Thursday, August 25, 2011

Letting Dana Marton do the Talking

From Traditional Publishing to ePub. (a.k.a. The Road the Rivendell and Back)

I think one of the misconceptions of digital self-publishing is that it’s something first time authors do who can’t get published with the major traditional publishing houses. But what I see more and more is that first time authors often completely forgo submissions and pick digital self-publishing as their first choice. There are many advantages, as well as disadvantages to this choice, which I won’t detail since there are literally hundreds of discussions going on online about this topic. There is a whole other segment of digital self-publishing adventurers, as well: multi-published authors who have achieved a degree of success with a major publisher. They are tempted to digital self-publishing by all the freedom it offers. I’m one of them.

I’m a fairly prolific author. In the average year, I publish 4 romantic suspense novels with Harlequin Intrigue. I’ve published over two dozen books with them now, and those books are sold in over a dozen languages all over the world. One of those books earned me a RITA Award nomination. Another won me the Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence. I love my publisher, love the support and marketing they provide, love the editorial input. But as a creative person, I have all sorts of book ideas flying around in my head all the time. They don’t all fit my publisher’s requirements.

Writers know this: the stories we don’t write don’t simply go away. The characters and scenes circle around in our heads, bugging us, wanting to be born. However, once you’ve become successful writing certain types of books, everybody expects more of the same from you.

There are many gatekeepers between your story and the reader: the agent, the editor, the senior editor, the marketing department at the publisher, the booksellers, etc. You come up with a perfectly good story, and any one of those people can decide that it’s not marketable, or timely, or trendy enough, doesn’t have enough hooks, or is too different from what your readers expect from you. And there your book stops, without ever reaching the reader.

One of the beauties of self-publishing is the direct line of communication between author and reader. The current economy does not make publishers want to experiment, throw money at books that might or might not sell. Publishers like to go for the sure bet. But as authors, we want to push the limits, want to try new things. Self-publishing makes that possible. I can write something and within a month see whether there’s a market for a story like that, whether readers will accept a story like that from me.

So I recently dipped a very eager and hopeful toe in. I’m writing a romantic suspense novella trilogy (GUARDIAN AGENT, AVENGING AGENT, WARRIOR AGENT) that’s a little darker and edgier than my usual books. So far, the response has been tremendous. The first two novellas that are out so far are climbing the Kindle charts and are #20 and #27 on the Kindle bestselling Romantic Suspense list.

Once I have all three up, I might ask my agent to shop around the print rights. So here we are, having come full circle. I’m also thinking about bringing out my little darlings: an epic fantasy, a dark historical fantasy, and other stories that are different than traditional publishing expects from me. I might just give readers a chance to decide for themselves.

There are many uncertainties in the marketplace right now, but I still think that this is possibly the best time to be a writer. New doors are opening. Ebook sales are growing each month. Readers are open to new things. I think if we write with them in mind, we’ll be okay.

The truth is that my path to publication was nothing but unglamorous. I wrote for 13 years and completed 4 books (as well as having others in various stages of completion) before I finally received a call from a Harlequin editor. I was beginning to wonder if I was being tenacious or just too dense to know when to quit. But it all worked out at the end! I love, love, love writing and would spend all day in front of the computer if I could just break my family of the habit of wanting to eat and wear clean clothes. What’s up with that? But I must get up from the desk now and then, if only because my Internet connection goes down or my ancient PC overheats. Then I do enjoy cooking, knitting, hunting for treasures at the flea market, our Beagle--Peanut the Destroyer--and gardening.

I’d love it if you picked up one of my books and emailed me to tell me what you thought of it. I’ve been known to name characters after readers.