Veteran authors, including JA Konrath, Kristine Kathyrn Rusch, and Dean Wesley Smith, have staked out positions suggesting that authors at least consider alternatives to traditional, or Big Six, publishing. (In the case of JA Konrath, his views are a good bit stronger than a suggestion, as he believes traditional publishing and print books are dying. But that's a topic for a later post.)
They all make valid points, but, in the end, I agree with Rusch that there is a certain personality type who is better served going the independent route.
For me, it is the right decision because I (1) lack patience (my husband will confirm this); (2) have some publishing background to draw on; and (3) have an entrepreneurial spirit.
- Impatience. While it is indisputable that I am impatient, the real issue is the glacial pace of traditional publishing. Step One is to find an agent. Many good agents have a several month response time to queries; then there is a further delay if they request either a partial or full manuscript. If an agent offers representation, said agent then needs to actually sell the book to a publishing house, which again could take awhile (or not ever happen). Then, the book will need to go through the book production process on the publisher's schedule. We're talking multiple years, here. In the case of IRREPARABLE HARM, the plot involves a smartphone application that can be used to crash a plane, which seemed pretty nifty when I came up with it. In 2009. It'll probably seem pretty lame five years from now, when we all have hover cars or whatever.
- Background. After earning my extremely practical undergrad degree in medieval literature and creative writing (poetry), I worked as an editor for three years, including a year and a half as a book production editor at a publishing house. I learned a lot about the process before going to law school. While it's true that a little bit of knowledge can be dangerous, I do feel as though I don't need anyone to hold my hand.
- Entrepreneurial spirit/control. This last one is probably the biggest factor. My husband and I quit jobs at two of the country's largest law firms to start our own. Countless lawyers said some variation of "that's really brave" or "that's risky." I beg to differ. I think the risky choice is to leave one's professional future in the hands of a management committee made up of near-strangers. In my firm, my success or failure is in my hands. This applies with equal force to publishing. By going the independent publishing route, I have more control and more responsibility, which suits me.
I do think this option is not for everyone. But, I know it's for me.