Writing All Over The Road

Dan Walsh is the award-winning and bestselling author of 14 novels, including The Unfinished Gift, The Discovery and When Night Comes. He has won 3 Carol Awards and 3 Selah Awards. Three of his books were finalists for Inspirational Book of the Year. Dan is a member of ACFW and Word Weavers. He lives with his wife, Cindi, in the Daytona Beach area where they love to take walks and spend time with their grandkids. Click here to connect with Dan or check out his books.

*     *     *
I have to admit, lately, the picture on the right seems more like the choices we’re facing in the publishing world these days. Back in 2009, when my first novel came out (a Christmas novel called, The Unfinished Gift), life seemed so much simpler. There were really only 2 choices available for a fiction writer hoping to get his/her novel into readers’ hands:
  1. Somehow get invited to join the ranks of an elite club made up of those who were traditionally published.
  2. Keep trying.
Apart from this, you really had no other choice, unless you were so desperate to get your name on a book that you paid thousands of dollars to a vanity press in exchange for a garage full of books you couldn’t sell. No one recommended doing this. There was no such thing as “indie publishing,” and self-publishing in general was totally frowned upon.

I was fortunate. An A-list literary agent picked up my first book within weeks after I sent out my first manuscript. She had a contract with a major publisher 2 months later. That book did very well, so they gave me a contract for another, then another. They did so well, they gave me a 3 book contract, with a commitment to publish 2 books a year. That was enough to allow me to write full-time, so I did. Then came another 3 book contract, then a 4 book contract. 
It seemed like everything was all set for a nice, stable career as a full-time fiction author. But while all this was happening, somewhere along the way, Amazon gave us Kindle. Then Barnes & Noble created the Nook. Then iPad got in the game (and Amazon created a free Kindle app that worked great on iPads). Then everyone had smart phones. Then people started feeling safe buying more and more of their products online. Amazon introduced Kindle Prime, with free 2-day shipping. I watched my e-book sales on my royalty statements go from 3% to 50% in just a few short years and watched my print book sales decline.
I would browse through bookstores at home and on trips, mostly to find my books on the shelves (and confession time, turn all the covers so they were facing out). But I started to notice more and more, I was the only one on the fiction aisle. Then a couple of years ago, I began to hear of Christian publishing houses going out of business, other publishing houses merging and downsizing their staffs trying to stay afloat. I’d hear from my published author friends the sad news that their contracts were not being renewed.
Then last August, my contract wasn’t renewed. Months before this, I could see the

writing on the wall so I began to prepare myself to learn all about indie publishing. And I got lots of help from other authors who had blazed the indie trail before me. Last November I published my first indie suspense novel, When Night Comes. It has done surprisingly well. I followed this with my first nonfiction book, a 31-Day Devotional called Perfect Peace. Also published as an indie.

But now as I finish up my current work-in-progress (WIP), I find there at least 4 choices for me to consider on the road ahead (referring back to the first picture above):
  1. Re-sign again with another traditional publisher (which my agent is urging me to do).
  2. Sign with a smaller, independent press (who will do all the legwork for me, freeing me up to put more time on my writing…for a price). 
  3. Continue on this new path as an indie author (doing everything myself).
  4. Become a hybrid author (do half my books as an indie, half with a traditional publisher).
When did it all become so complex and confusing? It was so much easier when I was a “kept man.” Since this is a writer’s blog, I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling like I am now “writing all over the road.” I’d love to hear your story, what choices you are facing and how you are processing all these changes.