Catherine Ryan Hyde Catherine Ryan Hyde is the author of more than 25 published and forthcoming books, including the bestselling When I found You, Pay It Forward, Don't Let Me Go, and Take Me With You.


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Better Than Blurbs: Loren Kleinman and Indie Authors Naked

Catherine Ryan Hyde

Because I no longer write blurbs, but still very much want to help other authors, I've launched a blog series called Better Than Blurbs. The authors and I will have in-depth discussions about their books, which I hope will help readers identify whether they'd enjoy reading them. This is the fifth post of the series. The author is really the editor in this case, though she is an author as well, with a second book of poetry due out this year. She is Loren Kleinman, and the book is Indie Authors Naked. Which you just know will lead to a good discussion on the state of independent publishing.  

Me: Let's jump right in. Loren, please tell my readers a little about the book.

Loren: Indie Authors Naked explores and defines the world of independent publishing. 

Comprised of a series of essays and interviews by indie authors, booksellers and publishers, readers will get a look at the many aspects of the indie community, where publishing professionals of all types come together with the simple goal of creating something unique; something that speaks directly to the reader, no middleman necessary.

Some of our contributors include James Franco, Hugh Howey, McNally Jackson Books, Sarah Gerard, OHWOW Books, Raine Miller, David Vinjamuri, Toby Neal, Rachel Thompson, Eden Baylee, Christoph Paul, Jessica Redmerski, Dan Holloway, Orna Ross and more.

Me: The thing I like best about this book is that it explodes myths about the new direction of publishing. And these are myths I’ve been trying to explode for a long time. (I guess I’m saying the thing I like best about this book is that it backs me up.)

I particularly like that you include an interview with a representative of a bookstore that has an Espresso Book Machine. This explodes two important myths at once. First, that the indie/digital revolution is synonymous with the end of paper books. Second, that it will put little independent bookstore out of business. Will you tell my readers more about this book printing machine and what you imagine for the future of the little bookstore?

Loren: The best way to describe the Espresso Book Machine (EBM) is that it offers Print On Demand (POD) publishing. What’s amazing about EBM is that it allows readers to access books that might have been out of print as well as have immediate access to various book titles. An author can send a PDF version of the book to the EBM operator and the machine binds and trims a paperback.  The idea of the EBM was that it could also fit into a small store, which would allow smaller shops or libraries to be able to offer quick and accessible print runs.

I think McNally Jackson said it best in their interview with IndieReader: “Independent bookstores are committed to bringing a wide variety of new and exciting books to their customers. As the technology grows and becomes more economically feasible, I would imagine not only bookstores but also libraries and universities introducing self-publishing programs.”

To add to that, bookstores will become much more than bookstores, they’ll become a user/reader experience so to speak. While Amazon will offer readers opportunities to discover new books and authors, bookstores will offer a complete reader/writer experience: reading clubs and events, self-publishing options, and individualized attention to readers’ tastes. I don’t foresee independent bookstores fading any time soon. If you’re like me, while I love ordering a book on Amazon, there’s something primal about pulling a book from a wooden shelf and curling up in a corner of the store with a coffee and getting lost. Independent bookstores will have to look to other ways to make money rather than just selling books. McNally Jackson is an excellent example of offering a reader experience from in-store events, to their EBM, book recommendations and online bookstore featuring EBM books and various other services. They’re an example of the future of independent bookstores. They do it their way and I love watching them evolve.

I consider reading a very intimate experience. Don’t get me wrong, I love eBooks; I also love my stack of paperbacks on my nightstand. 

Me: There are a number of different ways traditional book contracts can hurt authors, but to my mind maybe none more extreme than the fact that ebooks have freed us from the concept of “out of print.” In general this is a great thing, but when working with traditional publishers it often results in rights that never revert to the author. Do you think this is a big factor in why so many authors are reluctant to give Trad a try? Do you hear much mention of this when talking to indie authors? It seems to me a bit of a hidden trap, and maybe most authors are concerned with broader topics such as rate and speed of payment and artistic control. But it’s one drawback an author can’t eventually reverse. I’d like to hear your thoughts on that.

Loren: OK. So there are two themes I notice when talking to indie authors about choosing to self publish:

1.     They want to have artistic control.

2.     They might want to get picked up by a large press (which does and/or might happen as a result of an author’s success).

And, to traditionally publish:

 1.     Distribution and marketing perks. Though, marketing is becoming more and more the author’s responsibility. 

I think the best way to go is hybrid. Traditionally publish and self publish. Why not? You experience the best of both worlds (pardon the cliché). But, seriously, as a hybrid author you can have creative control and you also get help with distribution. Some books you can choose to self publish, while others you might want to go the traditional route. Again, it’s the writer’s preference, but I think gaining perspective from both sides of the street make for a healthy authorial mix. Such a mix could allow authors to make more money, reach more readers, and allow for more cross promotion and networking.

