Guest Post by Geraldine Evans

Joe sez: If you’ve missed the previous guest blogs, they’ve been fascinating and informative.

You can read Joe Flynn talking about his publishing history here:

You can read Richard Stooker talking about bestsellers here:

You can read Nikki M. Pill talking about fear here:

You can read Billie Hinton and Dawn Deanna Wilson talking about categorizing your book here:

You can read Helen Smith talking about her publishing journey here:

You can read Jeff Carlson talking about his publishing journey here:

You can read Zander Marks talking abut new genres here:

Now here’s Geraldine Evans

Such a thrill to write a guest post for Joe Konrath. I’ve admired him from afar since before I decided to turn indie myself — a decision I doubt I’d have had the courage to make if not for Joe. So thank you, Joe, for your generosity in sharing so much with the rest of the writing community and for opening our eyes to the possibilities created by Amazon and the internet. You’ve raised the lid on so much to do with the publishing world: not least author earnings, which most of us have probably been secretive about (though more from mortification that our earnings were so small than from any James Bondian reason!). A lot of us are now earning a living from our writing and finding those readers that were so elusive during our traditional publishing days.

I’ve been writing for nearly half my life, but, like most writers, I took a while to get my act together and actually finish a novel. It took hitting one of those age milestones for me to stop prevaricating and actually type those blissful words: ‘The End’.

But, as we all know, and as Winston Churchill famously said in relation to World War Two, we weren’t at the beginning of the end. But we might be at the end of the beginning.

So, beginning made, we advanced proudly on to the next stage. You’ll be familiar with this one. It’s the standard rejection letter stage. This goes on for quite a while. From there we move on, if we’re lucky, to the more personal rejection letter, maybe even with a few encouraging words scribbled at the end by the editor. But it’s still a rejection and doesn’t necessarily smell any sweeter with the addition of a few barely decipherable words.

Six years and six books later in my case, I received my first letter from a publisher saying they wanted to publish my book. I’d been writing romantic novels in the hope of getting signed up by Mills & Boon (Harlequin). I never managed to get taken on by them — although I did get to the ‘few words’ stage, that advised me my books had too much plot and not enough romance… So, I decided to try Robert Hale, who also published romance in a smaller way. They accepted my novel, Land of Dreams (set in the Canadian Arctic in an attempt to be ‘the same, but different’!) out of print in any format), for the fabulous sum of — wait for it — £100, which is roughly $150. Still, it was a start. And, of course, I’d go on to greater things…

Alas, the greater things never happened and I languished on the mid-list through God knows how many years and eighteen novels, never advancing much, although my advances did at least gather a nought on the end.

But this was only after the next rejection for my follow-up romantic novel and a switch in genre. This latest rejection had made me good and mad. I felt like murdering someone. So I did. I turned to crime (which is what that quiet little voice inside had been telling me to do for some time). I found a niche almost immediately with Macmillan who sold that first crime novel, Dead Before Morning, the first in my now 15-strong Rafferty & Llewellyn procedural series to St Martin’s Press and Worldwide. The latest in the series, Kith and Kill, is one of my self-published works.

My Rafferty & Llewellyn Mystery Series novels are more cozy procedurals, with my London-born and Essex-based DI Joseph Aloysius Rafferty hailing from a working-class Irish Catholic family who — with their little more than passing acquaintance with the letter of the law — are the bane of his life. Being a policeman in the Rafferty family is not a happy experience. And while they might give me as the author and, hopefully, the readers, a lot of fun, they cause Rafferty plenty of angst, angst compounded by me partnering him with DS Dayd Llewellyn, a more moral than the Pope intellectual Welshman.

So, alongside the murder investigations, I’ve generally got family-caused mayhem going on in the sub-plot, which gives Rafferty plenty of ‘How the hell do I get out of this?’, moments.

I still wasn’t earning much. I was still stranded on the mid-list. With nowhere to go, but down and out. And out I went after the first four books in the Rafferty series when Macmillan was taken over by a firm of German publishers and they dropped about a third of their list, including yours truly.

It was another six years before I managed to get published again. But after another ten crime novels, I was still marooned on the mid-list, with no marketing budget, no publisher-paid-for book tours, no nothing. It really was a dead-end job with no hopes of promotion. Worse, it was a very poorly-paid dead end job which had to be fitted in around my real dead-end job.

Is this it? I thought. Is this what all my aspirations and hard work had been about? By this stage, I was pretty disheartened and beginning to lose my love of words and the joy I’d previously found in putting them together. I was still working full-time at the day job and fitting in my writing during evenings, weekends and holidays. It wasn’t much fun for me or my long-suffering husband.

