There are many ways to get published these days, and the face of publishing is changing all the time. Self-publishing no longer carries the kind of stigma it used to, yet there is still a fairly valid supposition that most self-published work will be inferior in quality of story and presentation. This is certainly not always the case, as many success stories have shown us recently. There are also authors starting the traditional way, but taking control of their own publishing later. Small and indie press are providing writers with more opportunities than ever. With that in mind, today I have a guest post from Lorna Suzuki who has turned down offers of traditional publishing to go her own way, which includes a film deal for her self-published work. I thought her story might be interesting for readers here. Enjoy.
Writing With No Regrets
by Lorna Suzuki
In my short fiction-writing career, I’ve been blessed and more fortunate than most writers, especially being that I am an indie author.
I know many authors seek validation by being published through traditional means, even if it’s not one of the big six. They believe traditional publishing means they are now credible writers, even though some question the quality of some of these books being published. Once, an aspiring author seeking traditional publication mentioned that writers like me are ‘jumping the queue’, thereby making it harder for serious writers like him to compete in this business. I’ve even been to writers conferences and have overheard authors seeking traditional publication speak of how they’d ‘never stoop so low as to resort to self-publishing’ as they, with their noses turned up, rushed by workshops covering this very topic.
For me, I’m proudly indie and deliberately so. I never started writing fantasy with the intention of becoming rich, receiving a huge advance from a large publishing company or to have my name on the cover of a book. Maybe I’m naïve to be happy knowing my fantasy series is slowly but steadily gathering a following and making its way into libraries in Canada and the U.S., but writing fiction for a living was something I never truly considered.
I wrote my fantasy series as a lasting gift to my daughter. I created an imaginary realm filled with characters whose stories I felt were worth sharing with the world.
Now, for those who say I was never published traditionally because my work is mediocre and I just couldn’t land an agent: I’ve had two literary agents in the past, the last had an excellent track record with multi-book deals with the big publishing houses in New York. The whole experience was not exactly soul-crushing, more disheartening than anything else.
I released my last agent, and used Kim Roberts, one of Hollywood North’s most talented, knowledgeable entertainment attorneys (and producer of Sepia Films) to negotiate a wonderful option agreement with a fantastic production company.
Even with agent representation, it’s been either the editors or president of publishing companies I’ve met on my own, than via any agent introduction.
In the case of one successful, growing Canadian publishing company, the president of Libros Libertad had been following my writing career via the local newspapers and on TV. He contacted me when I was in the midst of meetings with a film producer seeking rights to option my adult fantasy series. The president of this company was pleasant, professional and as a writer, he understood the challenges many authors face, and that many worthy novels never get out there because the competition is fierce.
We did have couple of great meetings, and I did go as far as reviewing a publishing contract, but the burden of negotiating film rights had far greater precedence at the time, so I had to decline his offer of a multi-book deal to focus on this.
The next person interested in publishing rights for the adult fantasy came from the editor of Raincoast Publishing (their claim to fame was being the publisher of the Harry Potter series in Canada). I met Raincoast editor Jessie Finkelstein at the Surrey International Writers Conference. When we were discussing the Imago fantasy series, Ms. Finkelstein loved the concept of a strong female protagonist that had NO supernatural powers to take on much larger opponents. She found it refreshing that I featured a petite female warrior, one that used her intuition, years of training and smarts to overcome challenges to survive in a world that was not tolerant of her type, the only half human/half elf being in her realm.
Ms. Finkelstein loved that the female protagonist had fighting skills grounded in reality (based on my style of martial arts), blended in with a high level of action as well as a poignant story that touched on real world issues like overcoming racial and religious intolerance, male chauvinism, abuse and the will to survive against incredible odds.
She loved the concept so much, but Raincoast specializes in YA fiction, not adult fantasy. Because Ms. Finkelstein was aware of the level of violence and the sexual content, she had to ask: “Are you willing to rewrite your series for a YA audience?”
Now, some writers struggling to be picked up by a traditional publishing house denounced me as being crazy for giving the answer I did, but I already had a growing fan base of very loyal Imago fans, the ones who drop everything to attend my annual book launches to get their next fantasy fix. At the risk of being accused of selling out or disappointing the fans that loved the series written with an adult audience in mind, I had no choice but to say no to Ms. Finkelstein.
Do I regret saying no to her? Do I ever wonder what would have happened if I did rewrite to fit Raincoast’s catalogue? The answer is no.
Just last month, the executive producer who had optioned rights for the first three novels in the Imago series for a major motion picture trilogy contacted me. A publisher in Asia who knew of my series and the impending movie project asked the executive producer to contact me to see if I’d be interested in negotiating rights for the release of the Imago series in Asia.
I was flattered they wanted this, but for me, I didn’t even bother asking the executive producer who they were and what were they willing to offer.
Maybe… but for me, I’m a firm believer that things will happen when they are supposed to happen and whom they are supposed to happen with. And like my female protagonist, I tend to follow my intuition. I’ve spent much of my life multi-tasking on so many levels. Somewhere along the line, this means something can suffer in the process. I felt it was better for me to focus on one project at a time. As the creative consultant of the upcoming motion picture trilogy, it’s better to give the proper care and attention to the movie project now, than to regret it later.
Now, don’t get me wrong. When the time is right, under the proper terms and conditions with the most suitable traditional publishing company, I might consider an offer. It will have to be right on many levels for me to give up self-publishing, especially in light of the fact J.K. Rowling, with her Pottermore.com website, has almost single-handedly made self-publishing respectable now.
In the meantime, I’m quite happy being indie. For now, the executive producer wants me to continue building the fan base as we march toward full production! So, off I go, trying to win readers over one book at a time. And thank you, Alan, for inviting me to do this guest blog.
You can find Lorna on twitter: @LornaSuzuki
Or at her website: http://web.me.com/imagobooks.ca