I’ve been struggling with the one question that baffles every romance author: what should I do next? Over the past few years, the publishing industry has changed (and continues to change) drastically. Landing a contract with one of the “big” publishing houses in New York used to be every author’s goal, but the advent of self-publishing changed everything. Suddenly, an author doesn’t need a publishing house to sell her work. So why bother with an agent, an editor, or a publishing house?
Problem is, self-publishing requires a lot of time that I’d rather spend writing. With that in mind, I decided to pursue a contract with a big publishing house. I had a fantastic experience working with a smaller publishing house; perhaps teaming up with a larger publisher who had a larger audience might be the best way to “grow” my career.
I wrote a trilogy of books. I submitted them to a number of editors and agents. And then I waited. And waited. And waited. After months of waiting, I sent a follow-up email. Sometimes, I received a rejection. Other times, I never heard an answer…even from a well-known romance publishing house that recently hired lots of new editors to shorten their query response time. I became tired of waiting and ended up withdrawing my story submission.) Finally, an editor told me she was interested in my work, but her publishing house wouldn’t be able to publish my stories until 2 years from now. Not good. I’d already waited 6 months for her response. I couldn’t wait another 2 years before my next book came out.
A while later, another editor from a different publishing house expressed great interest in my trilogy. The house was preparing to open a new “line,” and my stories would be a great fit. She emailed me and asked if I would be willing to remove the secondary plot in the novel (which would significantly cut the length of the story). I agreed to remove that portion of the plot, because I wanted to work with this publishing house. The editor was delighted, and promised to get back to me in two weeks.
Finally, I’d found an editor with a powerful publishing house! I celebrated by doing some yard work.
I told my writing buddies that things were looking good. I’d be with an awesome publishing house, writing awesome stories, working with an awesome editor who was excited about my work.
Two weeks passed. No word from the editor. Heck, I knew she was busy, so I didn’t push. Five weeks later, I was beginning to wonder what was going on. I emailed her just to confirm that she was still interested in my work, and received a surprising response. She’d decided not to buy my story, but gee whiz, she’d love to see something else I’d written, particularly if it was written in first-person.
Well gee whiz, how long was she going to let me sit around a wait before she mustered the courage to tell me she’d changed her mind? And gee whiz, I don’t write in first-person. And gee whiz, did she really think I’d submit another story to her after she “ghosted” me for weeks?
Shortly after this debacle, I made another startling discovery:
Clearly, I had to rethink my life. After getting burned by editors who didn’t seem to care about leaving me in the dark, self-publishing became more palatable to me. I’d be able to publish when I wanted to publish. I’d have control over cover art and pricing. Theoretically, I’d earn more. (When publishers sell your book, they take 75% of net sales, leaving the author a piddly 25% earnings, depending on your contract). However, there’s one problem with going into business for yourself: risk.
Becoming a self-published author is a risky endeavor. You need to set up a decent business plan. You have to spend time running your business, rather than writing. You must hire cover artists, find editors, figure out how to format ebooks, determine whether you’ll offer paperback copies, and make a hundred decisions that may or may not be huge mistakes. And then you need to devote a lot of time and resources to marketing your book, but authors have been doing (and funding) their own marketing for years. Why not take on the other aspects of publishing in order to have full control over my work?
So that’s what I’m going to do. After waiting over a year to find a publisher for my work, I’m going to become my own publisher. I’ll be releasing my next book, and having a series of profound panic attacks, this autumn.
In the meantime, thanks for understanding why I haven’t written a blog post in a while. I’m looking forward to catching up with you over the summer.