Why Publish “Independently?”

Why Publish “Independently?”

Some people use the term “self-published” for authors who have published works outside of traditional resources.

I don’t care for that word. Self-published. It sounds like you’ve done something nasty. “He’s been in the shower for thirty minutes, but I know he’s in there self-publishing again!”

I suppose it’s due to the way I view the publishing industry and its present dynamic. I’ve been writing now for most of my life, in one manner or another. Most of my scribblings during earlier years were short stories, various lines of poetry, and song lyrics. I didn’t begin to entertain thoughts of writing full novels until around 2005/2006.

After months of excavation, I dug up my first manuscript, Haunting Thelma Thimblewhistle, a four hundred and thirty-three-page monster of a novel that no young adult would ever take the time to read, though I didn’t realize that at the time. I knew very little of my target audience or market. Nevertheless, I began pitching for an agent with Thelma in 2008 . After a few months, I was surprised to land a contract with a small boutique agency out of Portland, Oregon. We launched into extensive rewrites and editing that changed much of what I had written. Through this process, I found that the novel had morphed into something with which I truly wasn’t satisfied. It wasn’t that the editor had transformed it into something else—it was that she didn’t have much to work with in the first place. I had written this bear of a disconnected epic with no real focus, like a rough, jagged boulder that was destined to be a small diamond one day. After a year of pitching to no avail, my agent announced she was closing shop and joining a larger agency in New York. It soon became obvious that she was considering me a lost cause, but was too nice to say it. Her reluctance to sign me to a contract under her new agency confirmed the suspicion, however. So, we parted ways.

During those months of pitching Thelma, I realized I had to develop a new method of writing, something that would allow me to create a good story, but with less of the endless side roads that tended to develop. I found I did best when I drafted a level outline that goes chapter by chapter. And I’m not talking about that good old I., II., III., A., B., C. outline either. I simply compose a short paragraph about the foundation of each chapter. Do new, uncharted chapters appear during the writing process? Absolutely. Do new characters spring to life? Of course. However, my direction remains the same regardless of the winding roads I take. At the end, I typically have a novel I feel is concise and riveting. In my mind, these characters play out as if they are on a bright, white movie screen, projected on the frontal lobe of my brain. Using this method, I discovered I not only could write, I could have a darn good time doing it! I used this process to write my next manuscript, Vickie Van Helsing, and Vickie and I had an absolute blast!

Knowing Thelma needed a complete rework, I decided to move forward with Vickie. Again, I spent months of pitching to agents to no avail. The screen went dark. I had absolutely no idea what to do next on my journey to publication. It’s my opinion that agents tend to fall into three categories:

  1. The BUSY Agent: This, unfortunately, had been my target agent, my golden goose. Look, publishing is a business just like any other, a company with cutbacks and erosion in workforce. I consider most of these agents superb at what they do. They just can’t get their heads above water. They have several “assistants,” who may be fledgling agents themselves, digging into the never-ending pile of queries that pour through the door. Sadly, I would estimate these agents miss approximately >45% of viable works that come into their inbox, because they simply do not have the time or resource to manage the flood. Most of these guys are SUPER-funny, witty, and probably all-around cool people. I wouldn’t hesitate to hang with any of them. They seem to genuinely care about the authors they represent, and that says more than anything else. It’s rare to find someone with whom you can connect and create that true professional relationship.
  2. The WHAT’S HOT Agent: These agents are much like the Busy agent, with one major difference. They go into their business quarter solely focused on riding the coattails of whatever is “hot” at that time. Glittery vampires, dystopian girls with bows, fifty shades of purple—whatever is cooking on the stove, they want the recipe. They have little time for something unique or outside of that current market focus. These guys read taglines, and if the story isn’t what’s selling, they simply hit delete. I would estimate these guys overlook a much greater ratio of viable works, maybe >65%. Not only are they busy, they are targeting the next big thing, which is never an easy task.
  3. The GODLY Agent: Last on the list, and for good reason. Luckily, I have never had direct engagement with these types of agents. These are agents who have possibly seen some great success with sales over the years. They have used their influence to build tall, golden podiums on which they sit, looking down upon the meager writers below with self-righteous pity and indignation. They hang around, haunting social networks, grammar-shaming those around them, poking fun at beginning authors, and making cruel jokes with little regard on how it may make someone feel—the bullies of the literary world. I used to follow countless agents on Twitter, and these guys were the absolute worst. I read my share of cruel, 140-character taunts on surviving on the “tears of writers.” What assholes. And who would want to work with that?

