My Self-Publishing Journey: I am the Decider!

I just got the 2nd pass edits on LIGHTBRINGER back from Edits that Rock. One of the questions Rochelle raised after the first round was whether I wanted  to discuss religion quite as much as I did. In much of today’s paranormal romance, the big questions of religion are carefully skirted so as to not offend and lose readers. This isn’t as true in science-fiction and fantasy. A significant number of authors in those genres have tackled religion head-on, but not so much in romance.

I had what I think is a fairly average Christian upbringing, colored by an early love of science-fiction and fantasy.  In SF and fantasy it’s often acknowledged that in building a new world, religion is an integral part of  what motivates people. So for me, if characters have a conversation about life after death (VEILED MIRROR)  or angels (LIGHTBRINGER) it doesn’t make sense to pretend religion doesn’t exist.

And yet . . . I am paying Rochelle for her expertise, and I do want to actually sell my books, not just decorate Amazon’s website with my listings. So I thought pretty hard about her advice. I was free to take it or leave it. As I mentioned in a previous post, unlike an editor at a traditional publisher, Rochell has no leverage — the decision was all up to me.

I’m pretty good at catastrophizing. I can worry that a minor misstep can doom me to utter darkness and failure with the best of them. Interestingly, as I’ve progressed on my self-publishing journey, I’ve felt less of that. Where I used to worry that if I didn’t write the perfect synopsis I would be exiled to the outer reaches of writer purgatory, now a decision about editing is just that, a business decision.

In the end I decided to trim a few sentences from LIGHTBRINGER for the sake of the larger story arc of the Celestial Affairs series. And that’s the point of this post: It’s all about the story you want to tell. Every story has its audience. Don’t worry about that. In my opinion, the priority should be what works best for the story, not protecting the author’s ego and not potential sales.

11 Comments

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11 responses to “My Self-Publishing Journey: I am the Decider!

  1. Frankie,
    I think that these kinds of decisions are one of the biggest advantages of self-publishing. Trad pub is so concerned with things like who will get offended that there’s little innovation.

    My WIP is decidedly Christian in tone, but there are real life characters in it that won’t fit in the inspirational box. Although there is some movement in this direction by traditional publishers (Google the announcement that Hatchette is starting the Jericho Books imprint), being rejected because the minister is divorced or a character swears on an infrequent basis is more likely. Changing these things would make it a totally different story.

    I think you made the right decision.

    • Elise, I completely agree. Because I’m self-publishing I can think, and write, outside the tiny little box the big corporations are afraid to leave. They’re looking for the biggest amount of revenue per unit — witness the endless remakes of old movies. With lower overhead and no one bout ourselves to answer to, you and I can afford to take a risk and find our own niche.

  2. Both my fantasy romance series (self-published) and my space opera (not yet published) have huge religious themes. Since they aren’t set on Earth, they don’t have a Christian God. However the theme is still about what can happen with the relationship the characters have with their deity.

    My sweet historical Western romances have just a hint of inspirational. My characters go to church and say quick prayers when they’re in trouble. But there’s no religious arc. So both Christians and secular readers can enjoy the story.

    I’m totally ok with reading about religion in fantasy or SF. That’s part of the world and part of the characters. Stick to your guns. Fantasy and SF readers are used to it. In fact it’s sort of odd when there’s a complete absence of religion, for example Anne McCaffery’s Pern series.

  3. Hi Frankie,
    Thank you for tackling this topic. In my current self-published release, I let readers know that my heroine has a religious upbringing that defines who she is today. By no means is this an inspirational story. My heroine is no different from anyone else who struggles with right and wrong with regards to their religion. To me, that’s what makes her real and someone—I hope–readers can identify with, since we all do it everyday. The same is true if someone wants to include abortion in their books. They’re both touchy subjects, but in the end, it’s all about the reader being able to care (or not) about the character. How you accomplish that is totally up to you, thanks to the freedom of self-publishing. In traditional markets, it would be scrutinized to that point that you’d be strong-armed into taking it out, unless you come up with a legitimate reason to keep it. I guess trying to identify with millions of readers who are religious and don’t necessarily read inspirationals isn’t enough.

    In the end, whatever device/motivation you use, it has to move the plot forward and show a sense of character growth. Otherwise, it’s just wasted space on paper. That will definitely turn readers off.

  4. It can be a hard choice- but one of the joy’s and nail biting issues of self publishing is making them yourself for what work for you and your story. I think people are getting tired of washed books that don’t make you think, or feel uncomfortable, or inspire, or even offend. I want read books with a persons thoughts and feelings and life in them.

  5. Part of the reason I’ve always loved Sci-Fi is because the author can think out of the box way more than other genres. I enjoy stories with alternative cultures and religions. Kudos to you Frankie for doing what was best for the story!

  6. I think it’s a good sign that in a time where the difficult economy is pressuring us to be more cautious in what we say and write, and in an atmosphere of censorship encouragement, many writers are empowered through self-publishing and by their own grit, to be true to the story.

    Love your blog title, too!

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