Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Which Way Should We turn? Ushering in the New Publishing Era…
As many of you may know, I've been pretty big on the thought of traditional publishing. I'm a fan of the Big 6, let me tell you! And in all honesty, it would be a total dream come true if I had one of my books published through them. It would be a dream come true if I had one of my books published traditionally, period… through an indie press or otherwise!
But as many of you also know, the publishing world is shifting… sort of tilting on its side right now. Getting "published" is not nearly as hard as it once was. Now we have e-readers that (to my chagrin) pretty much eliminate the need for paper books. (Not that they eliminate the want for paper… I will always be a paper lover, myself. There's nothing quite like opening a brand new, physical book to the smell of freshly printed ink on white or cream paper. Mm-mmm!)
Not only do we have the e-readers, but with the dawn of digitalized books, the way of the indie publisher has become much more traveled than it ever was before. The Self-Published are not as far down the reading list as they used to be. Once at the bottom of the proverbial publishing shark tank, now there are authors out there making more money, selling more books, churning out even more reading material a year, and gaining more fans much faster than they would have if they had gone a Big 6 rout. There're people like Amanda Hockings and Joe Konrath that pretty much make their living on just writing books. (Isn't that where we all want to be someday?) Then there's John Locke, an originally self-pubbed author who just signed with Simon & Schuster, and managed to do the seemingly impossible as well: hold on to his e-book rights. These people and many others have dipped their toes into the waters of Indie Authorship, and they've succeeded. Not only that but they've kept their rights: that's something that all authors wish for, but few actually see happen.
And then we have people closer to the Christian Publishing World and the genre's included in Christian Speculative fiction (the genres that interest me. ;D) . We have Jeff Gerke, who started his indie company Marcher Lord Press around the years of 2007 and 2008 in order to fill a niche market that he saw needed filling. Now his company is topping the list of indie publishers interested in Christian speculative fiction, and several MLP books have won awards in the Christian industry… we're talking the Christy, here, people: the highest award to be offered in Christian Fiction! Author, Jill Williamson, has already won two Christies for her Blood of Kings trilogy, and I know that several other books have been nominated in the past, as well as books that have been nominated for other awards. (I know there was another author that won a Christy, or who was at least nominated for one... hmmm...)
We also have Scott Appleton, who started his Indie Company, Flaming Pen Press, in order to publish his book, Swords of the Six, which sold over 3,000 copies in one year and went on to be picked up by AMG – one of the leading traditional publishers of Christian speculative fiction. He now has a contract through AMG for all seven books in his sword of the dragon series. FPP also published Kestrel's Midnight Song, the amazingly engaging fantasy written by 19 year old Jacob Parker. Kestrel's Midnight Song went on to receive a Children's Moonbeam Award and (if I remember correctly) also sold over 3,000 copies since its release last September. Now FPP is getting ready to release a new novella titled Out of Darkness Rising, written by the talented Gillian Adams. (And I mean talented here, people… I've read some of her work already. It's truly inspiring.) The novella is set to be released in the summer of 2012, and I know that it will be a success.
Next we have Port Yonder Press, run by Chila Woychik (I hope I spelled her name correctly) which strives to appeal to the artful, the literary, and the speculative. PYP is getting ready to release a new speculative work titled Dawnsinger, written by Janalyn Voigt. I've been looking into this book for a while, people… I'm totally stoked about reading it when it finally comes out! PYP has also released the book Sylvari: an Anthology of Elves in which one of our fellow teen writers, Christian Miles, is published and in which our very own Mirriam Neal has some of her beautiful illustrations displayed.
And of course we can't forget this new movement by Bestselling Christian Fiction authors Christopher Hopper, Wayne Thomas Batson, and the brothers Christopher and Allen Miller. They've decided to start a Writing/Publishing Guild titled Spearhead, in order to provide quality Christian Fiction for readers of all ages. They've given new meaning to the words "Indie Publishing" since they've set out to be independent together, and I just have to wonder where this movement will go? Already they are releasing books through their Guild… (I believe that one such book is titled "Mech-Mice" written by the Miller Brothers, and Wayne Thomas Batson's newest work "Ghost" is (or else soon will be) available through the guild as well, as will Christopher Hopper's latest book in his White Lion Chronicles.)
