Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ten Years Gone-Guest by Jason Korolenko

 I am thrilled to have Jason Korolenko, author of THE DAY I LEFT on my blog today. I finished the book a week ago, and it is still on my mind. That is exactly what I want from a novel. Jason is not only an extremely talented writer, he is also one of the nicest people on the planet. So if you don't know him, here's your chance to get acquainted.---and you really should check out THE DAY I LEFT. I promise you won't be disappointed. 
Awesome book cover
For a long time I resisted writing about why I chose to go indie. These days, I think, most people don't really care which company publishes a novel. They care about cover art. They care about clean editing. Mostly, they care whether or not an author can pull them into another world and give them a story full of conflict and emotion and interesting characters that demand sympathy. I can't remember the last time I picked up a book published by (insert Big 6 name here) and thought, "Wow, if they published it, it must be good."

I can't remember because it has never happened.

Let me be clear: this is not a post intended to glorify the indie process and demonize the traditional publishing industry, nor is it a quaint, bullet-point list of pros and cons of either approach. It's not a sermon as to why you should choose one path or the other. It is simply a post about my reasons, about why I chose to go indie.

I hear you asking, "Who the hell are you, anyway?"

I’m a fiction writer—mostly the dark stuff that keeps you awake at night—who has been gaming the traditional publishing system for over ten years, with a handful of published stories, three unpublished novels, and a co-writing credit on an indie film. I also have an MFA in Creative Writing, and now, a self-published novel titled THE DAY I LEFT, which I wrote while in the aforementioned program.

Now that that's out of the way, you may be wondering, "What kind of person pursues an MFA only to self-publish?"

Jason Korolenko
Let’s break this down into two questions.

Q1: What kind of person pursues an MFA?

A1: The kind who wants to learn directly from professional writers and editors. In other words, I wanted to learn from people who knew their shit.

Q2: What kind of person self-publishes?

A2: The kind who doesn't want to wait two to four years before seeing his book—a book he already worked two years on—go to print. Think about that for a second. Two to four years before it goes to print.

I graduated with my completed manuscript (yes, that includes edits and spit-shines) in June of 2012. I contacted my cover artist, and learned all about formatting for ebooks and print (thanks to the godly wonders of Scrivener) in July. At the end of August, I released THE DAY I LEFT for Kindle, Nook, and all other digital formats, and in September, I'll release the paperback edition. Two months to digital, three months to print. Not bad.

For me, it all comes down to the marriage of quality and quantity. If I wanted to be a chef, I'd go to culinary school. If I wanted to be a doctor, I'd go to medical school. I wanted to be a writer, so I went to writer school. I also write a lot, and I write fast. I don't want people to have to wait two years—or even a year—for my next book.

The more stories I can give you during the course of my life, without sacrificing quality, the better off we'll both be.

 Click here to buy THE DAY I LEFT at Amazon

Click here to buy THE DAY I LEFT at Barnes & Noble

Click here to buy THE DAY I LEFT Kobo edition

And here for all other ebook formats through Smashwords 

Stalk Jason on Twitter @jasonkorolenko

Check out his amazing website at   

And check out this amazing YouTube video of Jason!


Kelly Stone Gamble said...

Thank you, Jason! I agree, these days, I don't think people care so much who publishes a novel. If it's good, it's good, word gets around, and people read it.

Suzanne Shumaker said...

You're so right about buyers judging a book by it's cover - as a reading specialist, the books my teen students all wanted were The Chronicles of Vladmir Tod by Heather Brewer, for that very reason. It's a series about vampires and for the audience (teens who read below grade level), it is a decently told story. The best part by far and the reason for the book's success, in my opinion, is the cover art.

Rob Greene said...

Jason, I'm not going to argue the indie v. trad case, either. If it works for you, rock it. I'm not a big-house publisher groupie, but if I see a book from one of those guys, I feel like I'm guaranteed a level of professionalism that I don't always see in indie pubs. I read a lot of indies over the summer and, five stars or not, I was often disappointed with basic things, like editing and paragraph indentations. A couple of the indies I read did make me wonder why a publisher had not picked them up, but most left me feeling ... not so fresh.

Jason Korolenko said...

Thanks for having me here! Word does get around, I trust, even if a bit slower than if I had a multimillion dollar marketing machine behind me. But who gets that kind of push anymore? These days, even the Big Guys lay most of the marketing/promotional work on the author.

Jason Korolenko said...

Exactly. When I go to bookstores, I look at the title first, and I'll forgive a bad title if the cover is awesome. But if the cover sucks, I probably won't even be bothered to read the back cover copy, much less crack it open and check out a few pages. It's sad, because I may be missing out on some great books that way. All the more reason, then, for authors to have kickass covers!

Jason Korolenko said...

You're absolutely right, Rob. One thing the big-house pubs can guarantee is that certain level of professionalism you're talking about. And yeah, I think it does turn some people off of indie books, and certainly makes the climb a little steeper for the authors, too, because we have to struggle against that (completely justified and understandable) prejudice. By providing consistently high-quality work, the "professional" indies will eventually rise above the crap. Hopefully. In fact, I'm willing to stake my career on it.

