Friday, 9 January 2015

Why I decided to self-publish the Alliance Series

Adamant was my fifteenth drafted novel. Of the other fourteen, only the Darkworld series (five books total) is under contract with a publisher. I’ve queried four of the other novels and shelved three. I’ve been writing novels for over ten years, and until 2012, I always dreamed of an agent and a traditional publishing deal. Then, after two years of rejections, three shelved projects, and making about every newbie error possible, I wrote Darkness Watching, an upper-YA urban fantasy/paranormal novel. It was a story I wanted to tell, and really wanted to publish. I was a student and didn’t have the time or money to commit to self-publishing, but nobody was buying paranormal or urban fantasy… except small presses. So I queried a select group of indie publishers, and I was offered a contract with Curiosity Quills in February 2013. Happily, CQ have been brilliant to work with and have offered contracts for the other four books in my series.

Yet I’ve still never had interest from an agent, and subjectivity seems to be the major cause - all the agent feedback I've had in the past two years has been positive, and always comes back to "I just didn't love it". Understandably, agents really have to love a book to take a chance on it. But with six publishing contracts in hand, glowing feedback from professionals, and still not so much as a single full request, I did find myself questioning why I invested countless hours in researching agencies and crafting query letters and yet I seemed no closer to achieving my goal, four years and fourteen manuscripts after I started querying.

At heart, I’m a control-freak, as far as my career is concerned. I’ve never been entirely comfortable with the idea that subjective outside opinions have the power to decide my entire career. What would happen if I never wrote a book which an agent connected with? Or if they liked one book, but nothing else that I wrote? Or if I wrote a series and then the publisher cancelled it at the second or third book? (All things that, sad to say, I’ve seen happen more than once over the past few years.) I don't write in popular genres, I write weird fantasy and sci-fi. People have commented on the originality of my plots and the worlds I create in my books... but that doesn't make a bestseller.

Writing is how I make sense of the world. It makes me feel like I’m in control – and for someone with anxiety and OCD, that’s pretty important. The submissions process takes that away. And while getting a traditional deal would undeniably be worth it, I reached the point this summer where it was starting to mess with my productivity to know that I was spending months drafting, revising, and editing each project, only for it to be taken out of my hands and indefinitely put on hold. My inbox was becoming one huge anxiety trigger, and it was completely distracting me from making any progress. Subjectivity is a fact of the business for writers at all stages of the journey, but the idea of spending another year writing, editing and shelving projects in the hope that one of them might, someday, lead to a “yes”, just felt too much like placing my future in a lottery. There’s never been any question that I want writing to be my career. I’ve treated writing as a job since I was fourteen, and now have three books published and three more under contract. I'm more than happy to make compromises and I totally understand the traditional publishing process - but I also understand that in the current age of publishing, writers have other options, and need not commit to one path for life.

I’ve thought long and hard about self-publishing, as I know the worst mistake to make is to publish too soon. After I finished the Darkworld series, I moved onto YA and MG projects that I felt were more suited for traditional publishing, but I kept the option at the back of  my mind. So I waited, researching the process, and kept querying. I thought my middle-grade fantasy adventure, The Clockmaker's Key, might be the one to land me an agent, and my critique partners and beta readers agreed. After I'd polished it to the best of my ability, honed my query letter and synopsis and formed a carefully-targeted list of agents, I began querying in August. I'd had an idea for a new Multiverse series that had been bugging me for months, and I decided to make it my "sanity project". 

When I'd finished planning the Alliance series, I was left with a dilemma. I could carry on querying, but if no one wanted my quirky MG fantasy, which is a genre agents are actually looking for, then the odds weren't great for my adult urban fantasy/sci-fi/Multiverse hybrid. And I thought: this is it. I didn’t want to put this new series through the long progress of hope and disappointment until I lost all connection with it. I loved this series, and I wanted to publish it. Self-publishing was still a leap into the dark, because if my work didn't appeal to agents, it was entirely possible it wouldn't appeal to readers, either. Yet people responded positively to the concept, and I've absolutely loved interacting with readers who've enjoyed the Darkworld series. And ultimately, reader feedback means more to me than near-miss rejections.

So I planned the series with the conviction that I’d be able to finish and publish all six books, whatever happened in publishing. I want to have fun with it, and I wanted to take back that control. I felt totally empowered to give it my absolute best effort, with none of the crippling self-doubt and confidence issues that plagued every other project I’ve worked on since finishing the Darkworld series. I threw myself headlong into the story, and I feel like it’s one of the best things I’ve ever written.

And I’m publishing it. This year.

Of course, the rest of the Darkworld series is under contract with Curiosity Quills, and I have several other projects completed, too. And I’m not ruling out traditional publishing, not at all - in fact, if I hadn't invested so much time into this project, I'd still be querying. I write middle-grade books as well as YA and adult, and I know I’d only be able to fully reach my audience if I published through a mainstream publisher. But my YA and adult novels don’t have that handicap. The truth is, it’s difficult for writers, traditionally-published or otherwise, to make a living at this business. And at this point, I’m ready to make the jump into self-publishing. Ultimately, I want to share my stories. I’m enough of a workaholic, hyper-organised control-freak to want to be in control of the process with this series, and I’m a hundred percent committed to putting out the absolute best work I can. Once I was certain of all these things, the decision was easy to make. I’m excited to join the indie team! ^_^

Resources I recommend for writers interested in self-publishing.

The last three are available in a collection, The Indie Author Power Pack: How to Write, Publish & Market Your Book, which was only 77p (99 cents) on Kindle when I bought it – a bargain!

Look out for some more blog posts from me in the next few months, on planning a series, the self-publishing process, and my new writing process as an indie author!


  1. I'm sure I'll end up self-publishing. I just don't have the time to query for years and years.

    I looked up the Indie Author Power Pack on amazon, and right now the Kindle version is listed as unavailable. Wonder what happened?

    1. That's strange. Maybe it was a one-time-only promotion. The individual books are all worth reading, though!

  2. I really admire people who self-publish. It's really awesome that you're taking your career into your own hands. Good luck with this series!