Then last but not least, we have Andrew Peterson and Rabbit Room Press. Andrew Peterson is an award winning Christian Songwriter who also writes Christian Middle-grade Fantasy. (I'm a fan of both his songs and his books!! :D) In the past, the first two books of his Wingfeather Saga have been released through Waterbrook Multnomah, a division of Random House. But just recently, Mr. Peterson released the third book in his series through his own company, Rabbit Room Press, and let me tell you… it's just as good if not better than the first two books! (Expect reviews of all three of his current books in September for the CSFF Blog Tour.) Just within the last month I was lucky enough to meet Mr. Peterson in person and ask him about his books. I said that I saw he had published The Monster in the Hollows through his own company, and I wondered why. His reaction was similar to Mr. Batson's blog post about the new Spearhead Guild: he'd published his book through his own company because he thought he could get it out to his readers faster and more efficiently than if he had to wait for another publisher to do the work. Besides that, he'd come to know the business and had sort of created his own brand, what with his song albums and his books taking over Christian America. Why not publish the book himself? (disclaimer: Those were not his exact words, but you get the gist. I can't remember exactly what he said, word for word… but I can lay down what I remembered of the conversation in my own words.)
Could it be made any clearer? The world of publishing is shifting severely. In my mind it's pretty well balanced out 50/50 at the moment between Indie Presses and other larger companies, where it used to be about 90/10… or perhaps an even smaller percentage for those who took on publishing by themselves. And everything is quickly tilting towards indie publishing and ebooks. Even for those who are opposed to the change, there's no stopping the advance. It's happening… all around us. Constantly. And now Borders, my favorite bookstore, is going out of business… mostly because of the rising success of e-books and the seemingly decreasing need for traditional bookstores. Amazon is taking over everything.
With all that in mind, I've started seriously rethinking some of my previously unwavering notions about becoming published. I'm still a firm believer in traditional publishing, paper-back books, the Big 6, and physical bookstores. But now I'm starting to see Independent publishing as a possible option as well. I've considered it before, of course (who hasn't?) but the idea is starting to grow on me more and more. I am just not sure anymore whether I want to pursue publication through traditional means (with a possible agent, and queries, and lots of waiting involved, and so on…) or whether I want to step up to the task, be the entrepreneur that I've always known myself to be, and start an Indie Press of my own.
I just don't know anymore. *shakes head* And it's quite conflicting.
However, I have been weighing the options. I've been asking myself the questions that need to be asked when it comes down to new businesses … How would I do it? What would it be called? Could I handle it? Who would be willing to step out with me? What about marketing? That sort of stuff.
My dad had his own business since before he married my mom. Granted, he was an artist, but then again, writing is a form of art too. And he became known throughout the states! (but don't look for him on the internet… he never was very web-savvy; his business took off simply through word-of-mouth and personal advertisement. We had rough times, but so does every other business. *shrug*)
I keep wondering that if my dad could do it and succeed, then why couldn't I? My mom and several other respected people that I know have always told me that they think I should go indie as well. I know I have the spirit for it, and the drive. I know that I'm the type of person who strives for success and perfection… and I never stop striving for it. (yes, I do know that about myself… it's a complicated knowledge, but it's what has kept me in Jr. College for 3 years and will keep me in Jr. College for another 2 before I transfer… Double major here. *points to self* <_< It's that drive that has also kept me rewriting my books until I feel that they are perfect… which also tends to drive me crazy. But in a good way. Lol! :D) I'm the type of person who can look at the impossible, see possibilities, and then I will try to make those possibilities happen.
So why couldn't I start an Indie Company? Why not? I've always known I'm supposed to work in publishing… I just KNOW it. So why not?
I don't know the answer to that question yet, but I've decided that while I'm considering the options I will look at the problem through two different perspectives. I'm still rewriting SOTD, and I will continue to work on my query and cover letter as well, while also considering publishers and agents for both of my current WIPs as I work to stay up-to-date on the publishing news, markets, and venues. But I've also decided to think out a few things, just in case I do choose to go Indie. I thought I would post some of these thoughts here, and see what you, my readers, think of them. Perhaps you can give me your input to consider; advice and thoughts are always welcomed. I'm not saying it wouldn't be hard work… in fact, I quite expect it to be hard work. And should I plan to explore this option, I will definitely work hard at it. (And, hopefully, I won't be alone in my endeavor either… but I'll present those thoughts in a later post.) I'm just saying that I'm considering it.
