Why I Chose to Independently Publish PEAK CROSSER

From now until Dec. 6, you can participate in the launch of my novel PEAK CROSSER (EMPIRE OF THE PEAKS BOOK 1) by going to my crowdfunding page on Rocket Hub. Support me and get the book before everyone else. 

Support PEAK CROSSER on Rocket Hub


Last October while attending the Writing Excuses Retreat, I got a taste of being a full-time writer. For an entire week, all I did was write, take classes, and socialize with other writers. I'd never done anything like it. Before (and after) that week, all my writing was done 1-2 hours at a time, early in the morning or late at night. One day during the retreat I wrote nearly 8,000 words. The feedback I received and the energy I felt convinced me of one thing: I would become a published author. I just had no idea how.

One night, Brandon Sanderson, the best-selling fantasy author, held court talking with us about publishing. He shared his publishing story and dispensed with some advice on how he might do it differently if his career had started in 2014. He said he'd publish three novels on his own at the same time and try to drive readers through social media and other channels. The theory stuck with me and sparked an idea in my mind.

Later in the week I had an opportunity to have a one-on-one with award-winning author Mary Robinette Kowal. I shared with her Brandon's theory on self-publishing three novels at once. Mary suggested going the traditional route. She said that the best thing a writer could do at the beginning of their career is to write. Self-publishing meant taking time away from writing to work on the technicalities of publishing and the potentially all-consuming task of marketing the books. She was certainly right about that.

So I spent the next several months writing and querying agents and publishers about my fantasy novel PEAK CROSSER (EMPIRE OF THE PEAKS BOOK 1). In total, I got 28 rejections from agents and publishers. Only one agent asked to see the first 50 pages of my manuscript after meeting me at a writer's workshop in St. Paul. She gave me some good feedback, but ultimately passed on it.

Rejection is a right of passage for writers. Ursula K. Le Guin, Frank Herbert, JK Rowling, the aforementioned Brandon Sanderson -- all of them were rejected by the dozens. And now I had joined my favorite authors in rejection, but not yet in success.

Last spring as I read one of the rejection emails, Brandon's words rung in my head. Publish three novels at once. But I didn't have three. PEAK CROSSER was nearly ready, but my other two manuscripts weren't close. 

So I made the task smaller. Instead of publishing three books at once, I would publish three in a matter of 12-18 months. It wouldn't be exactly what Brandon theorized, but it would be close. 

When you independently publish, the good news is you get to keep more of the money. The bad news is, you also take more of the risk. But I'd always wanted to start my own business. So I decided on that spring morning to create my own publishing brand and publish my first novel. My publishing company, Rocket Crossing, was born that day. 

The next task was funding it. I could put up all the money myself, but that would make this hobby of mine quite expensive and possibly financially draining. But after listening to several episode of the excellent Author Biz Podcast, I decided I would try crowdfunding to cover some of the upfront costs -- professional editing, cover design, interior design, and interior formatting. 

This gives me more control. I don't answer to a publisher or an editor. I do it on my schedule and my way. There's a lot of freedom there, but publishers add value more often than not, and I know I'm giving that up. But I don't want to wait. Maybe that makes me impatient, but I'd rather fail boldly than never really try.

My plan today is to publish PEAK CROSSER in March 2016 and then publish my space opera, SEED OF SYCORAX, in Fall 2016. Two more novels will follow in 2017: a sequel to PEAK CROSSER and a young adult sci-fi thriller. 

Will my plan go just as I imagine it today? Not likely. I'll have to be flexible. Will my plans change if a major publisher comes calling? Most definitely. 

But I believe how we publish books is ripe for disruption. You may say that's already happened with electronic publishing and print-on-demand services, but the same gate keepers, publishers and literary agents, control most of what we're exposed to as readers. There are very good reasons why this is the case, and, as I mentioned before, there are plenty of publishers, editors and agents who add a lot to this industry through what they do.

But that system rejected me, and I've moved on for now. I'm confident in what I can do. I will make mistakes, but they'll be small, and I will learn from them. I will modify my plan as I go. But I'm going to share my stories as broadly as I can and do it on my terms and in my way. 

If you want to help in my journey, please visit my crowdfunding page and consider funding me.