In the beginning there were two types of published books. The traditionally published ones and the vanity published ones. Vanity publishing was where the author paid a company to publish their book, irrespective of quality, whereas traditional publishing was where the author managed to break through the gatekeepers of the big publishing companies to have their book professionally published and available through bookstores. There is now a third type, and that is the Indie.
The rise of epublishing led to a new phenomenon, that of the independently published book, which acquired the name of Indie. I publish ebooks and am proud to call myself an Indie writer. But how did I become an Indie writer, and why would I want to be one?
I’ve been writing most of my life, although when I was a child, writing only took place in my head. I would plan books and stories and live in my imagination. I was a dreamer. You see, when I was younger my imagination didn’t stretch to thinking I could be a writer. After all writers were magical people, special people, and I wasn’t special.
So I did what most people did when they left school, I went to work. Now at that time girls weren’t encouraged into education because the expectation was marriage and babies. That meant I left school with no qualifications, my dreaming days were over.
Work wasn’t that bad. I worked in shops, offices, factories and was a bus conductress for a time, clippies we were called. That was fun. Then it was the marriage and babies bit, and that was good too. I was lucky, in an age when husbands expected their wives to conform to the ‘obey’ bit in the wedding vows, mine was far more flexible. So once the kids had grown up a bit I started to study, night school first and then the Open University.
That was when my dreams started to resurface. However I couldn’t waste the degree I’d worked so hard to get, so I became a social worker, and that’s where I learned about the dark side of life.
So now you know why I write dark crime and why I find it so difficult to write romantic fiction. Oh, I do sprinkle a bit of romance throughout my books, but it is quite a bit darker than many of the love stories and chick lit novels that are out there.
Anyway, back to writing. I suppose I’ve been writing seriously now for the past 23 years. Using a pen name I published short stories for women’s magazines. I wasn’t ready to come out of the closet at that time. Then I started publishing articles under my own name and I did quite well, managing to get published in the UK and the US. My confidence was growing and I started to write novels. My first novel was a historical saga, now published as A Salt Splashed Cradle, after that I wrote a historical crime which is not yet published, following which I wrote Night Watcher, and then Dead Wood.
Then the demoralizing round of submissions to agents and publishers started. I now had four books in the bottom drawer. But, although my confidence was at a low ebb I didn’t stop writing, because by this time it had become an addiction. If I wasn’t writing, I went into withdrawals.
When I traditionally published my first book, Dead Wood, it was the highlight of my writing career, and to see it on the bookstore shelves gave me a thrill that was like no other. But don’t think Dead Wood hadn’t been down the rejection trail, because it had. I could have papered my study with all the rejection slips I received over the three years I’d been hawking it round agents and publishers.
So, after all these rejections, what was the change that made my book suddenly acceptable for publication? Well, my big break came when I won the Dundee International Book Prize with Dead Wood, in 2009.
I really thought I had it made, particularly when the book sold so well that the first print run was exhausted within four months.
However, pride always comes before a fall, and my fall came when I tried to publish my second book. I thought book number two would be snapped up because Dead Wood had been such a success. What I hadn’t reckoned on was the recession and publishers refusing to take risks. They started getting rid of their mid-list authors, all good sellers but not in the millions category. Contracts were dropped, new authors were rebuffed. What chance did I have when some of my friends with over 20 books in publication were losing their contracts?
Like Dead Wood before it, Night Watcher was rejected time and time again. After two years, on the advice of an agent friend, I published Night Watcher as an ebook, this was closely followed by A Salt Splashed Cradle, and two collections of short stories Obsession and Ghost Train are doing well as ebooks, and the only regret I have is that they are not available in paperback for those of my fans who do not possess ereaders.
As I said before I’m proud to be an Indie writer. I am scrupulous in having my novels professionally edited before publishing them, and I am now investing in professional covers. No doubt there are some Indie writers uploading books of inferior quality, but the majority of us do invest in the things that a publishing company provides, namely the editing, proofing, and professional covers, and there is a lot of quality work being published electronically.
Chris will be hosting a twitter chat #edebookfest from 12.30 -3pm for anyone who wants to ‘virtually’ meet her. You need to use @ChrisLongmuir and #edebookfest to be sure to be in the right place!
Chris also appears at the festival in Auld Lums (August 13th) and Short Stories (Aug 19th)