Please enjoy my little gift above! ”Rocket Ship” by Kathy McCarty, which ALWAYS buzzes through my head when I read Chapter 11 of my book A Sword Into Darkness: with the USS Sword of Liberty taking off for the first time from the ocean’s surface.
Why am I introducing you to the awesomeness of Kathy McCarty? Because, just a few minutes ago, I passed what — for me — is a major milestone I was hesitant to guess I would ever reach. I’ve now sold 1000 copies of my book, and they sold in its first 16 days on the market. I’m new to all this indie / self-publishing business. I don’t know if this is a good achievement, if this is commonplace, or if I’m way behind the power curve, but I know it feels pretty good to me. I also know another thing: that it’s approximately 1000 copies more than I ever would have sold if my friends Jeff and Nathaniel had not been insistent that I not just stop when the traditional Big 6 (5) publishing houses and every literary agent of note turned me down.
Am I a total indie / self-publishing convert? No. There’s been a LOT of debate about this lately, from the dismissive traditional agent actively pissing everyone off: Donald Maass’s semi-infamous post defending the establishment, J. A. Konrath’s epic fisking of said post (and loads of other great stuff on the superiority of the open, self-publishing marketplace), plus some middle of the road analysis from Jim Hines, a traditionally published SFWA author (though I think he mis-understands and mis-states Konrath’s position). Ask an indie or self-publisher, and going it alone is the only sane position: greater share of the royalties, total control over your product, and no bowing down to the Gatekeepers. Ask those in the industry and the vast majority will frown slightly in disappointment that you’re actually trying to equate the two. They say the Gatekeepers (agents, slush readers, and first-line editors) are there for a reason, ensuring that new product is of the highest possible quality, that they’ve ensured that booksellers aren’t loaded down with crap (and said brick and mortar booksellers are in complete agreement, only accepting books from major, established publishing houses), and that they and their staffs produce a truly professional final product, handling editing, design, and marketing so the author only has to worry about the words.
And they’re both probably somewhat right.
As I’ve said before, my focus was on legacy/traditional publishing. That’s what “being published” meant to me, and it still does in many ways. I did not make it past the gatekeepers. Whether because it simply didn’t meet their standards, or it was just the wrong manuscript for that particular moment, no agent or editor picked my story out of the slush. I got really, really close with Baen, but it was not to be. So on that level, I’m an abject failure. I’m not likely to ever be in a single bookstore that you can walk into. That was a big hit on my aspirations, because I’m proud of my book. I think it’s a great, fun, well-written, thinking-person’s adventure. This used to be the end of any real opportunities, but because of POD publishing and the e-book revolution, I am now out in the marketplace.
This is not the self-publishing of old, where vanity presses convince you to buy boxes of books that sit in your garage which you end up giving away at garage sales. In my sub-genres, I’m on the same bestseller lists as traditionally published authors I’ve idolized (depending on the day, I’m either in the top 5 or top 10 for Alien Invasions, Space Fleets, or First Contact novels). Folks genuinely seem to like ASID. My 15 reviews and 4.4 stars on Amazon (similar on Goodreads) have been posted by people I don’t even know and have not influenced. And 1000 people have bought my book. That’s a GREAT consolation prize, and maybe someday I’ll consider it the gold ring that many of my compatriots do. I am coming around.
Would I take a traditional publishing contract now? Almost absolutely and definitely. I WANT to see that book in Barnes and Noble. But will I EVER dismiss the indie-publishing industry as many in the legacy seem to. Hell no. That’s my table now. It may be the kids’ table still, but we’re some cool kids, and one day we’ll be sitting up there with the big guys.