This is my personal blog and does not necessarily reflect the collective views of Hard Limits Press

Monday, April 25, 2011

Why indie?

It seems like a requirement to do one of these posts these days, if you're a writer that intends to publish through a non-traditional company. So here's mine.


I've heard more than one author say, in essence, that they don't want to go the traditional publishing route because it is too much work. I think this only adds to the stigma still in place about publishing that doesn't use the Big Six model--query, agent, pitch, etc--by implying and/or outright stating that us indies just can't handle it, man.

I'm confident that I could sell my book through the old school model. I'm not perfect and neither is my work, but I don't have writer guilt; I can call my work good because it is. I think I have something to say, and I think a group of other people will want to hear it. It's that simple. (Try thinking this about your own work sometime. It feels pretty good.)I have a query letter all written, and a synopsis.

But I've gravitated away from traditional publishing. Part of it is because I would have to change too many things about the story, and not in the oh no I can't let go of my precious darlings kind of way.

Furthermore, Vivien and I are talking about making our books part of the same overarching world, eventually culminating with a couple of crossover novels. We could never do this as debut authors in a traditional publishing world.

Genre restrictions/expectations

I don't write what is coming to be thought of as traditional urban fantasy. These days, most people expect a female main character in first person narration, with a badass professional life (vampire hunter, werecat, investigator) juxtaposed with a confused personal life. (often a love triangle or other unresolved romance) I've got the confused personal life down (and how!) but my other elements are outside of that boundary. At the end of the day I'm really cross genre, and indie pubs are more open to that, especially as the Big Six flounder financially.

I think that genre restrictions have become more and more rigid lately. I think it's partly because traditional publishers become less and less likely to take risks as the purse strings tighten. I also feel that it ties in to the white washing of covers and so on, because they're conditioning readers to only search out a certain formula.

That's one of the major issues I have with the current interpretation of genre. We're conditioning people to only go for a single set of criteria. It's not entirely bad. If you want a certain kind of story it helps to know how to find it. At the same time it does mean a lot of interesting and experimental things fall by the wayside. Just today an agent posted a tweet about a novel she never forget, from about ten years ago. It pushed genre convention and that rendered it dead in the water. It would have a better chance today, perhaps, but I venture to say not a large one.


Inaccurate royalty statements from traditional publishers.


So there's that.

Not to mention that an indie author just gets paid more, period. Or has the potential to get paid more. Most traditionally published authors never earn out their advance, and for a debut author that advance is usually in the realm of a couple grand. I think I'd rather take my chances on the e-book market through a different avenue, where I am offered a greater percentage of sales and the accounting is often less convoluted.

Whatever way you choose, write on you crazy diamond.


  1. This relates to indie publishing only tangentially, but it's worth saying. You mentioned writer guilt, which, IMHO, writers sometimes seem to impose on others in the form of "OMG, you don't want to change your novel?! Don't be so precious!" even though it's...really not that at all. Sometimes, I don't think you should HAVE to let go of your precious darlings if they're worth keeping. I mean, can you imagine a traditional publisher reacting to either of ours? "Okay, can you take out the gay, and the racism is kind of harsh, and the rape is really not working for us. And does your character really need to be alcoholic/differently abled?" (Nauseating term used for maximum effect.)

    I sense a blog post coming on.

  2. "Okay, can you take out the gay, and the racism is kind of harsh, and the rape is really not working for us. And does your character really need to be alcoholic/differently abled?" (Nauseating term used for maximum effect.)

    Exactly my point. Those biases exist whether we like it or not.

  3. It is hard to tell if the lack of interest in my queries is because of a.) my writing b.) the ways my story is different c.) the ways my story is the same.

    I am probably going to end up self-publishing eventually. Because it SEEMS LIKE there's a market for urban fantasy that strays outside the narrow range you defined. It may not be a large enough market to justify an agent's time. But... I think they're there? If it isn't my writing turning people off?

    (That is to say, I used to be confident about the old-school method, and my writing. I'm less so now. Because it's easiest to blame myself.)

  4. Chrysoula,

    Hey, if you ever want a second pair of eyes I'm game. Also if your writing is a genre staddler check out

    I'm an editor there and they're awesome. The person who runs it is really passionate and invested.

