GUEST BLOGGER: Carolyn J. Rose

Dodging Bullets by Taking Indie Road

By Carolyn J. Rose

Recently a writer I know completed the second book in a series. She worked on it for more than a year and, when she sent it off to her publisher, felt confident about the storyline and character development.

A few weeks passed and she got an e-mail from her editor outlining numerous changes. Not small changes.

Later she got an e-mail from her agent suggesting still other changes—changes far different from those suggested by the publisher.

She felt confused and even abused. She felt the message was that she wasn’t a good writer. She felt discouraged and tentative about writing a third book.

I commiserated, all the while feeling a sense of relief that these were bullets I dodged by indie publishing. My books are MY books—my ideas, my execution, my development.

Yes, there may be (plenty of) room for improvement. There may be things I could have done differently and/or better. There may be critics who don’t like the characters and stories I created.

But those are facts of the publishing life, independent or otherwise. There are always critics.

Fortunately, there are also fans.

In the past few months I received several e-mails from readers asking when I would release a sequel to No Substitute for Murder. I wrote back explaining that I was at work on two other books, but perhaps this winter would plot another mystery to ensnare Barbara Reed and her dog Cheese Puff. (One fan wants me to create a love interest for the ten-pound dog.)

“If you hadn’t put that book out yourself,” my husband said, “you might have a publisher leaning on you to set your other projects aside and get going on a sequel. They’d want to take advantage of the 20,000 you’ve sold since December.”
He’d pointed out more bullets dodged—the big bullets of outside pressure, deadlines not my own, and the financial considerations of others.

I have a strong work ethic and can create quite enough pressure on my own. I had enough of enforced deadlines and daily pressure during the years I worked as a TV news producer. And I was never consumed by the urge to make big money for myself or others. (Driven to make enough to get by plus a little more, yes. Consumed with the desire to keep shoving that bank balance higher and higher as a goal in itself, no.) Beyond that, I’m uncomfortable with BSP (blatant self-promotion). The message received in childhood was “don’t blow your own horn.”

So, while I felt I would relish the control I’d have by indie publishing, I also recognized the responsibility and effort required. Before I released An Uncertain Refuge in May of 2011, I bit my nails to the quick over the decision to take Indie Road.

My biggest worry was due to my feeling that the emphasis in the phrase “indie publishing” seemed to be on the first word. “Independent” implies strength and self-reliance, but I also felt a certain loneliness in the word. So I held back, feeling like a wallflower at a dance, afraid to get out on the floor because I’d make the wrong moves and everyone would point and stare.

But then I turned to some professionals who I now consider my friends. Thanks to my “support team,” the process of publishing gets easier with each book.

Patty G. Henderson formats my books for print and has never failed to be patient and offer praise on the days I need it most. (About five days out of seven if you’re counting.)

Digital formatters Kimberly Hitchens and her crew at may be more than a thousand miles away—I’m in Vancouver, WA, and they’re in Arizona—but they’re so quick to respond and their communications are so personal that I feel as if they’re just down the hall.

Then there’s Dorion D. Rose (, my cousin. He’s an IT Architect for IBM, a business analytics specialist who designs software tools and web pages. Last year he happened to mention an interest in photography. A dozen pestering e-mails later, he allowed as how he might attempt a book cover. To his credit, he didn’t disown me when, after he’d spent weeks on the first concept for A Place of Forgetting, I scrapped it and asked for something else. He swears he likes the collaboration process. He’s probably lying. He’s created covers for No Substitute for Murder, A Place of Forgetting, Drum Warrior, and Through a Yellow Wood. Right now he’s at work on the design a book I’ll release late in the fall, By the Sea of Regret.

With such a great team, I’m not alone anymore and the emphasis in “indie publishing” has shifted to the second word.


Carolyn J. Rose is the author of several novels, including Hemlock Lake, Through a Yellow Wood, An Uncertain Refuge, A Place of Forgetting, and No Substitute for Murder. She penned two humorous cozy mysteries, The Big Grabowski and Sometimes a Great Commotion, with her husband, Mike Nettleton. By the Sea of Regret, the sequel to An Uncertain Refuge, will emerge in the late fall of 2012.

She grew up in New York's Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. She founded the Vancouver Writers' Mixers and is an active supporter of her local bookstore, Cover to Cover. Her interests are reading, gardening, and not cooking.