Raine Thomas said...

Ah, what a topic! Such a great post, Jason. I followed a similar path as you...B.A. in English with a focus in Creative Writing and an M.A in Humanities. I was a freelance editor for years before I self-pubbed my first trilogy last year (after six months of querying without a bite). Two more books and tens of thousands of sales later, I don't regret my decision in the least.

What's most interesting to me is that I'm currently reading a book by one of my favorite NY Times Bestselling authors who has tons of books in print, and I've found three editing mistakes so far. I think the industry is changing, and that traditional publishers and indie publishers all have to up their games to remain competitive. As you indicated, there is no "good guy" or "bad guy," it's all about the "right guy" for each author. Good luck on the new release!

Toby Neal said...

Thoughful post on a topic dear to my heart. After giving three years to the get-agent-get-a-deal quest (that's two years after completing first novel in my series) my agent retired. I've gone on to self publish "successfully"--which means, to me, producing top quality mysteries that fill a niche, building a base of dedicated fans, and making enough money to leave my state job. Stoked, as we say in Hawaii. I for one, am a fan of indie though it wasn't my first choice, and now I've attracted an agent who's still trying to get me the right print book deal. As someone who always intended to go indie, hats off to you for not wasting time on an industry that just isn't nimble enough to adjust to the times.
Much aloha and good luck (I'll be checking out your book on Kelly's recommendation) Toby Neal

Jason Korolenko said...

Thanks, Raine! So far, I'm not regretting the decision a bit. It certainly involves a bit more non-writing work than I expected, but I researched for about a year before I dove in, so it's not too bad. I think you're absolutely right, too, that indies and trads both have to up their games, but I'm not sure the trads are upping theirs quickly enough!

Jason Korolenko said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jason Korolenko said...

Making enough to leave a stable job...that's certainly the dream for us all, and it's wonderful that you achieved it (and in Hawaii, no less)! I love hearing those success stories. Indie wasn't really my first choice, either. I tried my hand at the traditional route, had a few very close calls with agents and small presses, but ultimately, with all the changes in the industry, it makes much more sense to go indie. It may not be right for everyone, but it's right for me. Hard road in the beginning, but seems like it will all pay off in the long run.

Thanks for the good wishes. I hope you enjoy the book!

Kriss Morton said...

Really really interesting, especially the comments. A lot to think about! Am sharing this all over!

Jason Korolenko said...

Thanks, Kriss!

Beth said...

You present an issue many of us writer types have to deal with these days. I don't see how you can lose. Your book is out there. If it does well, you may be picked up by a larger press. Best of luck. You're a wonderful writer. Watch out for seagulls.

Jason Korolenko said...

I still have nightmares about that damned seagull, Beth. Thanks for the luck. I hope it all works out!

JustinBog said...

Jason (thanks Kelly for the great space sharing), what a great post, and I love all the comments and responses as well. The indie vs. traditional route is a personal choice. So many on either side will defend their singular choice by saying this is the only "right" way, when there are 250,000+ different ways of deciding the best publishing route. What's worked for me might not work for the next writer, and vice versa. Take all the opinions and then do what you think is in your best interest. Indie publishing is more immediate, often times, over traditional publishing, but in the rush to publish many errors are made and the final product suffers sometimes. Keep editing/writing and polishing that baby until it shines and the last awkward comma is spliced out. Can't wait to read your book.

Charlieopera said...

I always encourage writers to go the traditional route, but fully understand the frustrations in this game. It’s a smaller world daily, it seems; the big publishers letting go of more and more mid-list authors and the small presses having smaller and smaller budgets; authors having to find their own publicity, etc. And with all the competition out there, it is far more difficult for new writers to find agents/get published traditionally today than it was a dozen years ago (for me).

Then there’s the author’s desire to be read (which is what we all want) … so going self-pub is a way around the frustrating world of traditional publishing.

I’ll continue to encourage writers to give the traditional business a shot, although there’s no doubt the traditional business (agents/traditional publishing) are treading water, and some, rightfully so. The best advice I can give anyone pursuing electronic publication is the obvious stuff: make sure it’s a clean manuscript, formatted professionally, and as good a story as you can tell. You’ll find your fans, probably more slowly than you want, but they are out there. More important, you’ll keep your writing life alive.

The fact there have been more than a few epub success stories out there (Toby being one) makes epub a very viable option …

I’m 56 now and was fortunate to get published before the epub market became available. I’m not so sure I’d be willing to wait today as long as I did in the past. I had started seriously trying to get published at age 26 or so, and I took a very profitable criminal detour along the way (so I was never some starving artist). And then there’s this: life is too short to put off what you want to accomplish before you fodder for the next life form.

I’ll be reading Jason’s book next week and will review it in another week or two on my blog. I look very forward to it … I’ll be reviewing another epub author tomorrow (Nigel Bird’s In Loco Parentis) alongside a traditionally published book (one Jason might enjoy by Steven Sidor, a mix of horror and crime) … so there you go (one reviewer taking epub every bit as serious as traditional print).

