day three: the highs and lows of indie publishing

I remember sitting on my bed waiting for the phone to ring.

"So why is she calling you again? She's talking to you about your book?" 

I turned to look at my husband and nodded. 

"Yeah. I sent her a copy of the manuscript a few weeks ago and she finished it the other day. Wants to talk to me about it." 

I was waiting to talk with K.P. Simmon, owner of InkSlinger PR. At the time, she was also working full time as a teacher and with a publishing house. 

Three jobs. 

I'd heard about her from a friend, and loved her story of pursuing her dream. And I had mad-respect for anyone who was willing to keep three jobs in order to chase their purpose.

It was January, and Come Alive had been out for four months. On New Years Eve, my agent called to tell me my publisher was shutting its doors.

"You'll get full rights back, though, so we can turn around and self-publish it if you want." 

I did want. But there was a problem: I wanted to write another book, and in order to do that I would need to change the not-so-awesome ending of Come Alive. 

My conversation with KP would confirm everything in my gut, and I'll talk more about this when we hit the week on editing and revision. What's important here were her words of encouragement for me to do the work and share the book.

"It needs to be read," she told me. "People need this book." 

It was all I needed. I started getting excited. I could change the cover! And the title! I could go back through and edit and delete the scenes that made me cringe and develop characters that were way too flat for my liking and really make this the story I wanted to tell from the beginning. I just didn't know what my agent would say about my decision. 

A few days after my conversation with KP, and before I could even approach him about my ideas, he sent me an email severing the contract. 

"Unfortunately, the current project is not sufficiently lucrative for me to continue representing you..."

This was probably the best thing that could have happened to me in those moments.

The rejection stung. It was the capstone to a season of loss threatening to take me out emotionally and spiritually. 

But if he would have kept me around, EVERY SHATTERED THING would never exist.


Yesterday, we covered the highs and lows of traditional publishing. Having a team surrounding you as well as {often} gaining the capital to pursue writing full time are a few of the things traditional publishing has going for them. 

But the biggest low — lack of control — serves as the biggest high for indie publishing.

I remember sending examples of covers I loved to my publisher before they started working on the design.

"We'll keep these in mind. Thanks." 

When I got the specs of the cover, it was nothing like I envisioned. It was too bright. I didn't like the font. There was a huge plus in the poetry off to the side that had a found-poetry/art journal feel to it, but that was even before I edited into the manuscript that Stephanie enjoyed that side of art therapy.

The designer added it because she knew liked to art journal. 


And then, one evening during the summer, there was a rare occasion where I actually received a phone call from executive editor and CEO of the publishing house. 

"What kind of flowers are on this tattoo?" 


"In this scene where Stephanie notices the tattoo — what kind of flowers are those? I think we're going to put some kind of flowers on the pages. You know. To offset the dark subject matter..."

Needless to say, when I found OKAY CREATIONS and began talking with Sarah about the re-release and getting a new cover for EVERY SHATTERED THING, I couldn't believe how perfectly she nailed what was in my brain for the design. She did it again with SOMEWHERE BETWEEN WATER & SKY.

Original cover: no control

Original cover: no control

Re-release. Complete control. 

Re-release. Complete control. 

Book two. Complete Control. 

Book two. Complete Control. 

With indie publishing, you have complete control. You get to determine what the cover looks like. You get to set the date for your release. You get to decide whether or not you should include a cover reveal tour or hire a PR firm or go at editing alone. 

You get to decide the price. 

Everything. Everything. Is up for possibility and you are the one in complete control. This can be empowering. It can also be overwhelming. 

I didn't know that according to the tax man, authors actually own their own business. When you're traditionally published you often have middle men who help with the financing / checks / royalties. Indie pub? 

It's all you. 

Suddenly, you're not just a writer. You're a writer, author, designer, publisher, editor, marketer, entrepreneur, book distributor, accountant, the list gets long — fast. 

You can hire out. In fact, I recommend it for about half of that list above me. But with complete control comes the very sudden realization that at times, you're going this alone.

It doesn't have to be that way. 

Remember: you get to choose. 

I hire out my editor + designer + PR people. Amazon's KDP, CreateSpace, Kobo, iBooks and Nook are great book distributors. If you allow time and space for building a team, you can get a great one to support you when times get rough and you want to quit.

Remember K.P. and her encouragement for me to consider rewriting and republishing book one? Back in March, a little over a year after our first phone conversation, she sat on my couch and looked at me. 

"Are you writing?" she asked. A small smile played on her lips. "Or are you — you know — just helping people?" 

I stared at her for a moment. 

"Yeah. I'm not writing..." 

She shook her head and raised an eyebrow. 

"You know that's not what you're meant to do. Write." 

I knew she was right. I knew I had, once again, let others dictate what my days looked like and I was ignoring the pull to begin book two. Fear and doubt and this insane need for permission were permeating everything I created.

I had to stop. I had to remember. 

Later that week, with tears in my eyes and a new resolve to not let this story in my bones go to waste, I started the first lines of SOMEWHERE BETWEEN WATER & SKY. I contacted editors. I emailed my cover artist and asked her about availability during the summer. And then I emailed K.P. and began talking dates. I wrote them all down in my calendar before I could think twice about it.

Within two months, the manuscript was completed and sent off to my editor. 

You get to choose. That's the most important thing about indie publishing. You get to choose. Whether it's a bad day or one for where nothing makes sense because every single dream you have is coming to fruition, your choices are what got you there.

And you know what? Every moment of these past few years — even the hardest ones — have a tinge of beauty to them because I'm learning how to choose myself. 

Isn't it time you did the same?

Need more inspiration? Introducing Hustle & Flow: a weekly letter with artistic visioning for the everyday creative. I would love it if you signed up, and I won't ever spam you. Promise. 

You'll get hints and anecdotes about getting unstuck and living your most artistic life within the midst of your every day poetics. AND, if you sign up during October, you'll get some special extras dealing with indie-publishing. Come join us?

Posted on October 3, 2014 and filed under indie publishing, writing.