Celebrating Freedom to Choose

Happy 4th of July! Today we celebrate freedom, and in the U.S. that means the freedom to choose our own religion, career path, locale to live, and much more. Rarely do we stop to appreciate the bounties we have been given. What does this mean to us as writers?

July Fourth
Today we have more freedom to choose where to publish our work. We used to be confined to the mega New York publishing houses. If you weren’t in there, you were out in the territory of the scorned masses, wallowing in the disreputable halls of the self-published or with unknown small presses. A friend of mine published her book in ebook format with Hardshell back in the day. Was it no surprise that this venture got nowhere? Ebooks hadn’t been widely discovered yet, and this publisher was ahead of its time. Today, it’s a different story.

Indie publishing has blossomed along with small presses and digital first imprints. We have so many more choices, almost too many as they can get overwhelming. If we decide not to wait for a publishing house to determine our fate, for example, do we really want to become publishers ourselves? Because that’s what this world is coming to as we authors take the reins.

Here’s what it means to choose the self-publishing path: Besides writing and marketing our own works, we have to outsource to editors, cover designers, and formatters. We have to collect the income from various distributors and formulate our own spreadsheets. And don’t forget buying ISBNs, determining a name for our publishing “company”, and registering for copyright.

With freedom comes greater responsibility, and we’re feeling that as indie authors.

You give up some of those freedoms to go with a publishing house, be it large or small. You also give up a percentage of your income and price control. But then they handle the cover design, editing, and distribution. If it’s a decent house, you get your rights back in five years and then you can put up your edited work on your own. But it could take years just to get your manuscript accepted in the first place and then scheduled…years that your book could already be available to readers had you put it online yourself.

These are tough choices, but at least we have them. It’s more than we could do several years ago. Now there’s always the possibility that our work will make it into the hands of readers one way or another. Isn’t that a reason to celebrate?

14 thoughts on “Celebrating Freedom to Choose

  1. Appropriate post on Independence Day, Nancy. I view all this freedom as an exciting time for writers. The stigma of self-publishing is gone. We rarely hear the term vanity press anymore. As you point out, the choices are there for the taking. As we’ve discussed so many times at TKZ, there’s a dark side to every shinny object. Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you always should. As writers, we can all be thankful for the freedom of so many choices. But as the knight said near the end of INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE, “Choose wisely.”

  2. It’s exciting as an author to have choices, and the work is still hard.

    Have a blessed 4th of July everyone. I think Arizona is finally going to get some much needed rain today.

  3. Nancy, what a perfect choice for a topic and wonderfully and eloquently stated to boot. Thanks so much. And have a GREAT FOURTH!

  4. Good advice, Joe. Thanks for chipping in, everyone. We just came back from our town parade. The fire engines and police were exciting, but the rest were politicians or ads for local businesses. No cheerleaders, sports teams or marching bands. Are those days over?

  5. To quote a recent book on self-publishing:

    “Let me be quick to point out, however, that this [freedom] carries challenges. Being in charge means you are CEO of your own publishing enterprise. You can expect to experience the stresses and strains of running a small business. You will need new skills to handle them. These can be acquired, but only through effort and self-discipline.

    But it’s more than worth it to be fully in charge of your writing and your life.”

  6. That’s true, James, it’s worth the effort as long you know what you’re signing up for. Or not, if you pour money into editing and cover design and such and end up making squat. Whatever path we choose, it’s a gamble.

  7. I think Nancy is on to something about part of the parade being over. There’s a kind of banana pudding malaise hanging over the country (perhaps underneath the loud barking of the two political pooperies) that muffles the drums and trumpets of the old days. In a way, we have too many choices and this leads us to a kind of dither and wringing of hands. I once asked Joseph Brodsky, the Russian poet, about the difference in being a writer in America and being one in the USSR. (Brodsky had left his homeland and was living here.) He said living here and trying to write was daunting because it was “too safe, too easy.” He asked me, “Where is the danger?” He said in Russia you felt threatened, hunted, compelled to write for your life. He compared the writer’s life here with living at the mall: “Too much, too much.”

    None of this detracts from Nancy’s fine message, nor the other more illuminating remarks. It’s just my own “crabbed, cribbed, confined” personality coming to the fore. I need to get out more often.

  8. Terry, thanks! You described the feeling I’ve been having all day–that we’re so safe in America, for the most part, that we don’t feel any urgency about anything. One good aspect to that, though: It shows that we’ve really recovered from 9/11. For years many people’s sense of safety in America was shattered. That feeling of security, of having endless options, seems to have returned. And for that I’m grateful!

  9. Terry, you’re right in that we have too many choices. Sometimes that can make us lackadaisical(is that how you spell it?). Heck, if my book doesn’t get accepted by XYZ publisher or AB small press, I’ll just self publish the thing. Or: I’m too impatient to wait for a response from a publisher when I can put it up online yesterday. Maybe being too safe and too easy makes this all less meaningful.

  10. Kathryn, I don’t know about feeling safe. We heard a former intelligence operative speak at a local MWA meeting, and he said the security checks at airports are a farce mainly to reassure passengers.

  11. I second the chance to celebrate choice and freedom! After 2 years down under I still miss living in America every day so I am celebrating the 4th with a little wistfulness and homesickness:(

  12. Great post! I’m in an indie anthology done by a great group with the goal of raising money for a veterans’ help organization. It went live on Kindle and Createspace today. Without options like that, it would have remained just a kitchen table dream.

    Happy 4th to y’all and Happy Birthday to Ms. Gagnon!


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