Again, I always think it’s best never to pigeonhole yourself. Branch out. You have so much to gain from opening yourself up to various opportunities. The whole point, after all, is to write, is to create, is to share that creation. Otherwise, why do it? [Me: Note, as a decidedly hybrid author, I second that.]

Me: I’m wondering how much of a rift you see in the indie world between those who meticulously produce their books, such as hiring professional copyeditors, cover designers, and proofreaders, and those who feel that indie has finally freed them from the need to jump through those hoops. Do you have thoughts on this, and have you seen any public clashes on this subject break out?

Loren: I think finding a good editor is like dating. You have to find the right fit both emotionally and professionally. It’s so important to produce the best work you can. Now, everyone’s best varies. I’m a bit obsessed with producing the perfect book. But, really, is that possible?

I often see the misrepresentation or misunderstanding of the word “raw.” Raw does not equal a literary “mess.” Raw (to me) means the writing moves you to a feeling that is humane and basic. I don’t mean to say basic as simple, but basic in the way that it is from the earth, it is true to its own being, and that truth connects you to your truth.

There are too many books that lack copyediting, proper formatting, etc. It seems a rushed job. That is raw in the unfinished sense. Writing is a process. You can’t rush the process. If the book takes you three years then it takes you three years. If the book takes you three months then it takes you three months. If you rush the process readers will notice.

It took me seven years to write, edit and publish my second collection of poetry The Dark Cave Between My Ribs (Winter Goose Publishing). Indie Authors Naked took two years between the interviewing, editing, etc. My point is it’s called a process for a reason. If you rush it then you don’t trust it.

Essentially, my feeling is to always put out the best work you can. That should be a promise you make to yourself. It’s also the first rule of Write Club, or maybe that was to not talk about Write Club.

Me: I can’t help noticing that the schism between traditionally published authors and indie authors can be quite vitriolic at times. It’s easy to see how the sides line up: everybody is backing their own interests. That’s not necessarily bad, but only great fear could create such venom. Seems to me more choices can only be good. Do you have any theories on why we can’t all just get along?

Loren: Writers want readers. So naturally we’re battling for their attention. Though it sort of feels as if we’re raising our hands in a sea of raised hands.

I think I mentioned this in a previous question, but reading is an intimate experience. It’s up to the reader who they want to read. I respect that. It’s important to me that readers have the option of exploration.

This idea that indie is taking away from traditional publishing’s readers and vice versa is a bit self-indulgent. There are plenty of traditional books that I’d prefer not to read and the same goes for indie. But that’s my choice.

All I know is that the most professional writers have me hooked. The moment I see “bashing” I’m turned off. I think some writers kill their careers before they happen by becoming venomous.

Writers could get so much more from the publishing experience by cross-promoting such as connecting with readers you might not have gotten as a traditional or indie author. You never (never) know how things play out.  Sometimes by letting go of control we can experience a much more heightened, more enjoyable reader-author connection.

Me: Other than reading this book, which I think would be excellent advice, what advice would you give to an indie author just starting out—or to an author who is still weighing publishing paths?

Loren: Stop worrying about publishing. Think about your book first. Write the best one you can.

Writing a book is one of the hardest, most grueling things you can chose to do. And it is a choice.

Write the best book you can. When you’re done, do your research. Review your options. I spent months reviewing publishing houses. Not every publishing house will be interested in what your writing, specifically genre and topic. Take your time and interview editors and formatters and ask for references.

But besides all of that, focus on the craft. Focus on improving your writing. I mean I never met a writer that got worse.

I’ll leave it at this: “Your job as a writer is making sentences…most of the sentences you make will need to be killed. The rest will need to be fixed. This will be true for a long time” (Verlyn Klinkenborg).

Me: Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you?

Loren: My second poetry collection, The Dark Cave Between My Ribs, will be out in 2014 via Winter Goose Publishing. I started writing the poetry collection back in 2004 and finally hunkered down to re-write most of the collection this past year. The book is about love and loss, but also about letting go and being open to love, again. The book was primarily inspired by a traumatic experience I went through in 2003, I started writing the book as a way to heal. The process of writing resembles the process of grief in way. In as sense I went through the emotions, explored the sadness through writing, and through revision found a new voice, found new possibilities to live again. While I wrote the book as a way to heal, the book is not just about healing, love and loss are part of the human condition; they are real and raw experiences. Death is part of life, love is part of life, and loss is natural as well as the process of grief. I wanted to write a book that celebrated life, celebrated loss, and love.

I’m also writing a New Adult literary romance novel This Way To Forever. The novel explores how young people deal with love and ambition and the choices that come with each.  Other themes the novel explores are choosing romantic love over security, love as an ideology, and long distance love/dealing with long distance relationships. I’m still working on revisions, and hope to be done with a solid draft to submit for publication by February 2014.

Me: Thanks so much for taking the time to visit my blog, Loren!