Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The New Red-Headed Stepchild


There's nothing quite so much fun as lively discussion about who's sunk to the bottom. This said with much sarcasm. It both fascinates and dismays me to find that people seem to have a need to knock others down. 

When I started writing, ebooks were the red-headed stepchild. Back in 2005, there were three notable romance epublishers. I was a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA) and had actually been introduced to my first publisher (an electronic publisher) through my local RWA. When I signed a contract and wanted to share my good news, my "supportive" group snubbed me. I apparently wasn't writing "real" books. Lovely.

Fast forward a few years and erotic romance becomes the new least favorite of the genres. Why? I have no idea, but telling people, even fellow romance writers, that I wrote erotic romance was akin to telling them I slaughtered small children, puppies and kittens for kicks. And God forbid those right-minded folks in the Bible Belt hear of it. One woman didn't want our kids to play together for fear my son might taint hers. Yes, because I often use a four-year-old to plot erotic scenes. Okay, she was a dumbass.

Fast forward a few more years, and self-publishing is lauded as nonsense. According to the proverbial "they"--only those who can't get published by a real publisher do it themselves. And then Amanda Hocking broke the ceiling. A new author, not well-known, who managed to sell over a million copies of a young adult book. Suddenly self-publishing, relabeled Indie (independent) publishing, didn't look so bad. Others jumped on the bandwagon and saw success. 

Now it's 2013. Ebooks and digitial-first lines are common in the large NY publishing houses. Ebooks sales gross more and more of the publishing pie every year. With the phenomenal success of Fifty Shades of Grey, erotic romance has pretty much gone mainstream. Authors are self-publishing and many are making a living doing so. 

Which brings me to my next group of those considered by some to be persona non grata. Agents. 

Who thought that would ever be the case? Personally, I think agents still have their place. In the print world with large publishing houses, good agents--note, I said good--can swing authors better deals and better contract terms. But in the indie and small press world, I just don't see a need for them. I've heard of authors verbally attacking agents on Twitter and Facebook, declaring in broad, sneering terms their uselessness. And I've also heard of agents--yes, agents--foaming at the mouth and throwing gibes at authors who dare question their necessity.

And the ugliness continues.

I just think it's interesting that for so long, authors have been the bottom of the food chain when without authors, there is no work to edit, agent, or produce. Now to see agents getting a sense that they aren't worth keeping around stuns, baffles, and yes, intrigues me. It's like watching a train wreck and being unable to look away. 

Hearing for years that professionals know the market better than I do, when I read hundreds of romances a year and have for over twenty years, made little sense to me. But then, I'm biased and invested in my own work, so of course I'm not clearheaded about my projects. I do, however, know what readers like. Not necessarily what sounds marketable, but what an actual reader will read. Now that indie publishing is big, I think those same professionals are realizing that for the first time in a long time, readers are making themselves heard. Books that the old Big 6 might never have found marketable are readable, and being sold in droves. 

It's a brave, fun, scary, exciting new world out there. And it all rests with the readers, finally, as it should. 


Cathryn Cade said...


Right there with you, sistah. I too, got the digital contract, received polite smiles from RWA chapter members who wanted to be positive and supportive but who just weren't sure being epubbed was going to do anything for an author. Then I started relaying the news of monthly paychecks that sometimes nearly equaled my teaching salary. Heads turned and eyes opened.

Those fabulous paychecks have sagged with the huge surge of the market into digital, and a fun but not lucrative genre decision on my part. But I do believe that moving into self-pub and getting more books out will re-grow my career.

On a funny side-note, a VERY well-known author spoke to our chapter in 2009, and disparaged all things epubs. I disagreed and he kinda steamrolled me. Now, having gone epub and then indie himself, he is now one of the biggest epub proponents. Love this!

I used to want an agent and a Big 6 contract more than anything. Now, hmm. Would be fun to be in the grocery stores for that brief shining moment, but on the whole I'd rather my books were available for perpetuity. And I know there are fabulous agents who have morphed their tasks with the times, but I just don't see myself needing one now.

So I'm now a hybrid--epub and indie. Exciting times.

Thanks for sharing. Your blog is always fascinating and informative.

Cathryn Cade

Marie Harte said...

I'm with you, Cathryn. I think the future of the full-time writer is in the hybrid model. It's all about distribution and expanding your name. How better to do that than to dip your toes into all the reading formats you can? Mass market, trade print, ebook, audio, traditional publishing, self publishing. All of it helps.

I have learned a lot from RWA. What to do, and what NOT to do. They are a large organization and as such have provided me with of wealth of information. They've also at times been extremely close-minded, exclusionary, and downright idiotic for not accepting that technology has and will continue to change our industry. But as with any large organization, change takes time, I guess.

Other writing organizations seem to be the same. Helpful to some, not helpful to others.

Like you, I used to want an agent and a large NY contract with all the big 6. But now, not so much. Not that I would turn down a mega-deal print contract, but I'd have to thoroughly vet it first. I want to continue building my audience in ebook and print. MY way.

Thanks for commenting. Us hybrids need to stick together. :)

Carrie Ann Ryan said...

I'm an indie only author at the moment because that's what I have time for. I'm doing a series with an epub in 2015 so I'll that to my resume. I've been lucky in that I started publishing in a time when this was feasible. Yes, people still aren't fans and look down, but not most readers.
Maybe one day I'll go traditional, but right now, I'm a busy bee as it is. I have respect for all types of works as long as I enjoy reading them. :-)

Marie Harte said...

Exactly, Carrie Ann. People may look down, not READERS. I could give two craps about "people" and their snotty opinions. But the readers, those are the ones I care about. And considering you're a more avid reader than even I am (impressive *grin*), you know how much value readers should have. I also think you could be traditionally published anywhere else if you chose, but your success with indie, as well as the fact that you seem to like what you're doing, are ideal reasons to continue with what works.

I'm going to write more indie stuff later this year/next year, schedule permitting. It's hard work, but so thrilling to write what you want without someone telling you, no, that won't work. Don't do it.


Cathryn Cade said...


I would totally Tweet and Facebook this post for you ... if I could find the buttons.


Tracy said...

My favourite authors are now, in the main, Indie (yourself, Carrie Ann, Felicity Heaton, Kit Rocha/Moira Rogers to name but a few). I honestly think it's about time you all finally started to get the recognition and acknowledgement you truly deserve....

In all honesty, before I started using Kindle I hadn't really heard much at all about indie writers/books - which is a real shame......
I am so glad I came across you all!!

I wish more people realised the amount of energy, time, hard work and heart that you guys put into your books....
Some folk seem to think that as it's ebooks and you self publish that it's not the same as 'traditional' authors (if that makes sense)

There's still way too much book snobbery about! The general comments and attitude I get towards the genres/books that you write (and I LOVE to read) when I talk about them is still bloody awful.... I really wish people would get a grip, open their minds and actually try some of these books - maybe, just maybe, they'd actually enjoy them!!!

Your books are fab. Whether in e-format or paperback I'll buy them. Keep on at what you're doing and I'll keep reading!!!