Guest Post: Cidney Swanson on choosing indie publishing

[Cidney Swanson is the author of the YA books Rippler and Chameleon, Books 1 and 2 of the Ripple series.]

One of the question I am frequently asked (besides “is your next book for sale yet?”) is what, exactly, led me to choose a self-publishing route for my Ripple Series. I have shared parts of my answer elsewhere, but today I’d like to share a little bit more.

When I completed my first manuscript several years ago, I naively assumed I’d done all the hard work. I’d written a 110,000 word manuscript (several times over), edited it down to 85,000 words, and polished that baby until it hurt to look at it in the sun. Whew! Now, I just needed to do what Stephenie Meyer did: query fifteen agents and wait for the royalty checks to start coming in. Right?

What I learned was that Ms. Meyer’s road to publication was an unusual one and that the road more-often-taken had to be traveled at a very different pace. I queried agents and editors whom I had met at writers conferences. After 3-6 months had passed, I had received numerous invitations to submit a couple of chapters and no outright rejections. Yay, me, I thought! I sent off the chapters and waited another 3 months at the end of which I had five requests for full manuscripts. Wow!At this point, I figured I’d have my choice of agents from these five. So, I was very disappointed when, one by one, each of them passed on my wonderful manuscript. (Which, by now, I was suspecting had some pacing issues.) I did get amazing (free!) feedback from each of them. No one felt the story was right for them, but several gave me ideas for improving my writing, and all invited me to contact them in the future should I have something different on offer.

The whole process, to that point, had taken two years. During that time I completed first drafts of a second and third in series as well as writing a stand-alone paranormal romance and the first in a proposed sci-fi trilogy. In other words, I kept myself busy while I waited those two years.

When I got that final “No, thank you,” I considered what I should do next. This was around the time Amanda Hocking’s self-pubbed titles were all in the top ten at amazon.com. Also, I’d had the pleasure of speaking with Colleen Houck, a fellow Oregonian who’d had good success with self-publishing. Finally, I had a writer buddy who had just quit her full time job because her self-published books were now paying the bills.

At this point, I was itching to move on to other stories: I didn’t want to shop my Ripple novel around anymore. But I also didn’t want to leave it languishing on my computer’s hard drive. I felt pretty sure that if I addressed the issues several agents agreed on as being problematic, I’d have a story that could sell by self-publishing.

As an entrepreneur who’d run two successful businesses in my life already, I couldn’t resist giving self-publishing a try. I decided to start a small press and publish under that imprint.

It was a great decision. I’ve loved my interaction with fans, and I’ve learned all kinds of things about marketing and PR in cyberspace, and I’ve even sold a few books. (*winks*) I’m sure my decision wouldn’t be the right one for every writer, but for me it was a great one.

Meanwhile, I’m polishing up a few new pieces so that I can jump back into another round of submissions. I know to expect that it will be a year (or two) before I hear back from everyone I plan to query. And that’s just fine—I have several more stories begging to come out and play during those long months of waiting!

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