I realized that getting an agent was only the first step. I was having to fight tooth and nail to get someone to recognize me, so they could, in turn, get someone to recognize us. Seems a bit monotonous, right? So, in 2010 I began to research what would be involved with independent publishing. Also, I began to think about what I wanted out of my writing. For a good number of those who create—be it painting, music, writing, or any number of things—we wish to make a living at what we love to do, hoping someone will find our work valuable. I had this same dream; I do still, but there was a clear choice before me. I could either keep investing months, years even, into trying to secure another agent.

Or, I could just keep writing.

As stated, even if I landed an agent, it didn’t guarantee a six-figure book deal. How many years would I spend writing endlessly, searching for agent after agent, only to find my time wasted with nothing but pages and pages of old manuscripts scattered around my floor? Did I want to potentially share what I had written with the world, or waste countless hours in a quest for fame? At that moment, all I wanted to do was write. And so, that is exactly what I did…independently.

I published my book independently—independent of edits and cuts I did not desire, independent of limitation, independent of creative confines. I could write anything I wanted. It could be as long as I wished, or as short. I could use any font (within reason) and format every page just the way I liked. I love the process of writing a book—generating the story, envisioning the scenes, creating my own personal soundtrack of music that inspires events and plotlines, formatting the manuscript for print, constructing a wonderful book cover—these things bring me something far more valuable than money.

These things bring me joy.

Maybe one day me and my crew will be able to make Fiction Factory Incorporated a full-time career, and, if so, that will be beyond my wildest dreams. Yet, if that doesn’t come to pass, I have my characters, the worlds which I have created, and the happiness they have brought me. Maybe what we’ve created will bring you happiness, too. As an author, that means more to me than just about anything else. Oh, trust me, I spent many years wandering in a fog of desperation, hoping for the chance to be the next King, Kontz, or Rowling. And still, that could happen. But if it doesn’t, I have written three books to date. Most people don’t get around to writing even one.

This, my friend, is the question you need to ask yourself. What is your ultimate goal? What really brings you joy? Whatever your answer, remember that writing only for recognition and money isn’t writing. The day you decide to write for yourself will be the day that you will truly feel like an author. To me, that is independent publishing.

Best of luck to you…and to us!

See you in the funny papers…

 

If I Were A Werewolf

If I were a werewolf
I’d never clean my room
I’d spend my nights chasing my tail
And howling at the moon

I’d be the best a football
PE would be a cinch
And when the bullies jumped at me
I wouldn’t even flinch

I wouldn’t have a curfew
For night would be the time
I’d be superhero
Putting end to all the crime

No villain would be safe from me
No thief would have the nerve
I’d make sure every criminal
Got just what they deserved

I’d ban all of the bullets
Silver ones, to be exact
And all the kids around
Would take the time to scratch my back
I’d love to catch a Frisbee
I’d love to bury bones
The big dog house in my backyard
Is where I’d make my home

Yes, if I were a werewolf
I’d do just as I pleased
I just don’t know how I would get
Relief from all the fleas!

SLYONE

        I dropped my sister off at her apartment last evening as I usually do each Saturday. However, on this night something rather…well, unusual occurred on my way home. With the lateness of the evening, I typically take the back roads to and from her apartment avoiding the highways. The path takes me through a large industrial park that exits into the main road leading to my subdivision. I drove along the curving roads in the darkness with only the whisper of my thoughts to keep me company. I left the radio silent. I don’t know why.

Once inside the park I had only a couple of minutes left before I would be home. The path through the park leads through a maze of curves and which-ways and as I entered them, another car sped through the yellow light behind me. They rode my bumper hoping I would drive faster.

       Of course, I didn’t.

       As a matter of fact, I decreased my speed.

       I could hear their radio blaring an old rock tune I couldn’t name, though it was familiar. The driver anxiously flashed their headlights and honked. Then, they whipped around me and flew by in the opposing lane of traffic. I gave them a polite hand gesture. That’s when I saw her.

       The brief glow of my headlights caught the image of a young woman in the back of the car, bound and gagged. All I could see was that she was blonde and tied by the wrists. I saw her for only a moment, yet our eyes locked instantly. It was as if her face was screaming, Help me!

