I saw this thing Amazon is doing, and I thought, “That sounds like a neat idea.”
Before I share my story, I want to invite those of you who buy books on Amazon to check out their Powered by Indie page that is up for the month of October. One of the things I hear most from people who like to read books that are self-published is that they can tell the author loved writing the story. That’s not to say that traditionally published authors don’t enjoy writing, but I think when an author publishes the book on their own, they have full creative control over the story.
In a nutshell, that is why I became an indie author. I wanted full creative control of my stories.
It all started in 2002.
Yep, that long ago. But back then there was no such thing as directly publishing a book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, Smashwords, or Draft 2 Digital. There were vanity presses. I won’t go into which companies I used, but I did get my feet wet in self-publishing that way. (I had no idea you could take a book to a local printing shop.)
Back then, however, I was too scared to write romance because my family and friends all thought romance weren’t “real” books. Even if I was caught reading one, I’d usually hear something like, “What are you doing reading that trash?” So yeah, I wasn’t about to write it. Instead, I wrote science fiction, fantasy, and thrillers.
All of these were in paperback only, and as you’d guess, no one knew they existed, which is probably good since now I know I was meant to write romance all along.
The end of 2007 saw the beginning of the romances.
By chance, I received a postcard in my mailbox advertising romance books. These were sweet romances. I read a couple, and I remembered my love for romance books. Since these romances didn’t contain sex (which was the trashy part my family and friends had complained about), I thought, “I can finally write romance without embarrassing them!” Because honestly, they would have put paper bags over their heads had I used my real name on them.
I wrote a couple of sweet romances over the course of 2008, and again, I was using vanity presses to get them published and they were only paperbacks. I was thrilled to be writing romances, but I couldn’t get rid of the feeling that something was missing. That something was spice. I wanted to know how my characters would relate to each other in bed. I tried to tell myself I didn’t need to add sex scenes, but no matter how hard I tried, the books felt incomplete. So I went back and put them, and finally, I was happy with the stories.
Toward the end of 2008, I became aware of CreateSpace on Amazon, which allowed me to publish paperbacks without paying hundreds to a thousand dollars for each book. All CreateSpace wanted was for me to pay for the proof copy of the paperback so I could make sure it looked good before I put it up in the Amazon store.
Publishing on Amazon and Smashwords began in 2009.
This was the game changer. I was so excited to be able to publish books so easily without paying anything that I vamped up my writing. It was a good thing this came along after I had figured out what type of romances I wanted to write. (Those with spice.) I would have hated to hit the ebook scene with romances I wasn’t fully satisfied with.
Between 2009-2010, I struggled with whether to keep self-publishing or go the traditional route.
I started getting active in writing groups, and you wouldn’t believe the hostility there was toward indie books. It was awful. As soon as I mentioned committing the “sin” of self-publishing, I was pretty much thrown to the bottom of the ladder in the groups. I had no qualifications, and any opinions I had didn’t count.
This did compel me to look into traditional publishing. I submitted to a couple of them, but each company wanted me to change something in my stories and resubmit them. The books I had submitted were Eye of the Beholder and His Redeeming Bride. I had received positive feedback, but the problem was, “The couple didn’t fight enough.” I couldn’t bring myself to make those couples fight because it would have changed the stories into something I didn’t want. I thought Dave and Mary in Eye of the Beholder were stronger because he supported her at all times. As for Neil and Sarah, once she understood he had changed, I couldn’t see her giving him a difficult time. And those were the things that bothered the publishers the most.
So I opted to keep self-publishing. At the time I made the announcement on my blog, Myspace (this was before Facebook came on the scene), and LiveJournal, I got a few emails from well-meaning writers who wanted to save me from killing any chances I had of having a successful writing career. Most advised if I was going to persist in this foolishness, I should at least not mention I was actually “self-publishing” to the public.
I was proud of going indie, and I decided to be open about it.
I was born with a stubborn streak. My parents are no longer alive to testify to this, but they would tell you that when I set my mind to something, I did it regardless of what anyone said. I don’t regret being vocal about self-publishing. I was happier with my stories than I ever would have been if I had gone with a publisher because going with a publisher meant I couldn’t write them my way. I wouldn’t have stayed true to my characters. I would have had to force my characters into a plot that would have seemed forced.
This way, I got to write the stories as they were meant to be. I’m not saying everyone has been happy with the way I wrote them, but I have no regrets in writing them the way they are. Has my writing improved over the years? Sure. My understanding of story elements has improved, too. You learn as you go. But I can look back on those books that I wrote during that time of my life, and I still remember how much fun they were to write. I don’t think I would have had that much fun writing for a publisher.
As a quick side note: I publish a couple of books with a small publisher (Parchment & Plume) these days, but Parchment & Plume allows me to keep the stories the way I want them. (I even get control over the cover and release date.) I still self-publish most of my books, though, because I enjoy it.
Think this is something I should try out?
I don’t know if authors can volunteer for this or if Amazon picks who they want in it.
I’ve never regretted self-publishing. I’m kind of a control freak, so I like to do things my way with my books. Like you, I want control over my cover and my content. Even if you go the traditional route, these days, you aren’t guaranteed anything. Publishers usually don’t really market their authors unless they are big names.
No, they don’t, and that’s why I think a lot of authors are leaving the publishing houses. The self-publishing avenue with the Internet has changed so many things, and I’m glad we happened to be alive at a time when we could publish our own books easily. It’s nice to be the one calling the shots. 🙂
Thanks for sharing your indie author journey Ruth 🙂 You are always so inspiring for those of us on this self-publishing journey! Thank you for that!
Thank you, Lorna. I always appreciate your comments. 🙂
“The couple didn’t fight enough.” The ironic thing is that is one of the things I enjoy most about your novels, along with your characters’ moral integrity. Always interesting to read about your writing journey.
Thank you! I’m glad to hear that because I used to worry that people would find that setup boring. But no matter how often I tried, my characters just didn’t want to spend most of the book fighting. Once they had the serious talk, they put the problem behind them and started working together. I had to then come up with an outside conflict for them to work against. I guess after being married for sixteen years, I see marriage as a partnership where both sides have to work together to make it work, and that keeps coming up subconsciously in my stories. I don’t think I could write a romance where the couple kept arguing or going off misunderstandings for most of the book. It’s not how marriage really is.
Thank you again for your comment. I’m very touched by it. 🙂