I’ll also be having something to say about the so-called review scandal apparently going on in crime fiction (what a shock!) these days … how it’s much ado about nothing there’s anything to do about.

And lest anyone forget … Go Bills!

moonduster said...

I wish I had the money to get my MFA. I have my BA in English, but that's all I could afford.

I completely understand not wanting to wait so long to see your book in publication, and I also believe that, as long as the book you put out there is well written and of a good quality, then you don't need a traditional publisher.

Sadly, there are quite a few people who choose indie publishing and DON'T make sure that they are publishing something of quality and it just makes things harder for the true indie publishers who take pride in the work they do. (I've read some ebooks that read as though they are first drafts written during NaNoWriMo and published without any revisions done at all. I have also read some really quality stories that pull me in from the first sentence and make it impossible for me to put down until I have finished reading them.)

Lorca Damon said...

It's so cool that I saw this post. In a randomness moment last night, I tweeted about how I'd signed with an indie publisher for my next novel after self-publishing three books. The tweet was about how I haven't said the words "query letter" in over a year. Finding an agent used to be the focus of my writing career; then I found one, and she didn't have the courtesy to email me updates from time to time. The entire industry is changing and (not to imply that traditional is going anywhere) it's in a good way.

Thanks for telling us your story!

Jason Korolenko said...

Thanks, Justin. Yes, there is certainly the danger of rushing to publish, and screwing things up in the process. I mentioned above that, even though I researched this process for about a year beforehand, I've been a bit surprised how much "non-writing" work I'm doing, such as outsourcing editing, proofreading, cover design, and all that stuff.

Hope you enjoy the book!

Jason Korolenko said...

Charlie!! I can't wait to read your review, brother. I hope you like it.

You make a lot of great points, and I'm actually grateful for those years trying to work the traditional game. I learned so much. And yeah, it's a bit of a waiting game either way, really. Publish traditionally and wait forever for the book to come out. Publish indie and, at least in the beginning, suffer through slow sales as the audience builds. Or suffer through no sales. But readers are smart. They find good work, one way or the other.

I'll have to check out that Steven Sidor book. Sounds right up my alley.

And I won't even mention the Cheatriots in your presence.

Jason Korolenko said...

I couldn't afford the BA or the MFA. I sometimes wish the financial aid wouldn't've come through; I dread even opening those monthly statements!

Absolutely, the biggest hurdle for indie authors is...other indie authors. Specifically, as you mentioned, those who think they can string a bunch of sentences together, mock up a cover in MS Paint, and throw it up on Amazon. Because of that lack of quality control, there will always be some sort of stigma against self-publishers. And rightfully so.

God, I love that "Look Inside" feature. ;) Thanks for the comments!

Jason Korolenko said...

Funny you mention query letters. When I settled on this path, I felt this huge relief that I'd never have to write another query letter. No one likes them. Anyone who says they do is a liar. Of course, I quickly realized that writing compelling back cover copy and synopses for Amazon and other sites is just as difficult. I guess those one-liners and elevator pitches are still important, after all. ;)

But I really have no desire to ever search for another agent. What an awful, painful process.

Thanks for reading, Lorca!

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

I have to say I'm really enjoying the discussion/comments on this subject. Thank you, all!

Jason Korolenko said...

This is so much fun. I keep refreshing the page over and over, just to see if there are any new comments!

David Rawding said...

I really liked how you mentioned you can get the gratification of getting the book out there instead of waiting several years. Waiting is for the birds. I wish you all the best for your book, Jason.

Jason Korolenko said...

Thanks, D-Money. Yeah, I can't stand the waiting game. Of course, I don't get an advance doing it this way, but with the low advances publishers are handing out these days, I'm confident I can make at least that much in the amount of time it would have taken for the book to be released traditionally. And for me, all that is profit, whereas the trad published author still has to earn out the advance, once the book comes out, before they even start seeing any pennies on the dollar for royalties.

I didn't get into it in the post above (simply because there wasn't space), but the financial aspect is HUGE. Financially, for me, it just doesn't make sense to publish traditionally.

Jason Korolenko said...

I wrote "the trad published author still has to earn out their advance..." and forgot to add that most never earn out, and thus, their book goes out of print and they don't receive a contract for a second, and in some cases, depending on the contract, they lose the rights to their own out-of-print book, so they couldn't sell it or resubmit it even if they wanted to. Does that make sense to anyone other than publishers?

tmycann said...

Another interesting argument about going indie have to do with the business/financial side: The opportunity to earn a living from writing (when you're serious about producing the best book you can, as you outlined above) seems much more attainable. You don't run the risk of not earning out your advance, and therefore have the right to keep your book(s) on the virtual bookshelves as long as you'd like, accruing a larger and larger audience. Not having to settle for the pittance of a royalty the major publishing houses offer also feels like a big win. :)