Between a Rock and a Hard Place
June 6, 2014
As a writer I abhor clichés. But, in this case, it just seems to fit. So how did I find myself in this very uncomfortable place?
I’ve become a hybrid. For those in the “industry,” you know what this means, but to those who are readers, not writers, I’ll explain. I’m a published writer in the traditional sense, with one of the Big Five (used to be Six!) internationally recognized English-language publishers, and recently I’ve become a “self-published” author.
I’ve published three books with Berkley/Penguin (now merged with Random House), with a fourth book coming out in January, 2015.
When my first book, The Seventh Unicorn, was published with Berkley, I was ecstatic. I’d worked very hard to learn the craft of writing, to find an agent who could sell my book to a real publisher. The next three books were not as difficult a sell (though my editor died before we got the second one out, and in the meantime just about everything about the publishing industry had changed). Writers were now publishing their own books, some doing it well, attracting readers, making money.
There are many things I like about traditional publishing: editors, marketing and sales departments that can get your books into real bookstores, the possibility of foreign translations.
So why did I decide to self-publish? In traditional publishing a book might take a year or two to get out, and I was working with a time-sensitive story that I wanted to release by the 40th anniversary of Evel Knievel’s attempted jump over the Snake River Canyon near my hometown of Twin Falls, Idaho. My publisher, Berkley, specializes in women’s novels, and this is a novella and short story collection that should appeal to men, too.
Here’s where the rock and the hard place come in—traditional publishers and Amazon (with whom I’m self-publishing because I checked around and found that they are the best, the most helpful and efficient, with the capability of reaching the largest number of readers) are in a big fight. Amazon has been called a bully. One editor (not mine, but a woman who invited me to her book club) called Amazon evil, or was it the devil? I shared my plan to self-publish with my Berkley editor. I won’t describe her as thrilled, but she did seem to understand why I was doing this. I think she shares a common fear of many in the publishing industry—that Amazon will take over completely. According to the latest numbers, they account for about 40% of U.S. book sales. The book retailers, the bookstores, are caught up in this, too.
So, whose side am I on anyway?
The readers. The writers. I don’t want to get into this fight. I just want to write.
Can you see how I feel I’m between a rock and a hard place?