Even the most casual of book readers will have noticed a revolution occurring in the publishing industry of late. No, I’m not talking about the glut of paranormal romance filling the shelves of bookshops. Digital Publishing. More specifically, self-publishing. Ebook publishing has brought us an entirely new world of reading experiences, new ways and means to not only access books but to publish them as well.
While there is still a stigma attached to independent or self-published books the impact the movement is having on the traditional publishing industry is undeniable. Writers of all walks of life are getting their words and stories out into the world some of them with enormous amounts of success.
Anna Scott Graham is a Californian writer taking full advantage of the digital self-publishing explosion. Anna writes, and writes, and writes. She is the author of three published novels, Drop the Gauntlet, The War on Emily Dickinson and A Right Turn at Jesus, and new publication, A Slider, Tumbling due for release in early October, 2011. With the promise of more new books on the horizon, Anna let us in on her life of prolific words and the reasons she chose independent publishing over more traditional avenues.
“Like many authors, I started writing when I was a teen, thinking could plop the perfect novel in one go. It took a long time for me to get over that, nearly thirty years. I had lots of ideas in my twenties and thirties, but I was raising kids, and didn’t write my first novel until I was forty. My eldest, then seventeen years old, twisted my arm with this writing competition…”
Anna’s first novel, Drop the Gauntlet was born during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). An international writing event where participants are encouraged to write a 50,000 word manuscript in 30 days, NaNoWriMo offers no prizes except the satisfaction of a complete manuscript. NaNoWriMo was just the spark Anna needed to get those first pages down and out there into the world.
Californian Sally Liddle isn’t looking for any more British adventures, between her best friend Harry’s brain tumour there in Yorkshire and her brother Jason’s first go at parenthood out in Silicon Valley. When Harry’s worsening condition brings home her ex-husband Graeme, Sally realizes the 2006 World Series is going to be a lot more than just baseball. ~ From Drop the Gauntlet
“I wrote Drop The Gauntlet as a love letter to Yorkshire, England. We had lived there for ten years and were making the decision to return to America. I wrote much of it during NaNoWriMo 2006 on a laptop shared with my three teenagers. But even with that constraint, I managed 100K in those thirty days. It was a story in need of telling, but more I was a writer, just waiting to breach the gates.”
Anna did not expect the long process of publication. With two years between finished manuscript to finished book, published in 2009. “While it’s a first novel in so many aspects, it was also what catapulted some self-belief that writing was a task I could attempt.”
The War on Emily Dickinson began in 2009. Anna had written another novel, September Story which made it through to the semi-finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA). Amidst the experiences with other writers in the ABNA, Anna wanted to explore the idea of an author and their supportive partner. At the end of the same year, Anna’s husband faced a serious threat to his health and the possibility of thyroid cancer.
“In January, as we waited to learn if it was malignant, I realized the brevity of life, how it turns on a dime.
“I had queried three manuscripts with tepid responses, didn’t feel like spending another year or two or twelve querying more. With traditional publishing in a downswing, all I read about going indie sounded positive. What was there to lose?”
And an independent novelist was born.
The War On Emily Dickinson was entered in ABNA 2011, had made it through the initial pitch phase. “Just as that occurred, I decided to go indie. So for a while I was in limbo as I knew that was the first novel I wanted to release on my own. When it was bounced in the second round, I had no more excuses. I wanted to publish it in summer, in print as well as an ebook. I formatted two different versions, as well as designing the cover, which I stitched and photographed myself.”
As mysterious ailments evolve into an insidious scourge, a twosome turns from friendship to love against the backdrop of a contagion, infidelities, and addiction. As San Francisco nurse Marthe Souza stands on the front line of the AIDS epidemic, her bisexual boyfriend, author Kell Vander Kellen, records the struggles of the plague’s rampage. When Kell’s sexual proclivities threaten their relationship, Marthe turns to other passions, Jesus Christ and the music of Patsy Cline, but soon she too seeks corporeal comforts. Marthe’s Catholic faith sustains her as a break-up occurs, but when Kell returns to her realm HIV-positive, the couple faces more than his illness. In his final manuscript, Kell wishes to capture not only their history, but that of the pandemic, intolerance and fear amid steadfast devotion. – From The War on Emily Dickinson
“I will never forget uploading the file onto Smashwords, my ebook publisher. Watching my place in the queue shrink as various ebook formats loaded, then it was done; I had published a novel, all by myself, which is a complete misnomer. It took a village to raise that tale, but ultimately, it comes down to the author. Writing the book, choosing a cover, crossing t’s, dotting i’s, minutiae that otherwise would be handled by an editor or agent. When I received my print copy, I felt a circle had been closed, recalling that same moment with Drop The Gauntlet, but this was sweeter. This baby was all mine.”
Anna’s third book A Right Turn at Jesus, is the story of two sisters, love and betrayal, and the haunting effects of secrets entwined with past misdeeds. “The publishing process was much the same, although I eschewed a print version, as I planned this novel as an ebook freebie. The response has been amazing, and I plan on offering giveaways every few novels”
Anna’s novels range from love and death, to disabilities and sexuality, religion and baseball. She describes her work as difficult to define which she believes makes them more suitable to independent self publishing. While she notes the benefits of traditional publishing, Anna believes they are more oriented to mainstream fiction authors with a smaller catalogue and an easily marketable genre. But what of the drawbacks to the life of an independent novelist?
“A sense of second-class citizenship lingers with indie publishing, a glass ceiling that will be shattered when a wave of independently published novels reaches mainstream status. But that leads one to assume indie novels aren’t legitimate, which isn’t the case, only how success is perceived. In the nuts and bolts, much work is involved, taking time from the actual writing and revising.”
In the stories of other self published writers, tales of self publicity using online social networks such as Twitter are common. While Anna maintains a small online presence, she shies away from such avenues of self promotion.
“One of the reasons indie smash Amanda Hocking accepted a deal with St. Martin’s Press was to focus on her writing, which had taken a back seat to publicizing her novels. Aware of that, I’ve backed away from in-depth marketing, other than blogging, Goodreads, and word-of-mouth…. Multiple releases spur successful indie publishing, which serves me better than traditional methods. I’d rather quietly tell many good tales, letting the novels speak for themselves.”
Will Anna Scott Graham ever return to traditional publishing? “If I was in this to make money, the answer would be an unequivocal YES to the big fat contract.”
“I don’t know what would tempt me to hand over the reins to my novels; I’m quite attached to owning the rights, loathe the idea of someone else having control. I am willing to take all that comes with that custody, good and bad. But as my spouse reminds, never say never.”
What publishing’s future holds is debatable, but I’m thrilled to be on this path, and plan on enjoying the ride until I exhaust my catalogue.”
Anna is also a prolific blogger, you can read about her life and writing at her blogs Non-Fiction Chronicles Of a Fiction-Filled Life; A Year Of Writing, With Hummingbirds; A Year Of Writing, Dangerously.
by Kate Krake
© 2011, Kate Krake