This is sort of my writing-and-publishing operations blog, so I’m going to ramble a bit here about the experience of producing my first ever self-published series, Fairy Compacts. It’s a Katey Hawthorne series, but it’s still more relevant to this blog. Pooooooossibly a TL;DR post, but hey.
Quick background: I wrote the first novella in the series, The Dangers of Fairy Compacts as a freebie for the MM Romance group at Goodreads. The idea was that people would post a prompt to go with a picture, and authors would claim a prompt and photo that appealed to them. I managed to score this one, posted by Miya Kressin, a fellow fae lover and author. I wrote it, it was super-fun, and of course it spawned a little trilogy in my brain before it had even gone up at the group.
Okay, so, that’s the catch-up bit done. When I came back from Italy earlier this year, I did up an indiegogo campaign to scrape together some funds for a pal in some trouble. Loads of her friends and professional acquaintances donated books for giveaways, but that was a sort of raffle ticket perk–I needed something everyone could be guaranteed for their contribution. Seeing as this was going to be a largely romance-reader community effort, and I had these two planned-but-unwritten fairy romance novellas in the back of my mind, I figured what the hell. Perks!
Now, as I learned last year when creating the promotional chapbook for Scripped, putting my own work out there presents a totally different set of challenges than editing and even publishing work by others. I’m not even close to being an old hand at the latter, but Morrigan Books and The Red Penny Papers have got me some experience there, at least–not to mention that all of my publishers so far have to varying degrees let me have a hand in the production process. What little experience I have, however, has taught me that publishing in general is an undertaking fraught with peril. There’s art to consider and commission; there are beta reads, structural edits, line edits, and proofing; there’s formatting to wrangle; there’s paying the bills on time all the time; there’s pre-promotion and proper promotion; there’s distribution and royalties to divvy; there’s social media out the ass–or death.
All of which is my idea of a good time–when it’s for someone else. (No, actually, I don’t mind the social media and promotion aspect for my own stuff, but that’s another post for another time.)
The rest of that stuff? That’s the stuff that requires
1. Fresh eyes and perspective. As in, things I do not have when it comes to my own stories. Never have, never will. I rely on others to tell me if I am saying what I hoped to say.
2. Experience, particularly in business matters. No matter how much I gain, someone else will always have more. And I need it. It makes me feel safe, goddammit.
3. Organization. I make a lot of lists, but when it comes to my own stuff, my lists are plotty and charactery and decidedly not operational. (On the other hand, you should see my elaborate RPP operations lists. My god.) Related: the time to organize.
I don’t think I lack confidence in my work, especially. Yeah, I go on those binges where I hate everything and I suck and blah blah, but for the most part I don’t even think about that stuff. It’s pointless, because I’m going to write it anyhow (I genuinely cannot stop and never could–every time I’ve tried it’s been god awful), and I learned a long time ago that it wasn’t worth driving myself any crazier than I already am over something I can’t change. I’m more of a leap before I look kind of girl in that sense–out of necessity. Not particularly confident, just not particularly, um, thinky.
I do, however, know my limitations, and they are neatly described above as no.s 1, 2, and 3. I don’t think it signifies a lack of confidence to recognize that you require no. 1 not to suck; to me this seems pragmatic. And since being good at telling stories is my main concern when it comes to my own work, no.s 2 and 3 are naturally secondary and get pushed aside impatiently. Which is what I say when anyone asks me why they might want to court a publisher when they could just do it themselves–and why I’ve always known I’d be better off with a publisher, if I could find one brave or stupid enough to take a chance on me. Because I know (at least some of) my limitations.
Not true for everyone, and it shouldn’t be, for so many reasons. God, to think of the excellent self-published books I would’ve missed out on otherwise–no, no, no. This is all very me, and me alone.
So when I decided to continue the Fairy Compacts thing myself, I was pretty nervous. The first story was (and is) free for all, and the MM group had proofreaders that kindly went over things. I’ve done a few little freebies before like that for my boys from Equilibrium, and Editrix Raven went over those for me because she’s awesome. But these new FC books, these would be perks for which someone contributed their hard earned money to a cause that was really important to me. If they were disappointed* with them, I’d feel horrible. Production is on me!
Enter John and Meghan, the best editors ever, and Ruxandra, the wonderful artist who did all three illustrations and the cover within a week of my talking to her about it.
Even knowing I had them up my sleeve, I was up in the air for a while on how to proceed. What do I do with these books after they’re perks? I’m a writer, I like telling people stories, so I’d like to make them more widely available. Do I send them to my publisher and see if they’re interested in doing an omnibus? After all, it’s a small run if they’re just used for perks, they might be willing to reprint. I sort of felt them out (admittedly, on accident), and they seemed willing to have a look. It’d reach a wider audience if they said yes…
I talked it over with some writer-friends and B (my bastion of business sense and practicality), and they sort of smacked me upside the head. “You’re already doing all the work–not to mention paying for it. Just sell it yourself!” With all my other concerns about trusting myself to publish, all that was left was that vs. the prospect of a wider audience, basically.
So I figured, Fuck it, I’ll be brave this once, and there it is. The first (read: perk special!) edition went out last night–and let me tell you, brave, intrepid, and frankly revolutionary independent authors out there: you fucking win at life. I have always been a huge supporter of author-controlled and produced stories, but actually having the guts to do it myself this week has given me a whole new level of love and appreciation. This shit is intense. And I love you for doing it.
Of course, the regular version of Fairy Thrall won’t be on sale til September, so we’ll see if I’m still feeling so optimistic about my own adventures after that happens. But damn dude. Damn. Hardcore adventure time.
And in closing, it’s been brought to my attention that my tendency to ramble on at length about my reasons for doing writer-career-type things can come off as defensive. I always think I’m coming off like an arrogant dumbfuck, so was actually glad to hear it. But the truth is–and I think you guys will feel me on this–that there aren’t a lot of people in my life with whom I can talk about these things without putting them into a coma, which is the age-old problem of writers everywhere. Talking it through both feels good and helps me to organize my thoughts; pathetically enough, I’m not looking for approval, just a conversation with a friend who gets it. Tooooooooooootally not asking for anyone to tell me it was okay to try something different and *patpat* you did good honey. (You can ask Raven–when I want that, I ask for it outright. I literally email her and say, “Please pat me on the head and tell me I did good because I’m freaking out right now.”) Just talking about an interesting experience to which I figured people who’d see this could relate and ideally have experiences of their own in the same vein to talk back about. Because, you know. Humans. We’re like that!
*Side note: of course every book disappoints some readers, which is a fact of being an author with which I have become very comfortable, if no less happy, over the course of this year. I just mean disappointed in a way I could’ve controlled from a QA perspective.