Publishing House or Indie? Which Is the Way? And Whose Way Will It Be? The Miracle in Your Path

The path we choose is not always our first choice. But there’s no reason to fret. What we need to do is to make the most out of it and see the blessing in it.  

Most indie writers always start out wanting their writing to be accepted by a publishing house. There may follow a period of frustration and even anger when they realize that’s not going to pan out. But is it always the worst thing? 

There are many lessons that can be learned during this process. I first experienced this not with a book but with a software application that I had developed. As I was struggling with functioning within the world of indie writers, I realized that this was not the first time that I had found myself on this path.  

“We’re interested,” the Executive Director of a large, very large, publishing house had said to me.

So to their headquarters, for the big meeting, I went.

Years ago, I had developed a software program to teach writing to English as a Second Language students and remedial writing students. I was living in Brooklyn and teaching at several City University of New York campuses. For the last two years, we had been beta testing it and the students loved it. Mine was not the first or the only ESL software application on the market – these were published by big publishing houses that published academic books and textbooks – but mine was unique. I set out to contact the publishing houses to see if one would publish my software.

To my surprise and delight, one of the larger, or should I say largest, publishing houses was interested and I met with the Editorial Director and Developmental Editors. Things moved amazingly quickly: I barely had to “sell” the product at all. The publishing house wrote up a pre-contract contract, in which we said we would both bargain in good faith, and I was given an advance. There were meetings, and meetings, all the while I continued to develop my application. Soon we were talking publishing dates. The house set me up with individuals who would work directly with me. The house was heavily focused on what the product would be named. Contract talks were set up in which we would discuss the more financial arrangements. It was an exciting time. People were really happy for me. One day it came to my attention, quite by mistake, that the house had a marketing plan that would market my software for four years then phase it out. My eyes didn’t want to believe what they were first seeing, but I realized that YES this was TRUE because I was now dealing with a different world, the world of publishers and big business. I felt a little happy that my product was recognized but knew that I had to look out for its interest, and my interest. I knew that neither of these lay in this publishing house. They were going to get rights to – and then kill -my software!
I went home that evening with the knowledge that my relationship with this publishing house would end. 

For several days I ruminated on what had just happened. 

It was, in short, a miracle. 

I spoke to somebody at the college about what had happened. Then I wrote a letter to the Editorial Director in which I stated that I had decided to not enter into a permanent contract with this publishing house. I didn’t explain why. She was pretty angry – and I was very sure that that was not my problem. I stuck to my guns.

And so it began that I contacted a lawyer, created a corporation and marketed my software on my own.  Twenty years later I am still here, and so is Easy Writer, and now Easy Writer Deluxe, and it’s still popularly used in schools and colleges around the country and the world.

And here I am an indie writer, having gotten nowhere with agents and traditional publishers but plugging along with my Dogs Don’t Look Both Ways receiving 5-star reviews and loved by many. Familiar territory? 

It’s stressful to be an indie writer, I can’t begin to tell those of you who have not gone this route, but if we believe in our product, if we know our book is good and that there’s a market for it, then for some of us indie publishing is the only choice. There are many paths to that decision to go down that road, but any way we arrive there we need to embrace it.
Can you see the miracle in your own path?


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