Many of you may know Roz Morris from her fantastic writing blog and her indispensable writing guide, Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Fix, Finish and Draft with Confidence. As of yesterday, she and I now have something in common too: after saying in the past that while we were happy to self-publish our non-fiction, we’d never, ever self-publish a novel, we’re doing just that! Roz has put an ingenious twist on her novel release, My Memories of a Future Life, so I asked her to tell us more about her decision. Welcome to Catherine, Caffeinated, Roz!
Why I’m self-publishing
If you’d asked me in January, I wouldn’t have thought self-publishing a novel was a good idea. It was fine for non-fiction, where you could demonstrate your expertise and gather readers who liked your style. I’d already done it with a book on writing – Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How you Can Draft, fix and Finish With Confidence. Publishers thought it was fine, but too short to put out in print. So I published it myself and each month it gathers fans who tell me there is nothing else like it and it’s exactly what they need.
But self-publishing fiction? Wasn’t that like admitting you couldn’t get properly published?
Maybe years ago it was. But these days there are two reasons novels don’t find publishers. One is that they’re not good enough. The other is that they’re not what the market needs.
I had a novel on submission, My Memories of a Future Life. A quirky twist on reincarnation, it falls between genres. Too unusual to be either genre fiction or traditionally literary. My agent took me on because she loved it and said it reminded her of The Time Traveller’s Wife, in a Derren Brown way. But publishers won’t take chances on new unusual fiction.
I had rejections that went ‘a fascinating little novel – if it was more like a conventional thriller we’d have taken it’. ‘We loved Roz’s writing, she really knows her craft, but it wouldn’t be right for our list’. And: ‘I really liked it but I have no idea how I’m going to persuade marketing.’ Exactly like Catherine’s experience with Results Not Typical.
My Memories of a Future Life was inspired by the novels that were being published ten or twenty years ago. What if you were somebody’s past? What parts of you would haunt them? Could they give you the answers you need now? The publishing economy won’t stand novels like that now, but readers still adore them. It’s all the things I would tell authors not to do if they were hoping for representation or publication now, and it’s what I had to write.
Around spring this year, agents started talking about becoming publishers. The term self-publishing, which has been trying for years to peel itself away from the stigma of vanity (and helped by pioneers like our Catherine here) was at last being used in respectable circles – although with much gnashing of teeth.
Did I dare?
I looked at my manuscript. Did I dare put it out myself?
Then I hit on an idea. With our brave new world of Kindle, short-form fiction is just as saleable as long-form. What if I put my novel out as a serial, the way Dickens used to? If part of the problem was that I’d paced a ‘proper’ novel like a Hitchcock movie and done a few cheeky things with reality, I should make a virtue out of it. A literary novel in four parts, a hefty 25k words for the magic 0.99c a time?
I talked it over with my agent. Do it, he said. You’ve already self-published so you know how to do it to proper standards. And if you get good sales, publishers are more likely to take notice of your next book, which we can sell conventionally.
Times change, huh? Not so long ago, people worried that self-publishing your fiction was like taking a bulldozer to your career.
Not ‘either or’
By the way, just because you espouse self-publishing doesn’t mean you have to shun conventional publishing. I’ve got experience of both ends of the publishing spectrum, from self-pubbing Nail Your Novel and ghostwriting for the mighty behemoths like Random House. The publishers weren’t ‘wrong’ about Nail Your Novel. It was too short for them to turn a profit. I would love a conventional publishing deal for My Memories of a Future Life, but it breaks the rules of the commercial market now and so I’m better putting out myself. I have many other books in me that will be a good fit with bigger publishers. Talk to any self-publisher today and they will say the same. We can mix and match in our careers.
This time in publishing is groundbreaking and pioneering. Publishers won’t help authors create their own platforms and so we have to do it ourselves. But this also means we’re in the driving seat if we write great books and find the right audience. We’re like the indie musicians taking control – and possibly going to publishers on more equal terms.
And as for the four-part serialisation? My agent is watching keenly to see how it works as a model for ebook releases of their own. Yes, folks. Writers here and now are setting the agenda for the future of the industry.
My Memories of a Future Life Episode 1, The Red Season, was released on Kindle yesterday, 29 August. Find it on the Kindle store here. Find out more on www.mymemoriesofafuturelife.com.
Roz Morris is a ghostwriter, editor and the author of Nail Your Novel – Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence, available from Amazon. Her website is www.rozmorris.wordpress.com and she blogs at www.nailyournovel.com. You can follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/dirtywhitecandy and www.twitter.com/byrozmorris.
Thanks so much Roz – fantastically interesting post and best of luck with My Memories of a Future Life! Self-publishers: take note. This is how an experienced writer familiar with the publishing industry comes to the decision to self-publish – slowly, considerately and not at all lightly.