This month, Fabulous Florida Writers is pleased to welcome guest blogger Julie Compton. Julie is the internationally published author of TELL NO LIES, a legal thriller set in her original hometown of St. Louis; RESCUING OLIVIA, a romantic, contemporary thriller set in Florida; and the just released KEEP NO SECRETS, the sequel to TELL NO LIES. Her novels combine the suspense of thrillers with the drama of human relationships. Julie was our featured author on February 3, 2012.
When I became a published author, I lost my voice.
How can that be? you might ask. I'd written a book and suddenly it was printed and bound and packaged prettily and shipped to bookstores across the world. Imagine how many people would read the words I'd written. Think of all those readers who would curl up in their favorite chair and dive into a story that once existed only in my head. No voice? How can I say that?
Let me clarify. I didn't lose my "writer" voice, the one that likes to create stories and put them on paper for others to read. No, that voice grew louder and stronger.
Instead, I lost my "Julie" voice. The voice that forms a large part of the woman I am. Anyone who knows me well knows that I am not—excuse the cliché—a shrinking violet. I didn't go to law school for three years only to keep my opinions to myself.
But that's, in effect, what I did after I signed my first book contract with a traditional publisher. Without even realizing it myself, I began to tamp down my usually assertive personality. I became a mouse, afraid to speak up about anything for fear I might offend someone—my publisher, my editor, my agent, another author, booksellers, librarians, a potential reader, even an existing reader. Heaven forbid someone might not like what I had to say or got angry with me. I couldn't risk pissing off any of these people, I thought. I didn't want to be seen as the "difficult" or "unappreciative" author. The publisher might not want to publish me again; the agent might not want to represent me. The other author might not be willing to blurb my book. The bookseller or librarian won't stock my book, or they might pan it. The reader might not buy any more of them. I subconsciously censored myself at every turn, all in the name of the next book contract or a possible book sale.
Somewhere along the way I noticed the change in myself. I also noticed that it didn't matter to my book sales, but it did matter to my mental heath. I began to accept what I'd known all along—that publishing is a business, and my books were commodities. Products. What drives book sales isn't how "nice" or "accommodating" the creator of the product is, but rather, involves a combination of factors relevant to the sale of any product. For books, quality of the product (the story) is a primary factor and is dependent on the author, but other factors, such as packaging, pricing, and marketing, are, for the most part, out of an author's control once she signs over the rights to a publisher. After two published novels, I realized that I didn't like giving up that control, because for me, giving up control somehow translated into giving up my voice. And with the explosion of self-publishing options now available to authors, I no longer had to.
In December, after getting the rights back to my first two novels (and after several years of carefully watching other authors who had taken the leap), I tested the waters by re-releasing my debut novel, Tell No Lies, through the Kindle Direct Publishing program. In January, I did the same with my second title, Rescuing Olivia. I had a blast doing it. I learned how to format e-books, and my daughter, an art student at Savannah College of Art & Design, designed new covers that rival any I've seen from the big guys.
I was so thrilled with the results on those backlist titles—titles that until then had all but disappeared from the radar—that I decided to self-publish my newest novel, Keep No Secrets, a sequel to Tell No Lies. This decision was the riskiest—I wouldn't have advance reviews or bookstore distribution or any of the other few remaining perks of traditional publishing—but I loved the idea of keeping control over the process.
Keep No Secrets released on March 12. With my daughter's design assistance, I chose the cover. I picked the format. I decided the pricing and retain the flexibility to adjust it as I see fit. The novel's success or failure rests with me, and that's just the way I like it. But most of all, I've kept my voice.
For more about Julie Compton, visit her website at www.juliecompton.com