One question I'm asked all the time is: "Why do you publish your books independently?" I wrote a few posts about this last year but with the new book in production (and a lot of new readers) I think it's worth revisiting. The primary factor in the original decision was the problem of genre. If you've read The Fiddler's Gun, think about it for a minute. What genre would you put it in? Young Adult? Historical? Adventure? Literary? Women's Fiction? Is it a book for boys? For girls? Is it Christian fiction?
See what I mean? You're probably thinking, wait a minute, it's all those things, it's a book for everyone. But from the standpoint of a publisher whose job is to market and sell books, that poses a big problem. For instance, what shelf would you say The Fiddler's Gun belongs on in the bookstore? Tough question, right? I still don't have a good answer to that one myself.
The problem isn't a matter of whether or not the book is good enough, and it's not a matter of whether or not people like it. It's a matter of knowing who to market it to. For a book that crosses so many boundaries and appeals to so many different demographic groups that's ironic, but that's the way the business works. Once I understood that, I realized that finding a home at a big publisher was going to be difficult and would likely require me to make changes to the book that might have made it easier to classify but would also have homogenized it in ways that I wasn't comfortable with.
While all this was running through my head, my brother and I had also been discussing the idea of the Rabbit Room Press. We wanted to find a way to publish hard-to-find books by authors like Chesterton and MacDonald and eventually we wanted to figure out how to publish our own Rabbit Room originals as well.
I was initially resistant to the idea of going the independent route but the more I thought about it, and the more I came to understand the industry, the more I thought it might work. The cross-genre issue that made it such a risk for a big publisher also made it much less a risk if published independently because I had such a huge potential market and was willing to put in the effort to reach it. Even though I'd be reaching fewer people than a big publisher could, I had a good chance of selling the book to a high percentage of those few and from a financial perspective, I didn't need to sell all that many in order to make the venture a success.
Add to this that one of the primary themes of the book is "independence" and I decided to go ahead and make the leap. There was something romantic in the idea of breaking with "the man" and going it alone for a book about the Revolutionary War. So The Fiddler's Gun became the first novel published under the banner of Rabbit Room Press, Fiddler’s Green will be the second, and we’ve got quite a few other projects lined up for the coming year.
In the next post I’ll talk a bit about the process of independent publishing and why I’m not a fan of Print-on-Demand services.