By Aaron Ritchey
I have become like Kurtz in the Congo.
I have gone native. I am living in a hut, out in the jungle, and I’m writing books that don't have the approval of the British elite in London.
The horror! The horror!
But do you know what? It’s awesome and scary and nerve-wracking and freeing and sometimes I feel like Prometheus and sometimes I feel like the eagle eating Prometheus’s liver and sometimes I feel like Prometheus’s liver.
Tuesday, February 10, 2015 started like any normal day. I was struggling. I’d gotten back some wicked, flesh-eating edits from an editor, and I’d gotten some ass-smacking criticism from one of my beta readers, and lastly, the small press who published my first novel The Never Prayer was going under. On March 31, 2015, I was going to get my rights back.
I had always planned on going to another small publisher once my contract ended, and yet, on that Tuesday, I talked with my lovely wife and discussed the pros and cons. Many of which I blogged about on this very blog – http://rmfw.org/get-big-by-going-small-the-top-five-reasons-to-publish-with-a-small-press.
Here’s the thing, a small press can be great—editing help, marketing help, cover help. But do you know what? I think even more important, at least for me, was that it was another person in the world who believed in me. Finding editors, cover artists, marketing help, all that takes only a bit of time and money. But finding someone to believe in you? That's priceless.
But how much is it worth? Is it worth 30%, 50%, 70% of your royalties? Is it worth someone else’s timeline? Is it worth the waiting, the headaches, the general hassle of trying to squeeze yourself into someone’s else’s to-do list? Because when you are with a publisher, you become a line item on someone’s to-do list, and unless you are bringing in fat stacks of cash, you aren’t their highest priority. Even the ones that love your stuff.
No one will work harder on your writing career than you. No one. Unless, of course, you are making mad money, and then people will come out of the woodwork to “help” you.
On that fateful Tuesday, my wife and I decided we wanted to take hold of the reins. I still have other publishers I’m working with, but I am seizing control of my first three novels, including my newest novel which will hit the streets May 7, 2015. You are all invited to the party at Hanson’s.
The name of my new publishing company will be Black Arrow Publishing because my stories have been forged by my father and his father before him. The true king under the mountain. And I aim to take down dragons. Oh yes.
But in many ways, I have it easy. I’ve had four publishers of various sizes like my work and want to publish it. That really helps me. I have huge respect for those authors who went Indie and they never had that kind of validation. They have big ol' huevos of iron.
Still, it was hard for me to take this leap.
Part of it goes back to the original dream I had of becoming rich and famous. I so wanted the huge literary agent, the six-figure book deal, the advance, the book tour, the Gulfstream personal jet, the whole Stephen King dream.
Going Indie meant having to mourn that dream all over again. I wasn’t a princess in a castle adored by the big-five publishers. I was just me. Just a writer.
But who are my books for? Are they for agents, editors, presses big, small, and in-between?
In the end, my books are for the world and for the readers who read them. I don’t know why I haven’t been loved and adored by millions. I mean, my books seem to be well-written and people like them. Goes back to validation. Which I’m learning is cheap, cheaper than an empty Coke can in the gutter.
I still like the idea of the agent, the big publisher, the glory and teeth-gashing of that game. And some of my projects will eventually go that route.
But other stories? Man, I want to write books. I want to write a lot of books. And I’m tired of waiting on other people to help me get my books out into the world.
The time is now.
I’m going rogue. I’ll get a developmental editor (Vivian Trask), a copy editor (Chris Devlin), a cover artist (Natasha Brown), and a formatter (Quincy J. Allen). I’ll get help.
And with that help, I’ll shoot arrows at the sun, baby.
I’ll bring that star down and put it in my pocket.