Scold of Jays has officially been handed off to layout and design! The amazing Roslyn McFarland of Angelfish Publishing is taking on the task of interior design and digital formatting.
Book II of The Pillars of Dawn is officially off my desk. I can’t even begin to express how good that feels. It’s been a long six years on this one, and it would have been even longer without Patron support. I feel like I need to collapse near the river and sleep in the hammock for a week.
It will go through layout, a final galley edit, then to print. It’s still slated for available download and print on demand, April 9th, 2019.
It’s a long-standing artist reality that nothing is ever perfect, it’s only good enough to be released from twitchy fingers. I could agonize over the flaws for another six years, but the truth is, Plague of Gargoyles is pushing for mental space and I need the room in my brain. Holding an eleven-book series in my brainpan means storage space in the noggin is a priority. Like it or not, Scold of Jays needs out, so Plague of Gargoyles, and Tangle of Mermaids can breathe.
This post is a lot about coming to terms with being indie. I knew when I made the choice to go solo seven years ago that I wasn’t taking the route of having professional development funds or guidance, or even a large publisher’s umbrella to hide under. I knew it might be a long slog. Three novels into an eleven-part arc, and it hasn’t gotten any easier.
Several of my patrons on Patreon, are either indie, or thinking about going indie. So, I’m writing this post for them, on the last step prior to Scold of Jay’s launch. This is what my indie story looks like, to people who are about to take the dive.
Artists spend a good chunk of their early careers waiting. Waiting? Waiting for what?
Waiting for permission. Waiting for validation. Waiting to be discovered. Waiting for the money to balance out the cost. Waiting…mostly, as in the publishing world, they spend a lot of time waiting to be greenlighted by the gatekeepers, the people they believe are the best judges of their talent or efforts. Publishers, editors, agents, etc. The Gatekeepers make the call that most artists, writers, are desperate to be validated by, and released upon the world with their “I’m a legitimate writer” card.
That card will cost you 95% of your gross. Just sayin’.
The waiting game, or the “permission game” as I like to call it, strikes everyone at some point. No one is totally immune to the need to have their efforts “matter”. Deciding to take the indie path means re-configuring what matters most TO YOU, to YOUR AUDIENCE, and your SUPPORT TEAM.
Once you re-configure that data—you realize, there’s nothing left over for the gatekeepers.
Hell’s pretty tinkling bells, how I’d have loved to land a contract that would have made all this so much easier. Alas, it just wasn’t going to happen.
So I made a choice, the kind of choice you have to keep making every day. Get up. Yep, still indie. Start again the next day. Get up. Yep, still indie. And you just…keep…writing.
As an indie, YOU are the permission. You are the validation. You are the gatekeeper of your own stories. Period. It will cost you, a lot. But it’s worth the freedom of knowing you’re not waiting on anyone else, especially a bevy of highly paid professionals taking 95% of your cut for their third house on a nice sunny beach, who’ve never written a book in their life, but will be happy to tell you how you’re doing it all wrong. You’re not waiting on those guys.
You’re an indie, or thinking about it, so let the next artist wait on that kind of validation. You just keep writing. Write. Write. Write. Write until your fingers bleed, and your heart breaks, and then keep writing, because you’re about to get to the good stuff. Just write.
I estimate I lost a good decade of quality writing time while I sat on the curb with my first books, waiting to be “rescued” by someone else’s recognition or validation. Then I bored, tired, and hungry. There would be no rescue, time to do it myself.
The choice to go indie was not made lightly. I’d been with a publisher for one book, and it was a terrible experience. I wasn’t giving in so easily the second time around.
I knew it would be years of professionals questioning my choices, or dismissing my lack of polish. I knew it would be a lot of players in the industry just being polite, but having already decided to write me off. That happens to everyone. Even the big, famous writers. I’m not special, and I was prepared for a double dose of, who the fuck do you think you are treatment from industry people.
The publishing offers I got were ridiculous. They boiled down to: re-write the story of the muses from a male perspective, OR, take out all the Avian’s and replace them with vampires, OR, take on a masculine pen name. These were essentially rejections, in my book. So I added them to the pile of rejections and kept going. (Honestly, my most frequent rejection from agents was my refusal to change my name—my real name—Athena. My feeling was, if you have to change MY NAME to sell these books, then there’s something wrong with your marketing strategy, or the world as a whole. My name is short. It’s a mononame. It doesn’t take up much room on the cover. If your excuse is that a female name will prevent men from reading—there’s a problem with men, not with my name. End of discussion.)
