The ramblings and musings of author and musician Geoffrey Young Haney.
Much more coherent and loveable fare from his wife, Michelle.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Inspirations Week Day 1: Konrath & Hocking

Now before those of you in the authorial "know" roll your eyes and think "oh great, another post blindly praising the supposed God-like awesomeness of indie authors J.A. Konrath and Amanda Hocking" let me preface this post with a fact.

I always wanted to indie publish.

In the back of my mind, even 10, 12 years ago when I wrote my first screenplay, my goal was never to "be published" or "sell my script." It was to "tell stories." I didn't rush off to film school, or go get an degree in English. I just kept writing and hoped someday, through some hard work, someone would like my stories enough to pay for them - not, that is to say, think they were marketable enough to take a business risk on them. See the distinction? I wasn't writing for suits, I was writing for fans. I wrote music for fans. I crafted screenplays for fans. And I wanted to always do that.

Why? Because I'm a fan. A huge fan, and not even a very discerning one. I just like to be entertained. And I love stories. And I wanted to share in that experience by telling my own.

But back only a few years ago, if you wanted any real chance of telling these stories, you had to work within the system. And that meant publishers. That meant producers. That meant gatekeepers - it meant someone else's opinion determining if your idea saw the light of day. And on top of this power, they then take the bulk of your money and decide how to market your idea and decide who gets film rights or audio rights or foreign rights, and then they take that money, too, and...

It was almost too much for me to swallow. Still I wanted to tell my story. So 4 years ago or so when Matt and I started brainstorming The Sons of The Moon and decided to really go for this, I knew I would have to learn about the system. So I did a lot of research, spent a lot of time on agent websites and reading blogs and driving myself nuts with all the rules and regulations. Think about it. The system wants us to pour everything we have into a manuscript they can bank on... but they only want to see a one-page query or the first chapter. So then we pour everything into that first chapter or that query. If it works, we land that agent! But then the agent needs to convince the editor who needs to convince the publisher who needs to convince the people holding the purse strings. All. Based. On. Opinion.

I don't want opinion. I want fans. Fans with their own opinions. Love my story. Hate my story. All I know is I wanted to share it.

And I'm selfish! I want control. These are my children, and I'm not selling them to someone else. So yes, the idea of going it alone appealed to me. But I ran the gamut. I sent the queries. I sent probably 70 queries in two separate stages looking for representation for The Sons of The Moon. But after all the research and stressing and everything, I still had no CLUE what I was doing. Not really. Because there's no feedback in the query system (that's a whole 'nother post right there...).

So I was getting frustrated. That's about the time I stumbled on Konrath's blog. It has been a beacon of light ever since. Its serious, practical, no-fluff knowledge about how to successfully do this indie publishing thing. Yes, he's been published before. Yes, he has a huge backlog which is key to making good money of self-pub (more products = more sales). But he never once denies that, and he never fills anyone up with the idea that we will all be millionaires if only we sit down and write that novel! Still, it's his past as a legacy (traditional pub) author and that he has a "platform" because of it that left him, unfairly of course, open for attacks from traditional pub supporters; there were supposed chinks in the armor, if you will.

Enter Amanda Hocking.

Amanda's 26 years old and has only self-published. No. Traditional. Pub. Background. She took her stories to Amazon and brought them to the people. And the people are buying it up. If you'd like to learn more about Amanda's story (it's quite astonishing), her blog's FAQ and this post in particular answer a lot of questions. I won't regurgitate it here, but I will mention a few significant points. Amanda has made a huge chunk of money (over a million dollars.) The rights to her Trylle Trilogy have been optioned by the writer of District 9. And, in a move some indie supporters might question, she has just signed a 7-figure publishing deal with St. Martin Press.

These two pioneering individuals really inspire me - not to jump off some crazy cliff where I know not what sort of rusted spikes wait for me at the bottom, but to try and do what I always wanted to do. Yes, to me, Konrath's got the right idea: it's your story. If you can make the bulk of the money by doing it alone, you should be doing that. YOU put the bulk of the work in; don't you want to get paid for your work? He's quick to remind us of an important fact: a legacy deal isn't a golden ticket. People are dropped from publishers ALL THE TIME. A writer waits their whole life to be published and if it doesn't go the way the investors wanted, more times than not - especially in this publishing and economic environment - the author is left in the dust. So why not try to go indie? If you fail, its on your own merits. It's not someone else dropping the ball. Unlike my failed foray into querying, all of which led to questions I couldn't answer, if I fail at self-pub, I only have my OWN methods to examine and learn from, not someone else's tastes. And guess what? I can always try again. There's no looming time-line for my improvement.

The fact that Amanda has now signed a pub deal doesn't discourage me in the self-publishing process, it encourages me! I've always thought it should be this way - publishers come after a writer who has proven themselves not by a query, but by SALES! That's what they want anyway, sales.

So before I ramble on even longer, let me just say thank you to the two names above, as well as other authors I've befriended and learned from (shout out to Joseph Robert Lewis.) I don't know if you'll ever read this, but I extend my gratitude nonetheless. Keep writing wonderful stories and paving those paths for the rest of us dreamers.

Tomorrow I'll discuss another man whose paved his own way and really gives me something to aspire to, both as a storyteller and a filmmaker. Join me tomorrow, and thanks for giving this post a read.



Robin Sullivan said...

The biggest untold story in the Hocking/Konrath rise to fame is how many other authors are also seeing great success. My husband's Riyria Revelations Series went from from a "nobody" to selling 11,000+ books in January alone. He has sold more than $100,000 in foreign rights sales to: Czech Republic, France, Spain, Germany, Russia.

You don't have to be Hocking and Konrath - it opens opportunities for any author --- who can write well and has perseverence.

Robin | Write2Publish

Geoff said...

Excellent point Robin. Congrats to your husband!