       I immediately focused on the license plate–SLYONE, it read. I began to increase my speed as my mind was racing with scenarios. I picked up my cell phone and dialed 9-1-1, hit the speakerphone button, and tossed it into the passenger’s seat. I sped up hoping to keep pace with the car. The call went to hold for an operator, of course, because thats what happens in horror movies. The driver realized that I was following him and sped faster and faster around the winding roads, so fast it was difficult for my 4-cylinder SUV to keep pace. I was losing him and was certain that should I fail to match his pace, the police would never make it in time to save woman.

       “9-1-1 Emergency. What is the nature of your call,” said the voice over the roaring of my engine.

       “Hello?!” I shouted.

       “9-1-1 Emergency. How can I…”

       “There’s a woman in trouble,” I yelled. “Someone has her trapped in the back of their car. She’s, like, tied up. I need to get to the police. The license plate is S-L-Y-O-N-E. I’m on…”

       I slammed the brakes screeching to a halt when I saw that the driver had stopped in the middle of the road blocking both lanes of traffic. The car door stood opened with the radio pounding out classic rock. He stood there with his head down, hands crossed in front of him, patiently waiting for me.

       “Hello? Sir? Where are you?…”

       “Come…come quick,” was all I could whisper.

       There was something unnatural about him. I slowly reached over and flipped my high beams on to widen my line of view and once I did his head snapped upright. His eyes opened. They were blood red and empty of conscience. His skin was pale and peeling, as if he were an onion that had been left in the sun too long. I could see the woman looking up at me through the back window of the car, face wet with tears, blood dripping from her brow.

       He uncrossed his hands and began walking toward my car. I had nothing  no weapons of any kind. He walked around to my window and peered at me forcing my stomach to turn with panic. He reached up with a long, sharp claw and began to scratch a single line into the glass. The soft squeal pierced my ears, like fingernails on a chalkboard. He opened his mouth and smiled presenting his jagged, stained teeth.

       He reared his fist back and as I prepared for him to punch out my window, shots rang out from behind me. Two hit him in the head causing him to stumble back. After he re-positioned his skull, he roared at the officer who still had his gun drawn. His jaws appeared to come unhinged with anger. Another shot hit him in the neck. As the officer slowly advanced, the creature backed away never taking its eyes from him. Two more shots to the thing let me know that bullets were just pissing it off.

       I saw my chance and took it. It had stopped directly in front of my car. I threw my SUV in low and slammed on the gas. Massive wings exploded from its back as it soared into the air disappearing into the night. I crashed into the front side of its car.

       I watched as it flew away into the moonlight unsure of what had happened to us. The officer pulled the woman from the car and placed her into the safety of his cruiser as other officers arrived at the scene. The woman, as well as my car, only had small surface wounds, nothing time wouldn’t heal.

       “What was it?” I asked the officer, who appeared to be more shaken than I was.

       “I was going to ask you the same thing,” he replied.

       After he took my statement he asked one of the officers to follow me the rest of the way home.

       I’m not sure what it was or if it will return.

       But I know it loves Billy Squier…

Guts & Goo

I woke up dead the other day
And I was quite surprised
For being dead is something
Which I generally despise
My skin was cold and clammy
My complexion ghastly dim
As I lay within my coffin
My outlook was rather grim

I heard a knock below me
Then a door popped open wide
And I tried to find my balance
As I nearly fell inside
What appeared to be a banquet hall
With zombies through and through
And they gave me warmest welcome
As they ate their guts and goo

“Welcome, friend,” said one old zombie
As he took me by the arm
His old bones, they clanked and rattled
Thereby adding to his charm
He was missing his left eye
His bare jawbone protruded out
His best friend was an earthworm named Jim
Who perched upon his snout

“How do you like being dead?” he said
“So far I’ve been aghast.”
“Death is what you make it,” he replied.
“How so?” I asked
“Down here there are awesome wonders – So much here to see and do.”
Then he sat down at the table
With his bowl of guts and goo

A dead waiter stood beside me
And began to fill my bowl
With a mucky, foul concoction
Which I’m sure was best served cold
I sat staring at the potion
That I did not dare to taste
“Take a bite,” my new friend said to me.
“Don’t let it go to waste.”

At first, I was reluctant
It did not look appetizing
Though when I took the first bite
The taste was really quite surprising
Though the soup did not look edible
I ate with much surprise
I am certain Id felt different
If my taste buds were alive

So take this as a lesson
As you walk above the ground
As for all you picky eaters
Who won’t eat what is profound
Be it France, or Spain or Italy
Always try something new
For one day the only thing you’ll eat
Are bowls of guts and goo