My Journey to Indie Authorship

7 Aug

Welcome to my blog. If you read through the posts I plan on adding as time goes on, you’ll find my thoughts on various things having to do with books, reading, and writing as well as a few other things thrown in when the inspiration strikes.

I suppose it makes sense for my first post to say a bit about how I’ve ended up here as an indie author working to promote my books and connect with like-minded readers and writers.

I started writing my first novel Take Back Tomorrow in 2005 after having had the idea rolling around in my head for a couple of years. It grew out of conversations I had with my Science Fiction students at Fullerton College. While I call it my first novel, it’s really the first novel I’ve written that I feel is worthy of being shared with others. Trust me, there were a lot of false starts and amateur efforts in the years before, but those are the kinds of things every writer needs to work through in order to build up those writing muscles.

When I realized the time was right, I jumped into the writing, setting a goal of 1000 words a day. I worked a bit more than that, and three months later I had a 100,000 word draft. Revision and editing followed, as well as getting feedback from trusted readers. Then came the hard part–trying to find an agent.

The process was tough, and because I had no publishing experience outside of academia, it was pretty  much impossible to find an agent who’d give me the time of day. In fact, it took so long that I got a second novel under way, revised and edited that one, and then found myself querying agents on both books.

Finally, I got lucky and found a young, energetic, and enthused agent who really believed in my work. She gave me valuable feedback and pushed for more revision, and when I was done Take Back Tomorrow went out to major and minor publishers. I can honestly say that it was a privilege to be rejected by Knopf and Random House and others. The book got some praise: one editor called it a “page turner” and another said I wrote “nimble prose,” but unfortunately every editor found some reason not to “fall in love” with the book. I can’t tell you how much that phrase drove me nuts.

In the end, I think part of the problem was the time in which we’re living–where publishing houses aren’t as willing to take a risk on an unknown as they once were–and part of the problem is that my books are hard to categorize.  Are they science fiction or mysteries? Can’t they be both? Add to this the fact that my books didn’t promise to pull in the same market share as Stephanie Meyer or J.K. Rowling, and I ended up right back where I’d started–with a book I knew was good but which I couldn’t find a publisher for.

After more time and more rejection, my agent and I parted amicably, partly because she realized that she couldn’t represent science fiction as well as she could other kinds of books. When we’d agreed to put Take Back Tomorrow on the shelf, she had suggested that I try some smaller publishing houses, but the kind of place that only publishes one or two books per year wasn’t likely to take my book on. So that idea didn’t go anywhere, but it did start me thinking about doing some work on my own to get my books published.

So I kept writing, kept trying, and thought a lot about the differences between writing and publishing. And finally, after talking to a friend who’d dusted off one of his old mysteries and released it as an e-book, I realized that my unpublished books weren’t doing anyone any good by existing as inert files in my computer. So I looked into CreateSpace, the self-publishing arm of Amazon.  And before long, I had a published novel in my hands.

Since then, I’ve had people tell me that they couldn’t put my book down, that they pulled out their Kindle at every opportunity (even in the drive-thru) just so they could keep reading, that they read every day on their lunch break and hate having to put the book away, that the book is very “cinematic” and should be made into a movie. That’s extremely gratifying, more than being told I have “nimble prose” by a harried editor.

This feedback from my readers has shown me that I’ve made the right choice and has pushed me forward to the point I’m at now–writing this post and looking forward to hearing what others think.

So thanks for stopping in, and thanks for reading. I’d love to hear what you think and to have you come back for more.

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