Here is what I love about being an author: spinning a story from nothing, losing myself to a scene, connecting with readers who become friends, planning my life schedule around my writing schedule, wearing yoga pants as a uniform.
Here is what I love less about being an author: marketing and selling my book. If it were up to me, I’d never have to encourage, tweet, nudge, implore, or beg readers to pick up my books. It’s excruciatingly awkward, so very “look at me, please like me, please pick me!” that one is left feeling like a third grader on the playground waiting to be chosen for red rover.
My first novel was published nearly a decade ago, before the onslaught of social media, before the burden to sell a book fell so heavily on an author. As we all joined Twitter (and Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat), we were told that our social media feeds could determine the fates of our books. Perhaps not in those words explicitly, but we were told that all the same—we authors who really just wanted to get lost behind the veil of our characters.
As I approached the completion of my sixth novel, I knew that I didn’t have that in me, to retweet every single blogger review on the hopes that it would boost my Amazon rating. I had run that race before, and mostly, I felt like I had lost that race before, too. I had been at three different publishing houses, primarily due to editorial shifts, imprint closures (Shaye Areheart Books was a true dream before it closed), and a whole host of changing winds. I had been touched with good fortune and less-good fortune; I’d befriended brilliant editors and also been left to twist in those changing winds.
In an attempt to regain control of my career (and to be honest, my sanity), I chose to self-publish my fifth book, and I loved it, every single aspect of it: the control, yes, but also the freedom that that control brought me. Every decision was my own, including whom I hired, when I published, and how much I charged for the novel. It was exhilarating—the sales were substantial—and I came back from the brink of leaving publishing.
When I wrapped my sixth book, In Twenty Years, I wanted to self-publish again, but my agent suggested Lake Union, an imprint at Amazon. I was admittedly hesitant about both traditional and Amazon, but ultimately, I realized that Amazon was offering me what I was looking for all along: an unparalleled marketing platform, smart price points, fast release dates.
I signed my contracts, and the differences were clear pretty immediately: I was paid my advance within weeks; I was shown multiple cover options; I was emailed a survey asking how Amazon could make me happier. I suggested an audio narrator, who was hired; I was sent a new Kindle as part of a congratulatory package.
Now, with the book out in the world, I see my sales daily; I see the balance between earnings and advance payments, and I get paid monthly when the difference between the former outweighs the latter. But most critically, in its first month, despite its limited bookstore availability, I have sold more copies of In Twenty Years than I did of my third and fourth novels combined. In Twenty Years has been well reviewed, but I have not madly tap-danced on social media, and I have not slowly spiraled into crazy worrying about promotion.
I understand that there are those out there who are not fans of the behemoth in Seattle. I love my local indie bookstore, where I launched this book, and I am happy to spend an afternoon getting lost in Barnes & Noble. I understand, also, why someone might disagree with my choices. But just as publishers choose what’s best for their bottom lines (and often that means letting authors and their works sail quietly into the night), so too did I choose what was best for my bottom line, for my books, for my readers, for my peace of mind.
Authors want to write. We want to create works that resonate with whomever they reach. I didn’t want to be another author paddling upstream with another book. Lake Union worked for me. What author wouldn’t want that?
Allison Winn Scotch is the bestselling author of six novels. Her latest is In Twenty Years (Lake Union). She lives in Los Angeles with her family and their dogs.