Today’s post comes from Joel Lund, an author I’ve worked with extensively on two separate book projects. After writing his debut novel, Joel did something unique: He started his own publishing company. Below, he details why that route made sense for him.
Like many writers, I had dreamed of being a writer since I was a kid. But like too many people, I accepted the notion—without much of a fight—that writing was, at best, a hobby. Not a calling. Not a purpose. And, regrettably, not a passion.
That unexamined notion was tested over the years, as college, graduate school, marriage and two careers took center stage. It was when, finally, my work life became so stressful that I couldn’t not write, that I fully reconnected with that youthful dream.
In just over a year, I’d become an award-winning author, with three published works. Two were non-fiction books; the third was the inaugural story in a YA fantasy series. Besides writing my fanny off, there was a lot learned during that year.
Foremost, it was a welcome discovery that being a published writer—an author!—is within reach of anyone now. My old vision of needing to know the right people, who in turn knew the right people, who could schmooze me into the secretive Kingdom of Publishers, was proved false. More than false, really. Laughably wrong, in fact. Pity it took so many years to discover. Because so much has changed in just the past four or five years, “traditional publishing” has mutated to the extent that the walls surrounding their kingdom have been utterly thrown down by the usurper known as Amazon.
Writers can still choose to enter that land, and some still do. But huge numbers of writers now pursue a DIY approach, self-publishing via Smashwords, CreateSpace and other avenues. Other writers utilize a hybrid option called “partner publishing.” This option allows the writer access to a publishing company with attractive, professional resources like editors (line, structure, copy, etc.), designers (interior, cover) and marketing, for instance. The advantage to the DIY author is minimizing the expense of transitioning from “writer” to “author.” Of course, the downside is that they must become the contractor of the publishing project, hiring (and firing) the various professionals they need. Some authors shortcut this by converting their work into the simplest format possible, publishing their work as a Word or pdf file. This is why the number of published titles has exploded exponentially recently. However, more titles doesn’t mean good books. If the author wants their book to compete with traditionally published books, they must do everything they can to make their book as great as it can be. Engaging a partner publishing company makes this much, much simpler, while still keeping the investment manageable.
My first book was published through a partner option provided by a major publishing house. Incidentally, this is a book I wrote many years ago—under similar circumstances, where if I didn’t write I would have exploded from the pressure of not writing. But back then, the only option was traditional. And I didn’t know the right people. While the first book turned out great, the process left some disillusionment framing the absolute joy of becoming published. Because even the partner-side of the company was huge, there was nothing remotely personal about my experience. I don’t know about you, but there are few things more personal than writing. Feeling like just another number was pretty grim. Note to self: Look at other options!
So, for my next book I also eagerly sought out a smaller partner-publishing firm, even one that was boutique. This option rocked, since it provided a much more engaged, hands-on, we’re-in-this-together vibe. Indeed, it was just loads of fun. The finished book won an award for its design, which I’d been an active part of, instead of a bystander. How cool is that?
Wanting to understand as much about the business of publishing, I read a lot, went to workshops and listened to weeks of webinars. From this position, I was able to successfully publish my first novel. Not only is it selling well as an e-book on all platforms (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Kobo), it proudly shares shelf space in bookstores in my community. Obviously, it’s more than just a Word file cast upon the Internet. It competes with the best out there, with a brilliant cover and interior, and sharp editing and proofreading. And because it needed to have an ISBN and barcode, which required being affiliated with a firm, we launched our own publishing company.
Along the way, we realized that there are scores of other writers out there, without the time or desire to become a DIY contractor for the stories, who would gladly delegate most, or all, of the myriad steps of publishing to someone else. Our partner publishing company, which is an arm of our parent company, fills an exciting, underserved niche for faith-inspired young adult and middle grade fantasy writers.
Are you a self-published author or someone who started your own publishing company? If so, what made you decide to do so? What tips or advice can you share?