Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Going Indie: My reflections on choosing an Independent Book Publisher by Roger Drouin

There is a scene in my novel No Other Way when Thomas, the good-guy turned rogue-park-ranger, encounters three of the men working for Centur Corp., the company that wants to drill for natural gas in the national forest where Thomas works.
It is an important moment in the action of the novel and the development of Thomas’s character. When my editor told me he would be “rewriting” this passage, I was a bit worried.
Then he emailed me some of his changes. It turns out he had carefully re-sculpted this scene—revising it in a way that improved the flow of action, while also keeping the “voice” of the writing untarnished by the changes. My editor quoted John Gardner. His changes to this scene, he told me, were meant to keep the reader in the “fictional dream,” as Gardner puts it.
Slowly, line by line, my manuscript has been smoothed over like the rocks at the bottom of a steady stream.
I got lucky. I found an independent press in love with my novel. That press is South Carolina-based Moonshine Cove Publishing.
My editor at Moonshine Cove, Gene Robinson, has emailed me edits at 1:10 a.m.
We spent hours going over possible cover designs.
Gene suggested the title change, from A Long Way to Go to No Other Way. The new title is more reflective of the tone of the book, I think. The new title is taken from a conversation between Thomas and the other main character Samuel.
To top things off, over the past few weeks, I’ve been in touch with some amazing fellow writers, journal editors, and reviewers—such as authors Sheldon Lee Compton and Martin Lastrapes, and Diane Smith, editor of Grey Sparrow Journal, to name just a few. Talented photographer Greg Stahl graciously let Moonshine Cove Publishing use his landscape photo captured in the White Cloud Mountains, Idaho for the cover of No Other Way.
These artists have been supportive and encouraging, and I think it’s genuine. Because just maybe they see something in my writing. I also believe they have faith in the feisty and quixotic independent forces that exist to try to bring literature to an audience. Sometimes those stories may be a little raw, or sometimes hard, or the opposite—just a little too quiet. But the independent publishers publish a book because they love it.
Earlier in the submission process, I heard from one agent, who liked my query letter and then read my manuscript. The agent responded: “…But I’m afraid the story as a whole was just too quiet for me.”
I would have kept down that path, trying to find an agent, but something kept pulling me towards the path of finding an independent publisher. It was just a matter of finding the right one.  
But why did I want to go with an independent publisher?
It is a huge decision to choose a publisher to print your novel, and the decision to go with an independent press is one that many other writers have written about more eloquently than I can hope to.
At this point, the most I can say is we’ll see how it works out. I have a pretty good feeling about the prospects for No Other Way. For a literary novel with a powerful eco-centric undercurrent, (as one of my fellow FAUers has described it) I felt that an independent press was the way to go.
I’m thirty-two, and I’ve acquired a list of things I distrust, yet one of those things I do have faith in are those feisty independent forces that bring literature to life. The ones who don’t shy away from the raw, the hard, the writing that is just a little too quiet.
Of course an agent or an editor at a big publisher can love a work. There are plenty of accounts of agents and editors fighting for an author’s first novel, and then making sure that book is as polished as it can be.
The independent press, however, offers a little more freedom and input. In my case, it has allowed me to work closely with an editor who has, so far in the process, been delicate and thoughtful with my words I’ve written on the page.
As my editor and I continue to work on the galley edits for No Other Way, I feel like I’ve just pulled out onto a nice stretch of two-lane and I’m driving along to see what comes up.

Roger Real Drouin completed his MFA in fiction from Florida Atlantic University this spring. One of his favorite hobbies is to get almost lost way out in the woods.  More information about No Other Way can be found on the novel's Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/rogerrealdrouin or on Roger's webpage: www.rogerdrouin.com

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