  5. I have Matchbox Girls at Candlemark and Gleam right now! I'm not sure if it's really a genre-straddler; it has many of the elements of urban fantasy. While it has 'a female main character', it lacks 'in first person narration, with a badass professional life (vampire hunter, werecat, investigator) juxtaposed with a confused personal life. (often a love triangle or other unresolved romance)'. The protagonist starts out the story depressed and dependent on medication to handle her anxiety disorder. Then she inherits some small children (which I think are maybe unpopular in mainstream urban fantasy because they do not contribute to a sexy tone?) and only THEN does she even discover a paranormal aspect to the world...

    Anyhow. Different in the wrong ways, similar in the wrong ways, maybe. I do believe there's readers who would enjoy a protagonist who starts out a bit closer to home than your average katana-wielding supernatural investigator.

  6. Chrysoula,

    Neat! Maybe if you're accepted I will get my grubby paws on your ms, mwaha.

    I think when children or the idea of children are/is introduced, it's often done badly. It's tough to give women children as a motivation without it reading as stereotyping, and if you write realistically they can certainly detract from the sexytiems. I don't think that's a bad thing, though.

    I've heard a desire for that kind of protag in various author/reader haunts, so you're probably on to something.

  7. I'm intrigued by your premise, Chrysoula. I think you're right about the anxiety disorder and kids taking away from the sexy tone UF is "supposed" to have. It's just that kind of "huh, how unusual" element I enjoy, though. You ought to see how many genre-defying elements Tiger and I have used.

  8. Tiger-- oh, I hope nobody thinks I'm doing anything stereotypical! Although it would be a little bit funny if they did.



    And I'm looking forward to seeing what you guys have put together. Real characters with real problems in an overlapping world-- sounds like my kind of thing.

  9. Hey, it's a valid motivation. Women exist that want children, after all. Nothing wrong with that, and it would be nice to see it actually fleshed out instead of used as a place holder for real character building.

    Thank you! I believe whole heartedly in the project.

  10. I'd actually love to see a deft intermingling of fantasy ideas with real world problems. It has always bothered me that Literary Fiction Dealing With Real Characters With Real Problems is always segregated from fantasy. I understand that a lot of people are all "don't get your angst in my escapism" but we're not all like this.

    I'm really hoping the rise of the e-reader allows for more complex and intermingled subgenres to develop. Urban fantasy with magic AND urban problems. Romantic epic fantasy that is actually a hybrid rather than one with a touch of the other. Etc.

    Sorry, babbling.

  11. As might be obvious from my blog by now this is a big peeve of mine. I hate the notion that fantasy doesn't have to have elements of realism. Even fantasy worlds should have their own internal, consistent logic. Then again I am so easily pulled out of a story by the smallest things. That is what makes me a good editor, I guess. xd.

    I think it's strange how writers of UF often make elementary missteps related to writing the other, anthropology, economics, etc. I mean of course we aren't going to be experts on all of those things, but a passing familiarity helps.

  12. "It seems like a requirement to do one of these posts these days, if you're a writer that intends to publish through a non-traditional company."

    LOL. I certainly resemble that remark.

    The other thing some people might not realize about urban fantasy, because it's all over the shelves right now, is that the major publishing houses have significantly slowed down on their buying of UF in favor of PNR. That might not be much of an issue for writers who have already debuted in UF, but it does make it harder for those who don't already have a foot in the door.

    On the upside, it means some really good self-published UF might be showing up. I've been having a hard time finding independent UF I really like, ideally something equal parts Gaiman, de Lint, and LKH.

  13. That's the other thing. The big industry just isn't as nimble as many small pubs, and that makes a difference. It takes years to get a novel from agent to published. Keep your eye on C&G, Margo. We'll have some stuff out in the next oh, six months or so.

  14. I hadn't heard of C&G. Just checked out the website. Verrry innnteresting. Looks good.

  15. Margo,

    Of course I think C&G is the bee's knees, but don't just take my word for it. Check out one or more of the offerings sometimes. Broken especially is getting rave reviews, so if superheroes and dystopia are your thing, I'd go with that. Erekos is going to be our first print run, and the language in it is gorgeous. It's what we've been calling a literary fantasy. It reminds me of Tolkein in that sense, but with less focus on European inspiration. We've got new stuff coming up all the time so keep us bookmarked. :)

  16. Erekos was the one I zoomed in on as soon as I saw it. Nice cover. And description.

    Definitely bookmarked.

  17. Kate does great covers. She puts so much work in to them. (she did over twenty hickies for Hickey of the Beast, I swear! Who knew it was so hard to get a love bite that looks like the devil??)