It is a strange new world. Self-published authors are ganging up on me, even picking on me because I’m with a publisher. It’s a small, independent publisher, one which actually cares about its authors. But still — if you knew where I came from, you’d know why this leaves me feeling like someone tasered me and left me in an alley.
I started writing Lust for Danger in 1986. I tried for years to get it published, following the traditional route – as that was all there was at the time (vanity publishing was never a consideration). I received plenty of rejection letters that were kind and regretful, stating that they couldn’t take a chance on me because I was a first-time author. Some of these letters were so good that I saved them so I could quote them once the book would finally be published – some day, some how. “Lively and entertaining,” “fine and creative storyteller,” “I liked the pace of the story and the strong female heroine,” and “great plot, well written” were just some of the comments made to me while being told “no thank you.” That was what kept me going.
I went from agent to agent, publisher to publisher, and rewrite to rewrite until I finally got to a point where I didn’t know what to do. Then I received an email from my friend Margaret with a link to a new publisher – iUniverse. They were just getting into the business, were introducing some new technology known as P.O.D. (print on demand) and needed new authors. Margaret was always on top of everything, so I checked into it. I read the contract and it seemed above-board. I even had my lawyer check it. I figured it was worth a shot, so I sent them my manuscript. Within a week they responded with an acceptance. I couldn’t believe it. I sent them the $80 upgrade fee for custom full-color cover artwork. They sent me galleys. I wanted to vomit. It was finally happening.
At the end of August 2001, Lust for Danger was released. I hired a publicist. I was not expecting to hear from that publicist that what I’d done was frowned upon. What I had done, in fact, was nearly as awful as having used a vanity press. What?! Why?! I didn’t pay to be published. The book was available through all the right distributors. It had an ISBN number… Why was I suddenly an outcast? Bookstores wanted nothing to do with me. They were used to being able to get books from publishers and then return them at the end of the year if they didn’t sell. How could that be done with print-on-demand? They’d never heard of such a thing. People would call book stores to order my book and would be told that it was out of print, or unavailable. Eventually, and nicely, my publicist quit, saying no one knew what to make of what I was doing. I would have to invest in a slew of books and carry them around, selling them myself. With my cost at $16 a pop, that wasn’t going to happen. She was apologetic. So, I saw no other choice but to do my publicity myself. I became a press machine. I was so successful in getting my name out there that people even recognized me when I was in disguise at the gas pump. Okay, so it wasn’t really a disguise. I was in my pajamas, and I was wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses. Perhaps it was the bright red convertible Saab that gave me away. But I digress.
While all that press didn’t really sell many books, it did get the attention of a local publisher. The owner of Write Words, Inc. approached me, offering me a contract for the e-book version of Lust for Danger. e-Book? Now what the hell was I getting myself into? I was already in enough trouble with this new-fangled P.O.D. technology. I’d never even heard of an e-book. But then, something strange happened. I got an email from iUniverse asking me to sign something so they could publish the e-book version as well. Hmmm…maybe there was something to this here e-book thang. So, I signed with WWI in 2003, and began my journey down e-book avenue. I had no idea where that road would take me.
Eight years later, I have six books published with WWI. They’re honest, and attentive, and take good care of me. I love them.
Then, another strange thing happened. I recently joined a writers’ group. “That’s not strange,” you say. “You’re strange, Brooks.” Well, that’s true, but beside the point. I don’t play well with others, for starters. Add to that my original experience with a writers’ group many, many years ago: when I was plagiarized by some of the writers. The only thing that made sense was to quit – and the odds of me ever becoming involved in a writers’ group again plummeted below zero. So how could I get sucked in to participating in another group? It was, in fact, an accident. I replied to an email asking for advice, and the next thing I knew, I was electronically surrounded by this interesting lot of people from all over the world sharing their self-promotion experiences. Nearly everyone in this writers’ group is self-published, and they’re loving it. Some of them are paying thousands of dollars to get into print, and some of them aren’t paying anything. But they’re nearly all self-published, just the same. Some of them were traditionally published and converted to self-pub. What?! What was once frowned upon is now the norm? Did I get kidnapped and taken to a parallel universe where what used to be bad is now good? To make matters worse, some of these writers pick on me. Say what? Yes, it’s true. But I have learned so very much from them and am grateful for that.
So now, these people have really opened a whole strange, new world for me. I see the level of success that can be had with self-publishing by the likes of Konrath and Eisler and others. The stigma, at least in the industry, seems to be gone. So do the costs. So now I’m thinking…hmmm, that anthology of short pieces my friend Newt and I wrote – why not self publish that? You know what? I think I will.
Footnote – this piece was originally written on October 7th, 2011. Now, it’s October 24th and Odd and Odder: A Collection of Sensuality, Satire and Suspense is already available on Kindle and Smashwords. Soon it will also be available in print. It’s a strange, new world – indeed.
K. S. Brooks is an award-winning novelist, photographer and poet. She devotes her time to writing action-adventure thrillers, romantic suspense novels, and children’s books which promote outdoor learning and literacy. Learn more about K.S. Brooks from her website and blog.