Friday, April 6, 2012

From Wannabe To Indie Author By Way Of Traditional Publishing

My journey (from wannabe to published to has-been to indie) might be helpful for others who are going through similar angst. This is long, not because my life is so fascinating, but because it marks all the stages of the metamorphosis of my attitude toward writing.


I started writing fiction in 1981 when I got a computer. Like a lot of other wannabes, I wrote complete crap. Slowly, and I do mean slowly, I got better.

I made a brief attempt to get a kid's book published in the late 80s. I was also living the American dream by working three jobs and still going into debt.

After several months, I realized I was spending all my free time managing submissions and rejections and not writing. I also realized that my odds of getting published were worse than winning the lottery. I decided to quit using my precious writing time doing what I hated (clerical work) and instead doing what I loved (writing).

I abandoned the thought of being published and continued to write, as I always had, for the sheer joy of writing.

In 1991, my stuff fell in the hands of Robin Hardy, bless her heart. She liked it, pitched it to her editor, and it went nowhere. I forgot about it and continued to write for the joy of it. Ten years later I'm in Honolulu. Robin tracks me down, tells me she has a new publisher and a new editor. He liked my stuff and wanted to talk to me. Six months later I had a contract. That book is dedicated to Robin Hardy.


Welcome to Fred came out and I was elated. I was a published author! Woo hoo! But, like most newbie authors, I became frustrated with the marketing efforts. No knocks on the publisher. They did everything they said they would. My frustration was mainly due to my unrealistic expectations and lack of industry knowledge. Living with Fred and Escape from Fred came out. It was nice to have them on the shelf, but over time I became less gruntled as they stayed on the shelf instead of flying off it.


Fred was done. I had no new contracts, my own fault because I had no idea what to write next. For the previous five years I had been either writing or releasing a book. I liked being able to say, "My next novel comes out in May." I needed to have a book in the pipeline. I became desperate and borderline depressed. I panicked, came up with a story, threw together a proposal, and my agent sent it out to eight houses that either ignored it or rejected it, and rightfully so. It was crap.


So here I was, desperate and depressed because next year there wouldn't be a new book with my name on it on the shelf. Then one day, while I was feeling sorry for myself, I had a realization. I'm a published author! There are books out there with my name on them. They may be in bargain bins and cutout racks and used bookstores (and my attic), but they are real, published books.

In the 80s if somebody had told me I'd be a multi-published author, I would have been ecstatic. But here I was, having had the joy not only of writing these books, but of seeing them in print and win awards. I'd achieved something that only a small percentage of the population will ever do, and I was depressed. What was wrong with me?


I realized that I was unhappy because I was no longer writing for the joy of it. I'm not saying I didn't enjoy writing the Fred books. I enjoyed it immensely. But joy was no longer my motivation. Seeing my name on another book on the shelf had become my motivation. And it was making me miserable. I was resentful when I should have been grateful. Then I realized I had already solved this problem 20 years earlier.

I abandoned the thought of being published and returned to writing for the sheer joy of writing.


I came up with some new ideas and wrote my butt off, producing three novels, all in third draft or higher. It was wonderful. Then I had to decide what to do with what I had written.

During the interim the Kindle had revolutionized publishing. I spent all of 2009 and 2010 debating the question of whether to look for an agent or go indie.

In 2011 I decided to pull the trigger on the indie market and spent the year polishing one of my new novels, Muffin Man. It was released on April 1, 2012. It may take off or it may tank. Either way, I know one thing will be true.

From here out I write for the love of writing and not out of desperation to get a book with my name on it on the shelf. Because, that's not why I write. Not anymore. Again.

Brad Whittington is the author of the Fred trilogy, What Would Jesus Drink? and Muffin Man.