long as you have an effect on a reader. And if you can't get your books out traditionally, what's wrong with putting them out yourself? I've heard many editors say, 'Oh I love it. Just have no place for it.' As long as you present a cohesive story, well-edited, well-covered, it shouldn't matter how you get it to the reader. The reader themselves just want content. If their favorite author wrote articles in magazines or greeting cards or fortune cookie sayings, those readers would buy those things, just to have more content by that person.
    It frustrates me to see traditional authors closing the door on any aspect of marketing themselves. Although I guess I shouldn't be too upset; leaves more room for us, right?
    Keep doing what you are doing, woman, and be proud of it.

  3. I totally agree Hailee. I feel very bad that your other writing groups haven't been so supportive of your efforts. But the time will come that that will hit them right between the eyes and you won't have to do a thing for that to happen. One of favorite sayings is What goes around, comes around. And it does. I'm predicting that the traditional publishers are going to start losing more and more of their writers. If they want to keep them they'll have to go to a different paradyme and give them an incentive to stay. More support, a larger cut of the profits and more and better marketing. Self published people are doing more work and it's showing.
    Teresa R.

  4. Great post, Hallee! I wasn't even sure I wanted to self-publish in January 2011. But I knew it was an option. And I was thinking about it. I had been a member of a writers' workshop for several years. They always went full out to support the authors, attend signings, etc. Except I noticed they didn't do that for self-published authors. They didn't even acknowledge them as published. I started in February of that year trying to get the topic on the monthly board agenda. In December, after all the excuses and not getting anywhere for 11 months, I finally left that organization. I didn't want to be part of something stuck in the 90's and that didn't treat each of their authors equally.

    Now I read almost exclusively indie authors. And I really enjoy the freshness -- not the same old things the powers that be know will sell. Like your book that doesn't fit into a neat little niche, we now have the opportunity to read those.

    It's a great time to be a writer and a reader!

  5. I've been an Indie Pubbed author for 10 years now and I've never been happier. I control my product and my only gatekeeper is the reader. And that's just how I want it. Great article!