Friday, March 4, 2011

The Rebel Writer

by Malena Lott

Are you a rebel writer? I've been pondering the word lately, most likely from all of the Egyptian news and other uprisings and the sick feeling in my gut with the ugly "liquidation" signs at Borders. I also have a fair amount of upheaval and change in my life - our house sold after a tepid try last year and after only two weeks on the market in January, we had to scramble to find a new home and get moved in 30 days. Yeah, that kind of new year. Which brings me to a home for our books - both at the publishing stage and at the retail front.

While I've always been entrepreneurial, lately I've felt my rebel spirit commanding more of my energy. While I'm working on my first non-fiction book about zen, I find embracing change and practicing contentment in rough situations also spurs radical action on my part in an area I can have control over.

Point: My agent is about to put my YA on submission. I'm not giving up on the traditional route to publishing with a big house, especially at my agent's deft command, yet after the writing, the author has no control. For control freaks (ahem) that's rather tough.

Rebel Counterpoint: I launched an indie press and promo service with my triple-threat husband (writer/editor/graphic designer). See, there are projects I want to do that may not fit into a traditional publishing mold, so I'm forging ahead (typical Aries, head down, horns out) and have three simultaneous projects seeking submissions via a contest. I've also marketed for nearly every industry out there. Why not help authors - my favorite kind - with their promotion? I have no qualms about trying something new, something that a lot of big houses can't always do because of the risk involved.

Point: I should revise my "soul novel" I wrote a couple of years ago and incorporate the feedback from the editors who rejected it and try again. New editors and publishing houses are out there. No writer wants to give up on having their "break-out" novel.

Counterpoint: I have other stories I will indie-pub through my Buzz Books line because I want to continue to see where digital publishing goes. I wrote a novella last year called LIFE'S A BEACH that's being edited now and will release as an ebook just in time for summer. I love novellas! I hope more authors I love start writing them, too. I can read three novellas in the time it takes me to read one 300 page novel. In today's fast-paced society, of course short stories and novellas will see growth. (Right, I'm not crazy here, am I?) I self-pubbed FIXER UPPER, and it required a big learning curve, but I'm nearing the top of the hill now, so I know future projects will be easier to manage. (That's the optimist in me talking.)

Another aspect of being a rebel writer is that you are writing what you love despite what is selling or "popular" at the time. Though people tell you time and again not to chase trend rainbows, hearing things like "such and such" is no longer hot or publishers have too much paranormal (well, they do, but it doesn't mean a great story isn't out there), so it can be frustrating for a writer who is spending hundreds of hours of time on a story.

Here's where the rebel writer spirit comes in. Used to, you might think, "I could write this and it may not sell and I'll stuff it in a drawer." But more and more we'll see that projects that writers love will find a home for their story, whether with the new indie digital publishers that can help writers find distribution and an audience for their work or figuring out how to do it on their own. Which is quite empowering, thankyouverymuch.

Are you a rebel writer? What's the most rebellious thing you've ever done in the writing realm?


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  2. Good for you, Malena. I love that whole rebel attitude. And you know I would love to have the choice to read novellas.

    The most rebel thing I ever did was pretend to be a publicist to pitch my book to media using my married name.

  3. Karin,
    Ha! That's a good one. "Let me talk to my client, and I'll get back with you."

  4. I'm not really a rebel, Malena. But you've inspired me!!

  5. Hi Malena,

    Great post. I hear you on the changes in publishing--I don't think this industry is going to look the same in a year or two.

    I, too, feel the pull of doing things a new way. There's a incredible freedom in realizing I can write what I want and work to bring it to an audience either with or without a traditional publisher--and I'm about the least rebel-like person on the planet!

    Can't want to read Fixer Upper!


  6. I think being a rebel means that authors have more choice. Yay for that!

  7. Interesting post, Malena, and you've asked a thought-provoking question -- for me, just choosing novel writing as a second profession was an act of rebellion ;). But there have been a few others, like finishing a book a few CPs told me would never get published (it was my first sale) and making a switch in representation at a critical time, but I think almost everything we do as writers is a leap of faith... Congrats on Buzz Books and good luck with the YA submissions!

  8. Brenda, I totally would've pegged you for a rebel!
    Sara, thank you. I think the future for writers may look more like it does for artists - different exhibits are in different galleries and reach different audiences. I taught an artist workshop for kindergarden the other day and it's amazing to see an artist's progression and "periods". Makes sense writers will explore the same way.
    Ariella, yes. Yay for choice.
    Marilyn, leap of faith, true. And trying to block out any negative voices getting in the way of our inner wisdom.

  9. Inspiring post, Malena! We should all reach for the rebel writer in us!

  10. I'm pretty sure I've been a rebel since the day I walked away from a good job with full benefits and said, "Sure, I can make a living as a writer. Now I just have to write a book."

  11. Lauren, wow! That does take courage. Yay, you!

  12. I'm not a rebel but I think creativity plus passion sometimes looks alot like rebellion.

  13. Great post, Malena. I am a rebel writer, though not by choice. I've always been a rebel PERSON, but as a writer, I just wanted to hole up and write and let the universe take care of the rest. However, I've got the rights back to a bunch of my out-of-print backlist. Great books, but no publisher wants to reissue them. So I've been reissuing them myself as ebooks. I've done reediting, formatting, commissioning cover art and publishing them at ebook retail sites. It's not what I'd ever planned to do, but our books are our babies and we need to take good care of them. And while I'm not a control freak, I do like having control over these books.