William Kowalski is a traditionally published and award-winning literary fiction author who has moved over to indie publishing. This week I chat with William about the major changes he’s seen in the publishing industry, why he chose to self-publish, and My Writing Network, a multi-site network and community he’s built specifically for writers.
William’s career started out the way most writers dream. At the plum age of 28, he moved to New York after he sold his first book,Eddie’s Bastard, as part of a two-book deal to HarperCollins for a sizable advance. The book went on to grace bestseller lists, garner great press, and get picked up by 15 foreign publishers. Things were going great.
But then 9/11 happened. Publication of his third novel was seriously delayed as a direct result of the terrorist attacks. The industry was profoundly affected and irrevocably changed.
Then came the crash of 2008, the final nail in the coffin, William says. That’s when it really became apparent to him that things in traditional publishing were not ever going back to the way they were.
“There is nothing inherently wrong with self publishing. It does not mean the author is devoid of skill. It means the commercial publishing world does not see a market for it.”
William’s next book was his first murder mystery, Crypt City. It got the enthusiastic attention of a publishing house editor, but she was unable to convince her publisher to buy the book. William decided that he couldn’t afford to wait for a traditional publishing deal and then the long production process leading up to publication. He was turning 46, he says, and realized he was going to die someday having accomplished only 10 percent of what he wanted to do. So he self-published it himself.
After that, he sold The Hundred Hearts to a Canadian publisher. The book did well in Canada and went on to win the 2014 Thomas H. Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award, but he couldn’t get an American publishing house interested. So he self-published it to the American market.
My Writing Network
William also happens to be a WordPress website designer and has put together “the first multisite community built specifically for writers of all types.” The site is designed to help authors establish their online presence by providing free websites, forums, and a network-wide blog reader. Although there are paid upgrades available, the service is completely free. All that’s needed is a valid email address to get set up. Authors can have their websites up and running within 24 hours. They can also set up websites for pen names and create multiple sites, as well as map their sites to personal domain names.
The whole point, William says, is the creation of a community of people helping each other out. And to that end, there’s a private Facebook group, a Twitter account, and a forum on the site where members can ask questions and find answers.
William’s Advice to New Authors Starting Out
Don’t stop writing. If you’re not good enough yet, you will be by the time you’re done writing that book.
Remember that writing is really a process in which we’re doing work on ourselves, and it has this effect of kind of peeling away the layers of the onion, as Shrek might say, and sort of whittling away the extra layers that surround us, revealing more and more about ourselves. It’s ultimately a process of self-exploration, and for that reason only, it’s very important.
So if you feel the calling, please pursue it no matter what. Pay no mind to obstacles. Do it for your own reasons and enjoyment, and don’t give up.
- Get an editor. “Every writer needs an editor,” William says. It’s an immensely important and necessary relationship. They can see problems that you might be blind to and help you create your best work.
- Check out Writing for First-Time Novelists. It’s a free ebook of tips, tricks, and insights William has collected over the course of his career that began as a Reddit AMA. He offers it free for download from his site here.
What’s the most important advice you’ve received as an indie publisher?
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