“Dreams do not come true just because you dream them.” – Shonda Rhimes
Back in my youth, when I was only starting my writing journey, it always seemed clear to me that I would one day be traditionally published. But while I grew as a writer, gathering short story publications from publishers small and big, the world around me grew as well, changing in the ways I couldn’t have predicted. Traditional publishing wasn’t the only valid way anymore.
Over the years, my perspectives broadened, and my priorities shifted, leading me to realize that it was time to change my decades-old approach to my writing.
I decided to become an indie author, and here’s why.
Limited time on Earth
It might seem like an overly dramatic reason, but I’m very conscious that the time I have in my life is limited. I gave up on many things to pursue my passion, and I work hard on achieving my goals, but traditional publishing is not and never was a guarantee. At the core, publishing is a business like any other, and with so many factors weighing in, I might never be traditionally published due to reasons other than the quality of my writing.
With that in mind and with limited time at my disposal, I’d rather be a writer than endlessly strive to become one.
For the past two years, I’ve been quite successfully running my freelance business. I don’t love all the aspects of it, and some give me headaches, but I enjoy both the control and the learning process. I’ve been called a go-getter in the past, and I like the idea of being self-sufficient as much as possible. That means learning things I might not be otherwise inclined to learn (like taxes), but at the same time it also means immense satisfaction for being capable of handling all the matters and all the problems that arise.
Because of that, indie publishing appeals strongly to my need for self-reliance. It also means that I control more of the factors that decide whether a book is successful—and both shoulder the consequences and reap the rewards. And the learning, no matter how steep the curve will be, is exhilaratingly exciting.
Giving my readers more than endless “book 1’s”
Traditional publishing means writing a lot of book 1’s. You try an idea, a setting, anything, but if it doesn’t stick, you don’t commit time to writing sequels. Which means that my wonderful beta readers are left hanging: they get to like the story, but never see more of it, because if the project is not right for traditional publishing, I have to move on.
I don’t lack ideas to create new worlds and new characters, but at the same time, I don’t want to leave unfinished the ones I already love. My readers also deserve to know “what happens next”, and for all their hard work and patience, I feel like I owe them that much.
Patience is something else than being hopeful
Someone could suggest that I’m impatient, not willing to wait for my “traditional” chance, but it’s not that.
I don’t mind how long the traditional process takes—from querying through signing a publishing deal to actually seeing the book in the bookstore, but at the same time, I don’t like being idle. Writing a new book to query is only prolonging the cycle. Until I get an actual contract, I’m still in the same spot I was twenty years ago, when I started writing: an unpublished writer. Perhaps a better one, but nonetheless not published.
Self-publishing those of my projects that are ready means I’m moving forward: learning new skill sets and perspectives while I still might pursue traditional route for the new projects that might be better suited for that publishing model.
Am I (not) good enough?
Some people have the misconception that indie authors are the ones who weren’t good enough to break in. That they lacked talent, perseverance, or skills. But nowadays, with the volatile publishing landscape chasing after instant bestsellers many “good enough” writers are left behind: their projects missed the trend or are too niche to interest the biggest players.
In the end, it’s up to every single one of my potential readers to decide whether I’m good enough for them, and I’m sure their opinions will vary. I don’t mind. No book is for everyone, but not being good enough in someone’s eyes should not stop me from working toward the dream.
Yes, what about “the dream”?
Back when I was young, traditional publishing was the only path toward the dream, so it made sense that I pursued it, but nowadays the world offers more opportunities for those ready to make things happen.
I was pondering which path to choose for a while, and it was Inq who asked me: do you want to dream of being a published writer or to be a published writer? His question reminded me of a brilliant comic strip from Zen Pencil, inspired by the Shonda Rhimes’s quote about how dreamers don’t become doers (check it out here).
I like my dreams—they motivate me. But I want them to be something more than dreams that might never come true. I want to be more than a dreamer.
Therefore, By the Pact, book 1 of my epic fantasy series is coming out on January 10, 2021.
I’m excited about it and I thoroughly enjoyed learning the ins and outs of the publishing process. I’m sure there’s still more knowledge to absorb and more skills to master, but I’m ready for the next step and happy to make it.
If fun epic fantasy is your thing, you can learn more about the book on the series page and read the first chapter if you aren’t sure whether this story is for you. By the Pact is also available for preorder in your favorite online store (one dollar less than the release price), and if you’re a reviewer, you can contact me to receive a complimentary advanced reader copy (you can also apply through StoryOrigin or Booksprout, if you prefer). You can also add By the Pact to your Goodreads list (please, do!).
Joanna Maciejewska is a fantasy and science fiction author who enjoys all things SFF: books, movies, and video games.
Her short stories appeared in magazines and anthologies in Polish and in English.
Her epic fantasy adventure series, starting with By the Pact, is available in ebook and paperback at all major retailers.