But the tide of rejections slowed me down. They made me think, and re-think, and clench up. One hundred and forty-three rejections on my series later…I was too afraid to let Scold of Jays leave my hands—because what if they were right? What if all those important people who know storytelling and writing better than me are right?
What if I should have quit a long time ago?
Impostor syndrome is perfectly named. Once impostor syndrome gets hold of you, it’s nearly impossible to shake off. Who do I think I am publishing a series that one hundred and forty-three professionals decided was too shitty to support? I’m an idiot. I should be listening to them, right?
A couple of months ago, after a lot of clenching, stressing and the spinning in circles, I got in the car and went for a long drive under the full moon, hit fifth gear and belted some tunes. The Oregon Coast is a marvel by moonlight, and I made my way up and down highway 101 with my trusty Pink Floyd, The Wall.
I’m here to tell you if you’re indie, or thinking about it—the self-doubt and self-questioning has yet to totally go away. Three books total under my own label, and I’m still hesitating right at the final release stage. I had to go on a drive with Pink Floyd to remember this about myself and my mission:
Since when do other people’s opinions or permissions ever really stop me? For reals. All of my very favorite mistakes, accidents, journeys, relationships, scenic routes, learning curves, destinations, moments of bliss, and best adventures happened when I ignored the voice of authority—and made my own call, went my own way.
That’s how I felt before I published Murder of Crows, and again when Sinnet of Dragons was ready to be released. Why has Scold of Jays been such a struggle?
I think it’s because of the point of no return for my personal investment. I could have still walked away from the series after those two books, but once Scold of Jays is live…there’s no going back. The arc hits a pulling stride, and the characters are swept in at tsunami force, and I love the story enough to go with them. I don’t think I’d be able to walk away after this book is released because, I NEED TO KNOW HOW IT ENDS!
People are shocked when they hear I don’t know how the series ends. You’re not supposed to write a series unless you’ve already written the ending!! I did. I wrote an ending. But because I wanted it to be a surprise for me too, I wrote two more endings.
Yes. I wrote a total of three endings to this series. Because I’m selfish, and I wanted to be surprised, too. I’m writing it in a way that any one of three endings can fit, and I don’t know which one it will be. It could literally come down to picking one of three endings out of a hat.
See the problem? If Scold of Jays goes live---then I have to keep writing because I’ll be so invested that I will just have to know what happens next. Damnit.
It’s a point of no return because I’m realizing, I’m accepting an indie for life challenge. Potentially years to keep writing this series on my own, struggling, fighting, pressing forward. It’s a long-term commitment—me—with the commitment phobia.
So, I’ve literally done everything I wasn’t supposed to with this series. I’ve ignored the advice of professionals in the industry. I’ve been unable to afford top-quality editing and professional development, so I went ahead without it. I didn’t re-write the story from a male point of view. I didn’t replace my flying characters with vampires. I didn’t take on a neutral name, or masculine pen name. I didn’t finalize my ending before my series arc started. I didn’t hire a professional marketing firm, because I couldn’t afford it. And so on and so forth, etc. (the list goes on)
So therein lies the indie dilemma: give up because you feel like you can’t reach the bar set by the industry? Which means you will never be recognized by the industry, or validated by the industry, or supported by the industry and its peers.
OR keep going and find out how the story ends?
TRUST THE STORY.
So be it. I love these characters and these books. My readers love these characters and books enough that they’ve become my patrons in order for me to keep going—so, I CHOOSE THE STORY.
When it comes to the industry bar, I may not be a pole vaulter—but I can limbo like nobody’s business, and I bet there are a few good folk out there who’d like to limbo with me. Choosing the indie path means, not waiting for permission. It means setting your own bar.
You don’t have to be good enough for them—be good enough for yourself, and your readers, and the rest will eventually stop being relevant.
JUSTICE TO THE STORY.
Queuing limbo music… Scold of Jays is set for shelves, April 9th, 2019.
I hope it’s one hell of a dance off.