When I learned that Jessica and Charity were both taking the leap into indie in early 2014, I was very curious to hear their take on starting an indie career today... and whether it was different from my reasons two years ago, when the weeds were a bit thicker, the path less trodden, but the information-sharing-culture of indie publishing already prominent.
What I found was they each had their own unique reasons, and yet, they were the same as mine. To me, this speaks to the power of this option for writers, one that's only continuing to grow.
Check out their stories... and their books!
by Jessica Keller and Charity Tinnin
Charity: No two stories are the same. This is true in fiction and in publishing. Some critics of indie publishing promote the idea that writers who choose to self-publish do so because they don’t want to pay their dues. They want to type “The End” and immediately put it up for sale. While these people do exist, I don’t know any of them personally.
Self-publishing has come into its own in the last two years, and this validation shift has birthed a wealth of knowledge and resources. New Indies, like Jessica and I, benefit from the transparency of those who have gone before us, and this more than anything allows us to make the choice that is right for each one of us. Individually.
Some people choose self-publishing to list their backlist or retain creative control while others do so in order to step outside of a brand or publish a book that doesn’t fit in a neat category/market. And yes, some make the choice for financial reasons.
While most of these played a part in my choice to indie publish my YA dystopian series, the tipping point for me was my chronic illness. Throughout my time querying agents then working with my own, one concern kept cropping up. Would I be able to meet a publisher’s demands and deadlines with my chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)? I wasn’t sure. Then my CFS worsened, and it became clear—to keep my writing at all, I needed it to bring in a little money. Not much mind you, but enough that I could cut back my day job by five-ten hours a week. That would balance my responsibilities with my energy reserves.
This week marks the launch for Haunted, the first in my State v. Seforé series, and already I know I made the right choice. I control how quickly (or slowly) to publish new projects. I set the deadlines. I decide on what kind of marketing I can commit to. These things alone confirm my decision.
Which is just that, my own decision. Jessica’s reason is different; however, it too is unique. But I’ll let her speak for herself.
Jessica: What’s led me down the indie road? Like many, I don’t like being labeled.
In high school I didn't fall into one of the cliques—I played sports, ran the literary journal, helped with props during the play, ditched mandatory homecoming float building time, rocked AP classes, and TPed homes on the weekends. I never fit with one defined group, and I've always been okay with that.
So I should’ve known this would be the story of my writing career. I was very green when I attended my first writer's conference. In one of the very first sessions the speaker discussed the importance of writing to a specific brand. She said (and I can quote because I wrote it in my journal), "If your first book is a thriller, you had better be ready to write ten more thrillers. If your first book is a cozy mystery set in Nebraska, you better have ideas for a bunch more mysteries happening in the town you made up."
That’s about the time I started questioning if the writing industry was for me. Because—being me—I didn't have just one type of book that I wanted to write and I hated the idea of being stuck in one sub-genre for the next ten years.
But over the next year, I was told by everyone I encountered—and I mean everyone—that I wasn't allowed to write what I wanted. Whatever sold first would determine what I'd write for the rest of my career. Unless I became a NY Times best seller, then I might be allowed to break out and write something else.
In the midst of this, I made my first sale. A sweet contemporary western romance that was a project I'd attempted to see if I could write a formula romance. I signed on the line ... then started freaking out. I am NOT a western writer. I didn't want to be known as the girl who writes about cowboys. That couldn't be my brand.
I found myself stuck: my mind was bursting with ideas for speculative fiction, YA fantasy, and romances that didn’t “follow the rules,” But everyone I approached with my ideas told me I couldn’t write them because they weren’t a part of my brand.
After three years of shoving those stories to the side, they revolted and clamored for attention. The characters were keeping me up at night and walking through my mind throughout the day. So I decided to write them even if it meant they would never find a publishing home.
The idea of going indie hadn’t really crossed my mind. Then I started bumping into indie authors and talking with them. I found three things to be true about all of them:
- They were happy in their writing.
- They were free to write what they wanted.
- They were open and willing to share about their experiences.
Because of the trailblazers, Saving Yesterday, the first in my YA time travel/romance series, released last month! And yes, I’m still celebrating. *Hands kazoos and party hats to everyone.*
Now since we’ve shared ours, we’d like to know. What’s your unique narrative?
Jessica Keller: A Starbucks addict, avid reader, and chocolate aficionado, Jessica Keller is multi-published in both Young Adult Fiction and Romance. When she’s not dancing in her car at a stoplight, you can find her at www.JessicaKellerBooks.com or on Twitter.
Charity Tinnin’s fascination with dystopian lit began with Brave New World, so it’s no surprise that her debut novel, Haunted, would be a YA dystopian. In addition to authoring the State v. Seforé series, she’s a freelance editor and semi-professional fangirl. Join her on Twitter or her website.