Why I Went Indie
by Lenore Skomal
I am Indie. And I say it proudly and with gusto because I chose it. Perhaps that makes me different from other indie authors who find themselves pushed into the “indie way” because of a general lack of response from the profit-driven, long-suffering commercial publishing industry, which has been reduced to a passel of lost sheepherders trying to lead their readers without direction or vision. But that’s a subject for another blog post.
A little back story: I started writing books in 2001, following a long career as a broadcast reporter and a burgeoning career in print journalism. It is a career that took me four decades to finally get to. That first book (Keeper of Lime Rock, Running Press, 2001) spawned 16 other book deals with four separate publishing houses. I have hired and parted ways with two literary agents during the course of that time. And learned a lot about the industry in the process, much of which is not pretty or glamorous. Not counting advances, the conventional route of being published through a commercial publisher has, to date, netted me exactly zero dollars in royalties.
The lack of financial success isn’t the real reason I went indie. That goes much deeper, and it’s multi-fold. Indie appeals to me. I chose the indie way of life because it speaks to me and how I approach my life in general and, specifically, my art. While working within the traditional publishing hierarchy and producing mostly contracted books, I found myself in a lesser place, wrangling with base emotions. Rather than feeling exalted and amped up like I do when I am dancing with my muse, I was ugly. That lack of beauty was obvious through my moods and rash feelings of disgruntlement, frustration, shock, sadness, disheartenment and yearning. Always yearning.
My mind shifted from the creative to the competitive. And with that, my higher path dropped to the lowest of roads. I found myself bitter about other’s successes, jealous of those I considered lesser writers who had moved ahead, and greedy for my piece of the pie. This is not what being in the flow is about. I began to look at success in terms of dollars and more dollars. And I continued to plummet.
Dark days indeed, especially because I was continuing to write all that I didn’t want to write. My two novels and two other very important books that I had completed stay buried in my computer, waiting to be discovered by this same industry that had never proved fertile ground for my craft.
Simply put, discovering the independent book revolution saved my soul. I am a newbie, with only one plus years under my belt with my own imprint. But have found myself again. Through forging my own path to understand all the specifics of getting my work in print, my courage was steeled, my voice sharpened, confidence cranked up, and my imagination humming. This is no exaggeration.
Long ago I isolated the reason why I write. As one of seven kids, raised in a dysfunctional Catholic family during the tail end of the Hippie era, I discovered writing at a young age and found that it did something for me that nothing else could. It helped me make sense of my life. It also allowed me to be heard, which didn’t happen often in the chaos that was my childhood. And that is the primary reason that I write. Being schooled in that tradition for 12 years, I got very used to being told what to do, how to do it, and what to wear while doing it. I was primed for the publishing industry because I was such a good soldier. The problem was, I wasn’t happy and somewhere along the way, they wanted me to sell my soul. And I’m ashamed to say, for the right advance, I might just have done it. Thankfully, no one wanted my novels as they are written, so I remain with my spirituality intact.
I say all of this because it ultimately explains why I love indie publishing. No one is telling me what to do. And that is very freeing. In this ever-evolving movement where boundaries are still being defined and we are all pretty much making things up as we go along, there is plenty of room for all of us. And no one has to change plots or switch voices or add werewolves to their novels or make endings more politically correct, just because an editor or publisher tells us to. Experimental genres are just as legit as literary fiction, and we can all wear unmatched socks and go shirtless to fancy restaurants if we want. And make money at the same time.
You know why? Because we are now free to leave ourselves bare, just as we are, take us or leave us, for the only person that matters to decide: The reader. We cut out the fat middleman, the hierarchy, the chain of command—call it what you will. We go direct to the reader and let that person decide.
Whether you come to independent publishing by choice, like me, or by chance, it really doesn’t matter in the long run. You’re here. And because of that, you’re part of the future, whether you realize it or not. We’re not outside the industry.
We are the industry, redefined.
Lenore Skomal is a veteran author with 15 commercially published books. Her best known book is Lighthouse Keepers’ Daughter: The Remarkable True Story of American Heroine Ida Lewis and was selected by the prestigious New York Public Library as one of its “Best Books for the Teen Age 2003″, an honor bestowed on only seven new titles in its category in 2003.
Her first indie book Burnt Toast won the humor category of the 2012 NEXT GENERATION INDIE BOOK AWARDS.