Declaring My Independence

Donna Huston Murray

by Donna Huston Murray

Going independent–lots of authors are doing it, and now I have, too.

It was not an easy decision, complicated by the lucky fact that my track record–seven cozy mysteries put out by a major NY publisher–still garnered interest from agents and editors. But since my series character is pretty much a smarter, braver me, when my contracts were fulfilled, I welcomed the chance to live in somebody else’s head for a while. Shunning the “Write what you know” advice teachers hand out with your first yellow pencil, I chose the less-heard and infinitely trickier “Write what you fear” route. I wanted a heroic woman this time, and to my mind nobody is more heroic than a person who has endured cancer. Let’s make her a cop before she got sick so she has skills, even if she doesn’t expect to need them again. Now remove her resources one by one for no apparent reason, and the plot for CURED is in motion. I just didn’t figure on Lauren Beck’s second major life challenge taking up so much of mine. Yet we both toughed it out, and I’m happy to report that CURED is finally finished.

The question then became, “What’s next?” There didn’t used to be a choice. Today there is, and that alone is huge.

I waffled for weeks until I came across this: “As far as I can tell,” said John T. Reed right there on my monitor, “the authors who still go with publishers and distributors lack self-esteem–big time.” Well, well! Evidently going independent would prove that I am not the wimp I thought I was. For the first time ever, authors with a pioneer’s work ethic, creativity (already a given), and what isn’t too huge of a cash investment, can be the architects of their own success. A cactus like me can survive on news like that for years. But was it best for my big opus?

When I first got a contract, I had no choice but to trust my publisher to market my work up to its full potential. I assumed that my success would be of some importance to the company. What I didn’t realize was that publishers choose who will succeed based on the financial investment they made up front. Business 101. Dollars indicate their expectations. Compared to what a major publisher can do for their chosen authors, my promotional efforts didn’t even warrant a pat on the head. That’s just the way it was. But times, they are a-changing…

Still, why chance independence? For one thing, I didn’t relish waiting more than a year for CURED to see daylight. October, 2012, was my goal. But mainly because nobody else can possibly care about my work as much as I do. Business 102. Passion goes a long way.

And guess what. Being independent feels fantastic. Yes, I’m responsible for everything–quality control, covers, the ISBN, publicity, formatting, securing reviews, etc., etc., etc., but it’s not only empowering, it’s fun. Am I making mistakes–yes, lots. But already my ineptitude has put me together with some amazingly generous people, the sort of souls I almost forgot exist. Not only can they help me–they seem eager to do it. I find this beyond astonishing.

Will it all work? I’m thinking yes. After all, David only had to conquer Goliath once!


In addition to the seven Ginger Barnes Main Line mysteries originally published by St. Martin’s Press, Donna Huston Murray has written for MYSTERY SCENE MAGAZINE, READER’S DIGEST, ECHELON, and REDBOOK. Her work can also be found in the Edgar-award winning companion book, THE FINE ART OF MURDER, and the LETHAL LADIES I and II anthologies by Berkley. CURED…but not out of danger is her first novel of suspense. Learn more about Donna from her Amazon author page and her website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

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14 thoughts on “Declaring My Independence”

  1. Great post! As an Indie author of soon to be 7 novels, yes, the road is hard, but the reward is far better than anything I could have dreamed of. Indies are loyal, fierce, and loving. We battle criticism, bad reviews, and the Big 6 all while keeping our graces. Help is always an email or blog post away. Enjoy your Indieship!

  2. Great article. Donna’s point about the turnaround time is well taken. I can’t imagine waiting that long to get my book out.
    I attended a writer’s conference last fall and an author was signed by an agent during the conference. This year on the conference blog they’re trumpeting the fact that same author’s book will be published next fall. That’s a two year turnaround from the time she signed with the agent. That’s unacceptable. In that time I’ve self-pubbed my book and managed to get it out to a whole lot of readers, and with the technology we have today that’s the way it should be.

    1. A big variable is the time it takes to secure an agent, then the time he or she takes to sell the book–then the possible year the publisher needs to put it out. If your book has a timely topic, the publisher hurries, but otherwise you wait.

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