Saturday, May 5, 2012

Some things never change

Over the last year as an indie writer, many things have changed. I have seen my book sales increase month by month. I have read lovely reviews by readers who took the time to comment on Amazon. I have learned how to build websites and I am slowly learning how to use a blog.

But some things never change.

Case in point: getting the next book ready for publication. My Calin's Cowboy has taken three months longer to prepare than I anticipated. First, it turned out to be twenty thousand words longer than I expected. But that's okay. The story needed more substance, so I took the time to supply that substance. Then it took longer to edit, because it was a longer and more complex book. And now, thanks to my wonderful editor, I am tweaking it again to strengthen the story even further.

No matter how much I have learned in the areas of marketing and tech smarts, the one thing that has not changed is the effort and hard work needed to get the next book ready to go.

In a sense, this is reassuring. Writers need time and focus to create a great story. I am not claiming greatness for my upcoming new title, but I want it to be the best book I have written so far, and that means taking the time needed to make it the best it can be.

In my pre-indie days, when I was grabbing for that elusive gold ring of a publisher or editor who actually clicked with my work and at the same time had a spot for me, an unknown, in their lineup, I'm not sure I took as much time with my books. At the back of my mind, I never really believed that I would snag that ring. In the end, I wasn't sure I wanted to.

The last time I went to a writers' conference and pitched two of my books, I came away feeling that I had expended enormous energies  and Toastmaster dues trying to master a ten-minute oral presentation for the sole purpose of eliciting an invitation from an editor to mail off another manuscript. How many times have my pages sat for months on someone's shelf? The record for me was a response after three years, a one-line apology and the stale news that my book was not right for that line.

I decided I didn't want to play the pitch game. That was not my strength. Why couldn't writers simply bring a few pages and use their ten minutes watching the editor actually read three or four pages of manuscript? I never understood why we had to endure the torture of what amounted to a combination job interview, oral exam, and first date as a rite of passage to "earn" the opportunity to submit our work. In the elevator heading back to my room, I overheard another writer say, "They give their cards to everyone. What's the point?" That was the last time I jumped through that hoop.

Going indie is a very good fit for me. No more pitches. No more three-year waits for rejections. And it turns out that I am using all that extra energy and time to polish my next book.

Going indie has made me a better writer. My goal is to improve with every new title. The world of publishing is changing rapidly, but the pursuit of creative excellence does not change.

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