Back in 2011, when I first dipped a toe into the world of self-publishing, it was as an experiment, a test to see how easy it really was to self-publish in this brave new digital world. I saw it as a natural progression for someone like me, having spent most of my career in the publishing industry. It was a chance to learn new skills—skills that weren’t being taught to me in my day-job, because the publishing industry, at least here in Australia, was largely ambivalent about the rise of e-books. Most publishers either didn’t see e-books as taking off or were determined to suppress digitisation in favour of doing things the traditional way. I guess, rather than seeing digital technology as an opportunity to modernise the industry, back then they saw it as a threat, and one to be suppressed.
Have things changed all that much for trade publishing companies between then and now? When I read about Hachette’s argument with Amazon, and when I see how few trade-published books are available as e-books affordably in Australia, or sell in any great numbers, I’m not so sure. Maybe those dark ages aren’t quite behind us, although some publishers are starting to see the light. Certainly in Australia, we haven’t seen the rapid growth of the e-book market that the US experienced from 2009 to 2012. Certainly many publishers still see a decline in print sales in physical bookstores as a threat, even if online sales either make up or surpass that shortfall in many countries at the moment. Is a more widespread digital takeover coming to the Great Southern Land? Maybe, albeit more slowly, one e-reader or smartphone at a time.
But I do know that even if things haven’t changed a great deal for Australian publishers, they have changed a lot for me. I now have eight self-published titles (Cruxim, Creche, Creed, Crows and Other Beasts, Cage Life, Growth, Hey, Little Sister and Pancakes on Sunday), published under my own imprint, Indelible Ink Press. I’ve finished a dark fantasy trilogy, the first book of which, CRUXIM (which is free at the moment on Amazon, Apple, Kobo and Barnes & Noble) has spent some time as the number one paid bestseller in gothic romance and dark fantasy on Amazon, and has mostly five-stars reviews. I’ve learned how to format and generate e-books, how to distribute them through various channels, and how to market them. While I may not yet be raking in the big bucks, I have the flexibility to publish when I want, and how I want, and my earnings continue to creep up. More than that, I’ve made some wonderful friends among the indie publishing community, all around the world, and I’ve spent the better part of the past three years editing for some incredibly entrepreneurial, dedicated, and talented authors—again, from all around the world. But by far the best change is the overwhelming gratitude I feel when a reader in Zagreb, or Paris, or Maine, or London writes a review or sends an email or a message letting me know that my book made them happy, even if only for several hours (and even if my dark fantasy is hardly super cheery). It is such a privilege to receive thanks for doing something that you love to do, from people who love the same things you do: reading, writing, and examining ideas about the world in which we live, or worlds beyond this one.
But even though I love it, I know that sometimes it is still hard being an indie author. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t brain surgery by any means. It remains a great privilege and a passion. But the pressure to write quickly, to release frequently, to hit algorithms, to promote, promote, promote, and to lose yourself in a world of writing that sometimes draws you away from the real world (and real people) around you, is ever present. Sometimes, things have to fall by the wayside or be jettisoned, and this blog has, at times, been one of the projects that didn’t make the list of priorities. At times, the pressure of running the show myself has made me think I won’t succeed, because I am not a fast writer; because I struggle to write to fit a specific, narrowly defined market; because I find it hard to balance the demands of motherhood and freelancing and being a good wife and sister and friend with the necessary seclusion of writing. At times, it has made me downright depressed and anxious and has left me wondering whether I must try to write in a more popular genre, or whether, despite years of writing, reading about writing, and telling others how to enhance their own writing, I’m just not good enough, or certainly not as good as I want to be. Sometimes, it has made me wonder whether I should give up my dreams of being a full-time novelist, even if I have been a full-time author, one way or another, since 2007. And then I remember that the best novelists are rarely those who are always happy, or always melancholy, or always calm, or always anxious, but those who mine their own unpredictable, sometimes untameable emotions for stories and use their own experiences and empathy to create a diversity of characters.
So, while there is still some way to go before I can say that I am a true indie success story—and while there are still at least five half-finished manuscripts on my hard-drive, just waiting for an ending before they can be unleashed upon an unsuspecting world of onscreen readers—I feel as if the path is starting to become less hilly. The flower are blooming by the roadside, and if I take the time to smell them, I hope my fans will forgive me. Best of all, in the distance, an ocean of words is stretching out before me, beckoning to me. And I will not drown in it, like so many little-read books and little-known authors have, but surf its peaks and troughs, and know that even if I sink for a time, there will always be another wave, another book, waiting to carry me back up.
Cruxim is currently FREE, but to thank fans and readers for their support of the series, I’d like to give away copies of Creche and Creed to two readers who respond in the comments. All you have to do is tell me your favourite beach. Finishing the Dark Guardians series (yes, it got a new series title, I hope you like it!) feels almost like the end of an era. Although I am happy that the loose ends in that world are tied up neatly for now, I shall miss them, and perhaps one day, another thread will unravel, another feather will fall… For now, my current work in progress, What the Sea Wants, moves away from dark fantasy and, in some ways at least, toward the light. I haven’t set a deadline for its release, because I don’t need that kind of pressure, although I hope to finish it this year. It is a contemporary romance YA novel set in a small coastal community in Australia. Of course, most Australians have a natural affinity with the ocean, and I think most people do too, so please comment and tell me about your favourite place to sit and be at peace with the sea.
To be the first to hear about the release of What the Sea Wants, and to get it at a special discounted price on release, sign up now for my mailing list at http://eepurl.com/vk_bP I only ever mail out when I release, and since I’m not a fast writer, you won’t be inundated with my updates. :-) I’ll be posting excerpts of What the Sea Wants soon. Thanks again for reading.