by Tina Ann Forkner
“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”
-- George Bernard Shaw
To date, I’ve had two novels published by a big legacy publisher and one from an independent publisher, but there was a time when I was afraid to take that step and pursue an alternative publisher as I waited for the big guys to call.
Even though everybody was saying to embrace the change, I didn’t want to. I wanted to keep doing things the old way. I’m not a business or economics major, so I can’t explain the business of publishing to you in technical terms, but for years I sat back and watched the ebook and self-publishing industries evolve as traditionally published authors like myself struggled to get new books out. Finally, last year, I started asking myself if I was missing the boat.
It didn’t seem right that thousands of people were publishing novels all by themselves and making money, while multi-published authors sat by their laptops waiting for their phones to ring with the unlikely news of a book contract. That’s when it happened. I decided to embrace changing technology.
I used to say I would never read an ebook, but that has changed as I’ve realized that while I love a traditional book, a story is a story, no matter its delivery to the reader. Likewise, I used to tell authors don’t ever self-publish, and while I still haven’t self-published my own books, I’ve changed my mind about that too.
I’ve never been one to rush into change, but as I’ve watched the industry transform, I had to ask myself why, as a traditionally published author with a legacy publisher who has some experience in publishing, was I not willing to step in and become a hybrid author.
I don’t know who first coined the term, but a hybrid author is a writer who has novels published by legacy publishers (Random House, Hachette, and the rest of the big guys in publishing), as well as novels that are self-published or published by smaller independent presses.
When I mentioned to my husband, the economics major, that I was thinking about pursuing another way to get my latest novel, Waking Up Joy, published, he was all for it. On the other hand, I, the English major, was leery of doing all that work. Plus, I had worked hard to be traditionally published. I didn’t want to bring a book out into the world only to be lost in a sea of self-published works, many of them subpar, from online retailers.
Not all self-published books were poorly written, of course, and many excellent writers were rising to the top, but when I looked at my friends who had written fantastic self-pubbed books and saw the amount of work they put into the publishing and marketing of their books, I was overwhelmed. My mind was opened to change, but my business capabilities and time priorities weren’t. That’s when a new publishing option came along for me in the form of a smaller independent publisher that specializes in mostly digital sales and some print.
Tule Publishing Group isn’t a self-publisher, but it is completely independent of the legacy publishers. When they wanted to do a contract with me to publish Waking Up Joy, I couldn’t believe my luck.
But maybe it wasn’t luck at all. If I had not embraced the change that was happening in the publishing industry, I would have never been connected to my new publisher and I would have never considered going with a non-legacy publisher. The opportunity would have sailed right by, which is what’s happening to too many authors.
My advice to other authors who have been doing this for years is to embrace change, because things really do change. Five years ago, I wouldn’t have been saying what I’m saying now because all the pieces weren’t in place, but a lot has happened lately to give serious writers new opportunities.
Writers don’t need to give up the pursuit of traditional publishing in order to pursue other opportunities. In fact, I don’t think any writer should give that up, but it’s okay to consider another way. Whatever you do, I believe it’s time for serious writers to make a choice.
Are we are going to be so concerned with preserving the purity of our writing that the words we write are never going to be read? If the answer is yes, then I don’t judge you. I have been there. I have even had friends who decided to pull out of the publishing industry completely, all because they did not want to embrace the change. But if getting published is still a goal, then it’s time to mindfully explore new ways to share our love of story with our readers.
At the risk of sounding like I need a megaphone, the time for authors is right now. There are plenty of entrepreneurs who have caught onto this publishing game and are doing what they can to exploit publishing, but we are the authors. We write the books. I guess you could say it’s time for us to take back the industry.