I’d always tried to educate myself about the publishing world, the same as I’d tried to educate myself after I left school at sixteen. It was this desire to learn that brought me to Joe’s blog and, hardly able to believe my eyes, I read what he had to say about going it alone in a self-publishing world. Could there really be a way to escape the publishing treadmill, rekindle(!) my previous delight in the written world and make a proper living, too? It seemed too good to be true. There’s got to be a catch, I thought. But I continued to read Joe’s blog and from his posts I discovered other authors who’d taken the step into this Brave New publishing World before me. I started to think, ‘Mmm. Maybe it is possible.

Joe was and is such a great enthusiast, such an inspiration, and writes the things about publishers that most of us only think, that 2010 was like a succession of those ‘Ping!’, light bulb moments.

Although I still hardly dared to believe I could succeed on my own, after a few months’ I became brave enough to turn down my publishers’ latest contract — not a difficult decision in the event — especially as signing it would mean I agreed to give them the ebook rights to my entire backlist, the potential value of which they were starting to grasp.

Hey, I might be ill-educated, but I’m not stupid; certainly not after receiving a publishing education at the hands of the Master! No way was I doing that. So I said, ‘Thanks, but no thanks’, and cut myself adrift to sink or swim on my own.

But I wasn’t alone. I had Joe always there with so much advice. And I had all the other intrepid authors who, like me, the publishing world assured us, would come to regret our foolhardy decision to leave their ‘nurturing’ nest.

Well, I’m happy to tell you we weren’t so foolhardy after all. I now earn more in a month than I used to earn in an entire year publishing the traditional route. I was able to give up the hated day job, I managed to get the rights back to nearly all my books and I’m now the proud indie author of sixteen books: twelve novels from my backlist, two new novels (Kith and Kill #15 Rafferty and The Egg Factory, a standalone medical suspense), one collection of short-short stories  (A Mix of Six) and one short non-fiction guide to kindle formatting (How to eFormat Your Novel For Amazon’s Kindle: A Short But Comprehensive A-Z Guide

I’ve just finished preparing the last but one of my back-list for digital publication (A Thrust to the Vitals, with Death Dues to follow shortly (Rafferty #s 10 and 11.). I’ve also got half a dozen or more typescripts (not quite sure of the numbers as they were shoved wherever in our little house that they’d fit), that I think are good enough to be given another look at. They’re going to have to wait a while though, as I really must get on with my so-called work in progress (Asking For It #16 Rafferty series).

But I have a new lease of life, new readers and a new, much improved, source of income: all things the nay-sayers claimed I’ve never get. And it’s great! And, Joe — so are you! G xxxx

Joe sez: I remember thinking that it was my fault my books never made the bestseller lists. Even though my publishers made so many mistakes it was a comedy of errors. Even though I’d done more than any author, before or since, to self-promote. I felt the responsibility for being mid-list.

Self-publishing for me was emancipation. With it came the realization that I’d done many things right, and that it was the archaic, greedy, dysfunctional, evil industry that had screwed up, not me.

But I won’t place all the blame on NY publishing. Because fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me for eight legacy published books, I became a willing participant in my own victimization.

Granted, it was the only game in town. To a starving man, a crust of bread is a banquet.

But I’ll never forget the feelings of failure, many of which stemmed from my own modest expectations.

I can imagine what young sports stars feel like, working their asses off in college sports, hoping to go pro. I can also imagine how they feel when they get a shot at going pro, and it doesn’t work out. The whole “better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” sounds like it was written by someone trying to soothe himself after a horrible experience.

Honestly, I don’t know what hurts more. Spending years trying to break into legacy publishing but never getting a deal, or getting a deal and being treated like crap.

I still see authors going after legacy deals and I honestly can’t understand what the allure is. Aren’t there enough confessional stories of woe on the internet that show how legacy publishers treat authors? Aren’t there more and more indie authors speaking about their successes?

I’d like someone to explain to me why, if they read my blog, they’d still pursue a legacy deal. The hope of a NYT bestseller? It can happen self-publishing. A movie deal? It can happen self-publishing. Someone to guide them through the publishing process? That DOESN’T happen in legacy publishing. Publishers don’t take care of you. They exploit you.

I’m not the only one crowing about this. I’m seeing the same stories, over and over. I’m seeing publishers make the same mistakes. I’m seeing the old system fail, bit by bit. All the information is out there, easily accessible.

And yet there are still authors who want a book deal. The Big 5 and Harlequin are still seducing authors into taking unconscionable deals.