By Dan Walsh
I want to thank my good friend, Julie Lessman, for inviting me back to Seekerville, probably my favorite writers’ blog on the Internet.
Both the title of my post and the pic above should give you a clue about what I’m planning to talk about today.
I’m not sure why—maybe because it’s usually several months or a year in between visits—but when I come back to Seekerville I often find myself in a reflective mood. I suppose it may have something to do with the fact that I seem to visit at the beginning or end of a new chapter in my writing journey.
My first visit to Seekerville was back in November, 2009 (here’s the link). My first book had just come out, a Christmas novel called, The Unfinished Gift. It really wasn’t that long ago but, in some ways, the whole publishing world was so much simpler then. There were really only two paths to consider:
1. Get accepted (somehow) into the elite ranks of the “publishing club.”
2. Keep trying.
There was no such thing as “indie publishing,” and being self-published was totally frowned upon. Only desperate people did that (and people who didn’t mind spending $10,000 of their own money in exchange for a garage full of books). There was no such thing as print-on-demand then.
Also way back in 2009, the overwhelming majority of readers bought their books at retail bookstores, who only accepted books from traditional, mainstream publishers. So…pretty much, a fiction writer’s entire effort was centered on writing that perfect book, landing a great agent and getting a traditional publishing contract. I think here it was called getting off “unpubbed island.” In 2009, some of the “The Seekers” were still stranded there.
In fact, part of my post was something of an apology to those who were still stranded on unpubbed island. Especially those who’d been stuck there for years. My story was: I had submitted my first manuscript, landed an A-list agent almost immediately, got a contract with Revell in 2 months.
That Was Then, This Is Now
Since then, I’ve published 11 more novels with Revell, roughly 2 per year. Sounds like smooth, steady waters, right?
Well, the truth is…if I told you what my journey has looked like over the last 8-10 months it might be a little hard to follow. It would more resemble this second pic on the right (“Hey buddy, pick a lane, will ya?”).
Back in August, my publisher and I mutually agreed I would not re-sign with them. I had been anticipating this for almost a year. I used my spare time while finishing those last 2 books learning all I could about indie publishing. In November, I published my first indie suspense novel, called When Night Comes. On the whole, it’s been a great experience. It received a 4.5 Star review from RT Books and now has over 140 customer reviews on Amazon. The sales gone pretty well, too (sold over 6,000 copies so far). In mid-March, I released my first nonfiction indie book, a 31-Day Devotional called Perfect Peace.
In April, the 4th and final book of the Restoration series co-authored with Gary Smalley came out, called The Legacy. My final novel with Revell comes out in September. I guess it’s fitting that since I began my traditionally-published journey with a Christmas book I’m ending it with another, called Keeping Christmas.
Here’s my challenge now…sometime this summer I will release the first book in a new trilogy, called Rescuing Finley (Finley is a dog). This novel will be similar in style to all my other books. The question is, do I release it as an indie or listen to my agent who is urging me to re-sign with a different publisher? She’s had great success with this publisher in recent months and is confident the book will take off (do even better than all my other book have done up till now).
I should be happy, but I find I’m a little bit confused. When did the publishing journey become so complex? As writers today, we’re not facing just one choice anymore, but several:
1. Do we continue to pursue the traditional path (for me, re-signing with another big publisher).
2. Go with a small independent press.
3. Self-publish (go totally indie),
4. Become a hybrid author (that is, do both, traditional and indie)?
In recent weeks, I've had to ask myself all of these questions. I’m guessing, so have many of you. How are you processing all these new options? I’d love to hear some of your stories.
It kind of reminds me of the simplicity of eating at home (“What are we having for dinner? Oh, this.”), compared to picking up one of those 15-page menus in a franchise restaurant filled with pictures. The waitress comes back in ten minutes. “I’ve narrowed it down to five things.”
Some of my author friends think all these new options have made life so much better for writers. They say we’re living in a new golden era. I have to admit, I’ve met some indie writers this past year who would agree. We’ve had some honest conversations about the nuts and bolts side of things (read, financial stuff). Some of these authors were turned down flat by traditional publishing houses, or else got some books published but saw only marginal success. Now they are, quite literally, booming. Selling more books and making more money that some of the biggest bestsellers in the CBA trad-pub world.
That’s certainly not everyone’s story. Some indies aren’t doing well, at all. But I think I can safely say, I’m convinced there is some rock-solid wisdom we can cling to in the midst of all the new choices and options we face today. A place to put our focus that will always yield good results.
One True Thing
Regardless of the packaging, whether you wind up taking the traditional path, an indie path, go with a small independent press or become a hybrid, there’s one thing that will always matter.
Readers want to read a great book. They love a great story.
If they get hold of one, they won’t care about its “journey to publication.” They will read it, keep reading it, look for excuses to stop what they’re doing and get back to it, read it some more…until they reluctantly reach the last page. Then they will close the book (or turn off the screen) and release a contented sigh. Maybe even reach for a tissue. And they’ll resolve to do 2 things: see if that author has written any other books and tell their friends, “You’ve got to get this book!”
So that’s my closing advice in this new age of “writing all over the road.” Keep working on your craft. Don’t get distracted by lesser things. If you’ve mastered the craft, then spend adequate time re-sharpening the blade. Which is exactly why you should keep coming back to a place like Seekerville and listen to the sage advice freely offered by these seasoned veterans (all of whom have left Unpubbed Island several years ago).
Starting TODAY, Dan's new devotional, Perfect Peace: In Imperfect Times devotional (which is OUTSTANDING, by the way!!) is ON SALE in ebook for only 99 CENTS, so here's the link, and I guarantee you it will be one of the best buys you will EVER make!!
Leave a comment for Dan, and he will give two lucky winners their choice of either his new devotional, Perfect Peace, or his new suspense novel, When Night Comes (ebook or print).
Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of 13 novels including The Unfinished Gift, The Discovery and When Night Comes. He’s won 3 ACFW Carol Awards, 2 Selah Awards and three times his books have been finalists for RT’s Inspirational Book of the Year. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Word Weavers International, Dan writes full time in the Daytona Beach area. He and his wife Cindi have been married 38 years, have 2 grown children and 2 grandchildren. You can find out more about his books or follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads or Pinterest from his website at http://danwalshbooks.com.