Carolyn J. Rose said…
Patty, thanks for inviting me to share my experiences.
Hi Carolyn! I feel the same way about indie publishing. I have a very large hard drive full of stories and books that I've written over the last 20 years, and finally have a way to get them out there without waiting forever. I recently talked to a young woman who excitedly told me about her first sale to a large publisher (YA book), but said that her agent AND editor had given her a ream of changes. She was determined to make all of them. By that time, I figured, it wouldn't even be her book. I've been on both sides of the publishing world, and really love being my own boss.

Happy trails, and good luck with your books! bobbi c.
Morgan Mandel said…
No offense against the young ones, but most often when you'd send something off to a traditional publisher, they'd have their young reader at it first, then if that person liked it, it would go further up. I'm sure some are talented, but IMHO it's a crap shoot. Once the manuscripts got to an editor, you had a better chance, that is, if you got a good one. Some are not so good.

As an indie, I do suggest hiring an editor and making sure you pick a good one. Also, it's important to have a quality cover.

Good that you stuck to your guns, Carolyn. You obviously made the correct decision!

Morgan Mandel
I'm with small presses and feel more or less the same way as you who are doing the process yourself. I do get some feedback and editing, but my books are mine. No drastic changes, ever. And Carolyn, I love your books!
Carolyn J. Rose said…
Morgan, I know what you mean about readers not in my "core audience." And I had an agent tell me she couldn't represent a book of mine because it was set in a rural area. Never mind that the themes were universal.
I don't know if it's the "correct" decision, but it feels right for me.

Bobbi, being my own boss is great - especially because I can give myself more breaks and a longer lunch hour.
pam.stanek said…
Great information, Carolyn. I also have used Patty to design my book cover for The Byers Avenue Bunny Club. It is delightfully artistic and playful, which is in keeping with the content. She is also extremely easy to work with and accommodating whenever possible. Can't say enought about her and her work.
You, my dear, are a credit to the indie pub world. I've read most of your books, and have enjoyed every well as their covers!
Peg Brantley said…
It's an incredible leap of faith we take when we put our careers in our own hands. It's more than a little frightening to be vulnerable… to have strangers read our words… and to hope they're good enough.

Without the teams we build, from beta readers to cover designers to editors and reviewers, it would truly be impossible. Even though each final decision is our own, it's wonderful having the feeling of support and investment from so many talented people. And very little bruises from misplaced bullets… or something like that. *wink*

Thanks for a positive post, Carolyn.
Great blog for all aspiring authors looking at self-pubbing as a viable alternative for their writing. I don't think I'll ever go back to contract writing again.

Thanks bunches for being part of the Summer Series of Guest Bloggers at The Henderson Files.
Carolyn J. Rose said…
Peg, knowing my "team" is there is like having a security blanket and a safety net.
Keith V said…
20K books in seven months is pretty good, even if they are selling for a buck a copy.

No, it's not real publishing, but it sure is a fun hobby.
Keith......Not real publishing? Is it imaginary? You mean the books I read and hold in my hands aren't real? Gosh, and all those dollars filling up my account, the fan mail aren't real either? Hmmm, I wonder what real publishing looks like?

I like it in my imaginary world. I think I'm staying here!
Allene said…
Great post! I'm familiar with Carolyn's books and personally grateful she choose indie publishing. Otherwise I may never have had the privilege of reading her work. As a reviewer I read a number of indie books - some are really bad - some quite good - and others, like Carolyn's are terrific!
Keep writing, authors, and follow your own path. It's the only way to climb out of that traditional valley of bureaucracy.
Carolyn J. Rose said…
Allene, thanks for the encouragement. I hope you're feeling better and are continuing your own writing projects.
Anonymous said…
Well Carolyn, I feel the same. I'm glad you could get your books out and on your terms. Good luck to you!
Jolened said…
Part of what drives me batty with the "real publishing is traditional publishing" is, people tend to overlook how short a time period "traditional" publishing existed for. In reality, small press or indie publishing is the actual "tradition" if we're going for how long a particular approach has been used.

Thank you, Patty, for giving your blog space to other authors, and thank you, Carolyn, for sharing your story here and letting more people become exposed to your work.
Carolyn J. Rose said…
I heard somewhere (and may be mistaken) that Mark Twain's books were sold door to door. In a way, the 'net is like that - but on a much, much larger scale. Who knows what the next change will be?

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