Why Go Small, Then Indie, Then Small

Once upon a time, I was traditionally published, or at least the way I understood the term. Actually, I signed with a tiny press in the outer fringes of the Baltimore area long on ambition and short on business acumen. Had I waited two more weeks, I'd have had an agent who could have sold Northcoast Shakedown to one of a couple of ready and willing New York houses. But I was impatient to the point of getting nasty when this was pointed out to me.

Over time, I landed not one but two agents. The first I dropped because I thought the small press deal had poisoned the well. I feel bad about that, because I think my first post-Kepler novel, Road Rules, would have been a good fit for him. The second took me on mainly as a favor to a friend with a bigger name and a lucrative list to sell. I dropped her after she went incommunicado.

At that point, I had burned out. I was sick of the whole agent thing.

So I released all the finished books on Kindle, then Createspace just as the indie pub revolution happened. I was not exactly a disciple of JA Konrath. For starters, I still buy paperbooks, which Konrath insisted would be a dead format in five years. That was in 2010. News flash, I now own a turntable, still like CDs, and no one has come up with a way to stream ebooks. In fact, no one wants them streamed. Ebook has become synonymous with "crap." Indie was great for a new business model. If you got in at the right time. Like the dotcom bubble, if you didn't time it right, do your covers and formatting right, or market well, you've got a mass of bytes out on Amazon taking up hard drive space somewhere in the cloud.

So I switched to science fiction. I wanted to be Stan Lee and Gene Roddenberry, and the indie pub boom offered me a chance to do that on my own terms. Again, marketing, good covers, and good formatting. One out of three ain't enough.

Plus I found it hard to be both Jim Winter and TS Hottle at the same time. I'd lost the zeal for crime despite all my work on a novel Holland Bay. So I killed the brand.

After a while, I almost gave up completely. Then along came Clayborne Press, who offered me basically the same deal as my original publisher. So why did I go with them this time?

1.) Clayborn does the covers and formatting (which, in paperback, has gotten thorny since Amazon rolled Createspace into Kindle. Bad move, Amazon. Bad move.) 2.) Jonathan Clayborn told me the deal up front, without selling me on a pie-in-sky idea of pitching his list to Random House. 3.) My contract has an escape clause. I can yank a book with proper notice at anytime. It's not quite that simple, but it gives me options if newer work sells more lucratively elsewhere. And if that's the case, he makes more money until I start pulling work.

And frankly, he's making the Jim Winter books available again. I'm aiming higher with Holland Bay and the new Kepler novel, as well as any scifi I write after TS Hottle calls it a series with the Compact Universe. Having a backlist will simply be an income opportunity.

One that was fun to build.