We were living in Prague for the first time when I wrote the draft that would be Death’s Dancer during NaNoWriMo.
I described it to my writing buddy as the romance novel that’s been fighting it’s way through all the urban fantasy and comic books in my head for the last 10 years.
It’s not the first book I’ve written, or the first I’ve finished. But it was the one I had the most fun writing; the first I plotted end to end; and the one that felt, when it was complete, like I had something. I wasn’t sure what, but after year of editing and beta reading, I was pretty sure that something was something other people would be interested in.
I entered it in what was to be the final Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award and made it to the second round. I got some feedback in another contest about the slow pace of the opening chapters, revised, and polished again.
I went to a workshop on querying and the submission package, and had mine evaluated and tweaked by an agent, who said if this was the kind of thing she represented, she’d be all over it.
Then I started submitting it to agents who did “this kind of thing.” I got requests for fulls, feedback, and lots of notes about how saturated the market was and that it was hard to place books by new authors in PR and UF “at the moment.”
At that point I had an options:
- Put it in a drawer, start something new, and hope beyond all hope that someday the market would be “ready” and/or,
- Enter the wild wild west of indie authorship and publish it myself.
I’ll be honest: I want to be chosen. Don’t we all? We want someone to pick us: from grade school kickball to the job of our dreams. Who am I to decide NOW is the time if someone with more experience, know how, and leverage says ‘No.’
But ultimately, I don’t write to be chosen. I write to connect. I write to tell stories that I, selfishly, want to read, and, less-selfishly, want other readers to lose themselves in.
Sometime around New Years 2016 publishing the damn thing myself started look more and more like the personal challenge I needed. I could hire an editor, and a cover designer, and, by the third glass of wine, I was rarin’ to go…
After all, I’m not a major publishing house. I don’t need to make the kind of money a big house makes on an established author, or even a small press on a new author. If I could cover my expenses, get a few tanks of gas, and pay for all the coffee it took to write the next book, wouldn’t that be worth it? And the chance to connect to one person. Just one, who read it for pleasure, and liked it. What a priceless moment that would be!
As my partner in life says, “Even if 10 people read it, isn’t that better than no one reading it in a file somewhere on your hard drive?”
So dredging up my project management and PR expertise, I spreadsheeted the hell out of a production schedule and got to work. As luck would have it, I was a single degree of separation away from indie romance author Celia Kennedy, who was gracious enough to spend time sharing her experience and advice. One of her tips lead to an awesome editor. A bit of internet rabbit holing uncovered (pun intended) a cover designer who’s work I’d admired without knowing for some time.
And along came a Kindle Scout. Scratch, that: Along came Kindle Scout. The program.
Hello, prospective indie author, I heard you had an über-sexy, smart, urban fantasy novel you are considering publishing…
Actually, it was nothing like that. One of my brilliant friends said: “So did you hear about that Kindle Scouting thing?”
Kindle Scout is a newish program from Amazon touted as “reader powered publishing.” It replaced the annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (which apparently a lot of people haven’t forgiven it for) with the big difference being that instead of having a small group of editors judging submissions, Amazon crowdsources the submissions, allowing readers to do what they do best – read voraciously. Readers then vote on samples and “nominate” the book for publication.
From most angles, it’s pretty cool. Though reader “nominations” don’t make the decision entirely, their inclusion democratizes the process. It brings the writers to the readers, and vice versa. And both win: contracts are awarded based on a combination of reader nominations and editorial decision. If you wrote it, you get a publishing contract, advance and some* Amazon marketing. If you voted for it, you get a free Kindle copy once it’s published.
I won’t go into the nuts and bolts of the contract or the pros and cons of the program. Everyone does their own personal math to determine if it’s worth it for their career. Others have made cogent analysis (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA); presented the how-to’s and the nitty gritty (Jane Friedman and Lincoln Cole); and a had a bit of snarky fun over the whole thing (Slate), for starters.
In my mind, it’s a bit of a hybrid model. And with no publishing experience or ‘name’ to speak of, the personal math makes sense to me. I have a polished manuscript, a banging cover, and all the bits and bobs required. Compared to the agent submission merry-go-round, the time commitment — 45 days — is almost minimal. Best of all, if the book is chosen, I’ll have some Amazon marketing assistance. And if it isn’t, I’ve had a lovely test run to tweak my own marketing strategy in time for a self launch.
Tl;dr – For me, Kindle Scout is about shortcutting the gatekeepers (somewhat) and marketing.
Next time…An update on how the rollercoaster, er…campaign, is treating me.
*Some = more than you would have for free if you were self publishing.