First of all, if I went Indie I would want to publish other books, not just mine. I have a passion for creative writing, especially speculative fiction, and especially for the Middle-grade and YA. I know that this passion is real because every time I start to talk about it, something jerks around in my heart and I just want to start crying. My Grandma says that a person's true passion and calling will make them cry, so I know that this calling is real; I know that God has called me to write, and I know that no matter what, I will strive to keep writing and keep spreading His messages and my passions for as long as He allows. I want to be an encouragement to other writers and I want to spread my passion through my words (and I'm starting to think that my passion would touch more people and spread much farther and faster if it wasn't simply limited to only my writings and perhaps a traditional publisher… What if I could help other writers and authors who aspire for the same passions that I have? Wouldn't that be great?! *looks around, then clears throat* ahem…). I want to help other people understand the wonders that are waiting within the pages of a good book; I want to help people use their words to explore the wonders of the amazing, magnificent, breathtaking, ultimate possibilities revealed in God… because with Him, ALL things are possible! Not just some things, but ALL things. And I know that I could do just this by starting a company whose mission shares my passion. I've been thinking and praying about it a lot lately, and while nothing is really set in stone or decided yet, it's just starting to feel like this might be the right road after all.
Second of all, I've been thinking about branding and names. A company name must symbolize everything that the company represents. I think I would mostly be looking to publish speculative fiction (as that is my preferred genre), but I would also be open to looking at other forms of literary works such as poetry and creative essays and short stories for anthologies. I myself like to write poetry, creative essays, and short stories, so why would I try to exclude them?
But what sort of name can capture all of the eclectic marvels that make up the essence of Christian Speculative Fiction… while at the same time including opportunities for those poets and literary writers out there who share similar passions?
That's when I started to really think about the word "eclectic". When I think of "eclectic", for some strange reason a picture of a Magpie comes to mind. Those birds seem extremely eclectic to me; much like crows or ravens, they are always looking for shiny objects that they can take to their nests and keep as treasures and they are curious and not afraid of humans. But unlike crows and ravens, they don't have the symbol of evil hanging over their heads. Some people call them thieves, but if you really think about it, they are treasure-hunters. And as an Indie Press, that's what I would want my company to represent… not in the money sense, but in the essence of passion and words. There is a richness to a well told story that just cannot be denied. I would want to find those stories, polish them up, and let them shine. The only difference would be that instead of hiding the shinies away in my nest, I would want to spread them out to as many people as possible. It's only then that this zeal can be truly shared… when people are touched by the hand of God through the passion of a writer. And so, I've decided that if I ever do step up and take the mantle of an Indie Press (or perhaps I should say "when", as I would now claim that the idea is becoming more and more set in my heart), I would call my company "Magpie Publications", or something along those lines. It is the only brand name I've ever considered that actually feels right.
Third of all, I've been thinking about marketing. I know it would be a difficult obstacle, and perhaps the biggest hurdle that my company would face. Especially since I have not yet taken business or marketing in college. However, I also know that the resources are out there for those who have the drive to seek them out and use them, and I am willing to do the research. I know that I have that drive. It's what has kept me going as a young writer, it's what has made me look past the hardships of college and see the reward at the end, it's what will continue to drive me in life until my aspirations are appeased and I have created new goals, and then it will help me reach those new goals and beyond. It might be hard, but I already know that; nothing in life is made easy… nothing. And I don't give up easily; I know I have what it takes, and the doubts I might have whispering to my mind are not big enough to sate my thirst for truth, nor chain my dedication or God-given zeal. With God all things are possible; I just have to keep remembering that. Perhaps the marketing plan that I present in my query for SOTD can be built upon in order to create the perfect marketing plan for an Indie Company. *shrugs* Who knows? But the possibilities are limitless!
So what do you guys think? I know this was a pretty long post… one of the longest I think I've ever written… but if you've gotten this far and have any ideas on the subject, please let me know about them. I am very open to ideas right now. I'm not actually saying that I'm going to undertake this project soon… it may not happen for several years yet, (though I think it will happen eventually…). It's just been on my mind a lot lately and I thought I would share. What are your thoughts on the turn in publishing, or perhaps the changing market? What would you think about a new company such as the one I have envisioned above becoming a reality? What would you do? Feel free to share in the comments. :D