Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Being Your Own Boss--The Downside of Indie Publishing

Today my guest is Kelly McClymer. She's written short science fiction, fantasy,historical romance and YA. After dipping a toe into the indie epublishing trade by bringing out her backlist, she found she liked the control, the income, and the (relatively) quick payment turnaround. Once she gets the business side ironed out, she'll be epublishing several indie original YA novels. And while Kelly is here, I'm over at Coffee Time Romance talking characters.

I know many people who dream of being their own bosses…until they are. And then they run screaming back to the world of 8 hour work days, regular paychecks and paid vacation days.

I've always had a mix of choose-your-own and follow-the-leader jobs. I find good things about both (a paycheck you can count on is very nice), but at heart I'm an entrepreneur. I want to do something new as soon as I've learned the old thing well enough. Writing is the only career that lets me do that, with the added advantage of allowing me to use what I've discovered working regular jobs.

For years now, I've been pulling what I've learned from life and using it in books, some sold and some yet unsold and unfinished. Motherhood has informed a lot of my writing, but so has my first career as babysitter (perfect for a YA writer), my years working in the drug store, in various university offices, as a tutor for children with dyslexia, and as a temp employee. I always thought I was a good business person, though, and able to tend to the business side (deadlines, quality control, keeping myself out there for people to stumble over).

And then I started putting my backlist books out as ebooks. The learning curve was steep, and full of hair raising drops and rises, not to mention a hairpin turn or two. I ran a successful promotion and made good sales. I thought I was a good business person.

And then I stepped back, looked at the short stories and indie originals I wanted to bring out, and realized the full extent of the new business model I'd embraced. To my great horror, I realized there was one thing, and only one thing, I was terrified to tackle. Workflow.

Aiming for traditional publishing actually makes workflow very simple: you write the book until the point where you think it is ready to entice an agent/editor, then you query it, and keep on querying until it gets bought. Then the workflow decisions are handled by the publisher. They give you a deadline. Yes, you get a little input, but the publisher makes all the decisions about when the manuscript needs to be turned in to the editor, when the copyedits need to be done, when the cover art and pr and proofreading need to be done. They base all of this on the publication date they set. If one thing takes longer than scheduled, something else is speeded up to make that all important laydown date.

When you write for the indie market (i.e., act as your own publisher), all those decisions are yours. I'd brought out my backlist books without thinking in workflow terms dictated by a laydown date. I thought in terms of the workflow schedule I'd used for writing a book -- write, edit, revise, release. I had a lot of fun playing and learning. I even had fun throwing a big promotion for my daughter's wedding, and putting my backlist books up. But now the last backlist book (so far), The Next Best Bride, is out and thriving. I need to move to the next step of the plan. Indie originals.

I'd always known what novel I'd release next. But I realized just recently that I had to change to a publisher workflow model if I wanted to do it in the best way possible for the project. I needed a laydown date. Make that, I *need* a laydown date. And I'm afraid to set one. I think it comes from the writer's superstition that a book tells you when it is done, and it is dangerous to push it out before it is ready.

Which is too bad, because being an indie writer is business, and to do it well you need a laydown date, just like a publisher does.

So I wrote the following memo:

TO: Kelly the boss-lady
FROM: Kelly the writer-lady


Hey, Boss-Lady. Tell me when you're going to publish this book, so I can schedule the revision part to meet the deadline. And, by the way, make sure that the cover art, back cover blurb, and editorial work is factored into all of that.

Yours creatively,


I have yet to hear back, but the way she's cursing through her office door, I expect she's figuring out all the little workflow deadlines and will let me know what I need to do soon.

When she does, I'll give her some chocolate, and promise to meet the deadline, no excuses. Because that's what a writer focused on business does. Even if she is tempted wants to run away screaming like a banshee.

You can find out more about Kelly-the-boss and Kelly-the-writer at Kelly's Blog http://kelly.mcclymer.com, on Facebook, or you can follow her on Twitter or Google+.

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Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

You've put it very well, Kelly! I'm not very good with making decisions, so the e-publishing business is tough for me. :)

Beth Caudill said...

Great article. I have real problems with that lay-down date. Good luck on your publishing journey.

Kelly McClymer said...

Eliz - I just ReTweeted an article about how small businesses exhaust the owners because there are so many decisions, so we are not alone.

Beth - Thanks for the good wishes. I'm seriously thinking of putting a big picture of me with my mean librarian look in my office. Right above my workflow board (which is pictured above, empty -- and needs to be updated). To remind me Big Sister is watching.

Jan Morrison said...

Kelly - this is a brilliant thing to do! I'm following your path - that is always the hardest thing about being an artist/entrepreneur - to make each ego-state in charge of the activity to which they are most suited!
Thanks. And thanks, Terry, for hosting Kelly.

Nina Pierce said...

That's my problem with indie publishing ... the lack of deadlines. Hmmm, until now, I hadn't put my finger on the problem. Guess I'll be typing up my own memo!

Kelly McClymer said...

Jan -- not so much brilliant as desperate.

Nina -- make sure you use a lot of bold and exclamation marks in the memo :-)

Stephanie Harp said...

Thanks for the inspiration, Kelly. I need to do some talking to myself as boss, too.

Maryann Miller said...

Enjoyed the post. It is so important to stay focused when taking care of the business side of writing, yet many of us fall short in that. Your memo is a good idea. I could tape one to my monitor.