I am really excited to have my first guest post from independent author S.M. McEachern, author of Sunset Rising. I hope you enjoy it. And please leave your thoughts. If you have any questions for the author, please post those as well. I think she would be willing to respond…
In late June 2012, I wrote the last sentence of Sunset Rising, right before my kids finished school. Then I sent the book off to an editor and began the arduous task of finding a literary agent to represent me. But instead of finding the perfect agent, what I found was a publishing industry in the middle of a revolution. Digital eReaders are quickly changing the way we read and purchase books and this is having a tremendous impact on writers and readers alike.
Instead of finding an agent, I found story after story of writers who had sat in the slush pile for months and sometimes years. I read about how difficult it was to find an agent if you were an unknown. And then I read that many authors were opting to forgo the slush pile and self publish. Digital publishers, like Amazon, didn’t require an author to have the backing of a big publishing house- they opened their doors to anyone who wanted to publish- and boy, did they create a stampede! Within a year, success stories were beginning to emerge. Who hasn’t heard of Amanda Hocking? She’s the writer who wanted a hundred bucks to buy a ticket to The Muppet Show and ended up with millions. Unwittingly she had accomplished on her own what a publishing team is expected to do for an author- get her book into circulation and make it a success. And she didn’t spend a cent. She used book bloggers to get the word out about her novels and readily available social media as a platform to shout it to the world.
Hocking’s success proved that writers could be successful without the backing of a publishing house, which has encouraged even more authors to go indie- myself included. I’ve read too many news reports citing that the big publishers are feeling the pinch of the digital market and they are tightening their financial belts. Author advances are being slashed and literary agents are getting pickier; some agents will now only receive manuscripts from tried and true authors and celebrities. It occurred to me that an unknown author stood a very small chance of getting noticed in the maelstrom that is occurring in the publishing world today. Hence, I took a page from Hockings book (pun intended) and self-published Sunset Rising.
I admit that I am technologically challenged, so using the same social media Hocking used is an obstacle for me, although one I can overcome. But another obstacle I have come across is something new that is surfacing in this revolution, which I will term indie fatigue (remember, you heard it here first!). Book bloggers-those wonderful, voracious readers who love to review books- are being overwhelmed by indie requests and starting to shut their doors to them. And who can blame them? Bloggers are simply not equipped to process thousands of books. Most bloggers are small and set up their site to share their love of books with other book lovers; they are not there to facilitate a rapidly growing indie market.
However, book reviews are crucial to the success of any novel. Traditionally published authors have the benefits the publisher provides them- a team of experts to edit, create book covers, and get your book into circulation. They already have the contacts to obtain book reviews. To forgo these benefits is what it means to be indie. And trust me, marketing is tough. The route Hocking took seems to be closing up and yet the number of indies joining the market is increasing daily.
Are indies a bad thing? I personally don’t think so. I think indies and the digital market have developed a symbiotic relationship. Despite the indie fatigue some readers may be experiencing, it was the glut of indies coupled with a digital market place that has significantly lowered prices on books. Five years ago if you found a great book for 99 cents or free, it was because you found it at a yard sale. This is simply not the case anymore. And the instantaneous ease with which a reader can purchase a book means the reader is reading more. If you consider that the average publishing house strives to produce only 120 titles per year (approximately)- bearing in mind the financial layout they have to make per title- then it’s questionable whether or not they can keep up with their readers appetites. Indies fill that void.
Big publishing houses are no longer ignoring this burgeoning market. Harper Voyager recently opened up a submission portal for unagented authors to directly submit their digital only manuscripts to them. And just over a week ago Penguin and Random House- two of the biggest publishing giants- merged to come up with the capital they need to directly respond to the digital marketplace. The new publisher, Penguin Random House, is already hinting at acquiring new authors to expand the number of titles they produce on a yearly basis.
I believe that any industry undergoing rapid change produces opportunities. I hope that the reorganization of the big publishers will see greater opportunity for authors to be published traditionally (I would never say no to the right offer!). In the meantime, I chose to become an independent author because it seemed like the best opportunity at the time I published, and I don’t regret it. Instead of sitting in a slush pile waiting nervously to see if I’m good enough to be an author, my novel, Sunset Rising, is receiving stunning reviews. My reviewers have compared to Suzanne Collins and J.K. Rowlings and there’s even a suggestion that I am the next underground sensation. I know citing my reviews here is a shameless plug, but after all, I’m indie. 🙂