K.B. Jensen is an author and journalist. “Painting With Fire,” an artistic murder mystery, is her debut novel. As a former reporter, she has written extensively about crime in the Chicago suburbs. Her second novel, “A Storm of Stories,” which handles love, craziness and impossibility, is due out in early 2016. Jensen grew up in Minneapolis and currently lives in Chicago, with her husband, daughter and rescued border collie/lab mix. In her spare time, she enjoys teaching downhill skiing and traveling the world. For more information, please visit www.paintingwithfirenovel.com, or connect with Jensen on facebook.com/kbjensenauthor or twitter.com/KB_Jensen.
On the Power of “Being Indie”
I can’t believe it now, but I almost put the book in the drawer. You know the one. You pull it out and you put the stack of pages in. You never open the drawer. Maybe you lock it. Maybe you don’t. But for a book, a story or a poem, it is certain death. It is an act of madness to write something for years, something that people love reading, and kill it by never sharing it, but I almost did it.
I chose to self-publish my murder mystery novel, “Painting With Fire,” and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Getting an agent, well the artist in me rebelled at the proposition. It wasn’t a fear of rejection. It was the certainty. Because I have gone to enough talks with agents where they all say the same thing. It goes something like this: I get 10,000 queries a year. I accept one new author. And even if I do represent your book, there’s no guarantee I can sell it to a publisher and even if I do, I’ll take XX percent and they’ll take XX percent, and you will be left with very little. And oh by the way, you better have at least 400 Twitter followers, and tell me who you write like.
I am paraphrasing of course, but what does my Twitter following have to do with the quality of my writing, the value of my art? Ah, but there’s a business to writing, you say. Okay then, let’s look at this – according to a “The Wall Street Journal” article in 2014, the average traditionally published book sells less than 1,000 copies. A traditional publisher takes a huge chunk of the royalties and what are you left with? Peanuts.
As an indie author, I have sold significantly more than that and guess what? I keep more of those dollars. So from a business standpoint, being indie, well that makes a lot more sense. And then there are the free copies I’ve given away. More than 67,000 people have downloaded “Painting With Fire.” Many of these people who I have never met have loved it and left it lovely five-star reviews. “Painting With Fire” hit the bestseller list on Amazon for a week. And I almost put the book in the drawer.
But business aside, what is the best part of being an indie author? The power. I have complete creative control. I own every comma. I pick my editors. I pick my betareaders. I pick my cover. I don’t care whether the story will sell. I care whether it speaks to me and to other people. I care whether it makes people feel something. I care whether it makes them think.
When someone says, who do you write like? I tell them I write like no one else, and it’s the truth. It’s my voice. And I’m not going to change it to be more like someone else, even if they sell well. I suspect more and more emerging writers are going to go the indie route. Indie authors get to take risks and be wildly original. Indie authors get to choose what happens to their story. Yes, it is a lot of work, especially with the marketing.
But it’s so much better than putting the book in the drawer.