I first hosted New York Times bestselling author Allison Winn Scotch’s on 1st Books when The One That I Want released in paperback from Broadway, a Random House imprint. I'm delighted to welcome her back today as she plunges headlong into the new adventure of doing the publishing herself. She has sold audio and large print rights for The Theory of Opposites—which is just out—and the book has been optioned for film by Jennifer Garner. I certainly enjoyed her post about this brave new world, and I hope you will too. - Meg
I'm so excited to be back here on First Books, not least because so much has changed for me since the last time I blogged. Last week, not only did my new book, THE THEORY OF OPPOSITES, come out, but I also shared the fact that I opted to self-publish this book.
Yup, really. After four books at the traditionals – HarperCollins, Random House, and Penguin – I went my own way for this one. And I know the question that a lot of people are asking (I mean, if they care enough to ask, it's not like I'm flattering myself that people are running around wondering about my career!) is why.
I've given a lot of thought as to how to answer this, and when I first started writing this post, I got into detailed explanations about the financials of what I thought I could earn, and the control over my marketing, and the joy of pricing my book at $2.99. And all of those things that might seem interesting to writers but aren't particularly interesting outside of our little bubble. So I dug a little deeper and really tried to get to the heart of the matter as to why I jumped off this cliff.
And this is what I came up with:
When my fourth book launched, I found myself at an emotional crossroads. I was exhausted from the highs and lows of the industry; I was drained from worrying about my publisher fulfilling their end, about sales, about big reviews getting bumped (and pulled), about all of the things that had nothing to do with writing and everything to do with publishing. There's a very big difference between the two, and these days, as the industry is forced to re-evaluate what makes a book successful, the divide seems to be widening. More and more is asked of authors that has little to do with their writing, and some of it, I enjoy. I enjoy the hell out of chatting with readers on social media and writing up fun Q/As to help promote the book and all of that good stuff. But I don't enjoy the pressure that's placed on writers, when ostensibly, that's what the publisher is there for, and the blame that's cast writers too, when, again, ostensibly, that's also what the publisher is there for.
So I stepped away from writing novels for a while. I actually thought it would be permanent. I was busy with some screenplay work, and more gratifying, I was busy with my kids, my family, living our lives. I started cooking and gardening and oh my God, this is about to turn into a Martha Stewart essay, so I'll stop myself. But I guess, what I'm trying to say is that I found joy outside of my job. Which I had before, of course. But I intentionally set my career aside and asked myself: "Who would be if I'm not an author? And am I okay with that definition?"
I was, or I thought I was, but slowly the words and the characters started seeping in. I opened up an abandoned partial-manuscript and fell in love with the world I'd started to create before I gave it up. So hesitantly – oh so hesitantly – I started writing again. But differently than before. I vowed, I swore, I told everyone I knew, that I was writing this manuscript FOR ME. Not for an editor, not for my agent, not for a sales team. ME. The end. And for the most part, I managed to do that. I wrote a bigger, bawdier, more outrageous book than I'd ever written, and oh my lord, did I have fun with it. I did it without worrying about the mean reviews that readers might put up on Goodreads or the sharp eyebrows that editors might raise when we submitted. I wrote it. I loved it. That mattered. It mattered so, so, so much.
This is getting long, so I am skipping a few steps between the writing process and the book debuting. Ultimately, after early discussions with some publishers and editors, I asked my agent to stop submitting because I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted, just as I had vowed in the writing process, to stay true to ME. And I think some of that comes with age – I turned forty and have realized that I don't have to prove anything to anyone anymore. My ambition, the ambition that was maybe so strong in my earlier working years, has waned, and instead, I think it's been replaced with, I don't know quite how to say it, a desire to be true to myself. Even if that meant doing something sort of reckless and leaving the typical model behind. Hitting the bestseller list didn't matter to me anymore. It doesn't matter to me anymore. (Though sure, it will and would be great. I'm not trying to say that.) But enjoying myself on the journey somehow matters more now. Sometimes, we're so concerned with the destination (Sales! Marketing! Reviews! Co-op!), that we forget how much fun we can have along the way.
So I think that's why I self-published. And I think that's also probably why I'm the happier for it. And why that joy spills out onto my pages of this new book. Enjoy the journey. That's something I'd tell my characters too. - Allison
This post originally ran on Meg Waite Clayton's 1st Books. Meg is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Wednesday Daughters and The Wednesday Sisters (a writing group novel), and hosts the novelist group on Shewrites.