Books, news, & views from Karen Traviss

Going Grey – out in June.

It's my 25th novel, I've got half a pack of pork scratchings, I'm nowhere near Chipping Sodbury, and I'm starting over. Hit it.*


Going Grey, my 25th novel, will be out in the first or second week of June. I haven't chosen the exact date yet, because I decided to wait for my designer of choice to be available to do the cover, but I can now pick whatever date I fancy. In those few words, you'll see the size of the sea change I've undergone. I've decided to publish the series direct, starting with a digital-first edition on Kindle, followed soon after by other e-book formats, trade paperback, and audio.

As a reader, you won't notice the difference unless you buy books by walking into a bookshop, looking on the shelves, and not taking it any further if you can't see the book you're looking for. If you shop online, or order books in your local store, then it's business as usual for you.

I had some good offers for Going Grey after I withdrew the book from the publisher in February. My priority was to get the book out this summer. So my decision to go the independent publishing route is no reflection on the other companies who talked with me, because they could still get the book out on time. In fact, one of them has a radically different business approach that I like a lot, so I may well "go hybrid" and do other projects with them. But in the end, I decided that this time I'd rather be hanged for a T. Rex than for a lamb. I need to see the raw data that you can only get from doing the whole process yourself.

This isn't a brave decision. I'm only following a path that other established authors pioneered years ago. It's more a case of realising that none of my misgivings about some aspects of independent publishing hold any water today, and that all the plus points of it, primarily control over what happens and when, are exactly what I need right now. Nobody ever likes writing a cheque and saying, "Thanks, but I want out of this contract, and here's your money back." Once I did it and the sky didn't fall in, I started to realise what I needed and what I'd previously only thought I needed. It became about a lot more than just trying to get a book out before world events or something unimaginable derailed it again: it was about the composite experience – the business experience, not the creative process – with many different publishers and books over the last ten years. I have to be able to plan my business, like any company or trader. But the last few years had become less of running a business and more a matter of being dragged along in the wake of third parties. I can't weather that any longer.

I admit I didn't even think about the creative impact until later. Colleagues who've already been there will laugh at my cute naïveté, but I realised I could now write whatever I wanted, in any shape I wanted – any length, any genre, any form, even serials. If I started writing westerns as well as military stuff (no, I don't think I will, just an example...) then anyone looking for westerns would find it. Anyone looking for Traviss books would find it too, but for different reasons. No reader would be confused or upset. (Although I've never been convinced by the argument that readers are confused by writers with a diverse range as long as they can tell what they're buying. Readers can read. 'Nuff said.) I can write whatever strikes me as entertaining for the reader without worrying about sales and marketing not having a specific category for it. I'm just scratching the surface of that choice. That squawking you hear is me falling out of the battery cage.

So... stand by for further details of Going Grey in its various editions. When the cover's done, I'll share the process with you and post early excerpts. I have no restrictions: all the rights remain mine. I can pick the price, the countries I sell in, the formats, the availability, in fact every single aspect of it, and I can vary those on any given day that I need to. I'm bound to get some things wrong, as you do when you start a new venture. But the great thing about indie publishing is that if you manage to screw things up and your formatting appears like Greek text**, or you find a stunning typo that escaped you, or you really wish you'd looked more closely at that squirrel image you used for a cover ***, you can always fix it right away.

The stories, though, will give you exactly the same reader experience you've come to expect from me. That won't change.

It feels like starting a new career, and in a good way.


(*Come on. Work with me on this. It's still one of the best movies ever.)
(** No spaces or punctuation. On the plus side, no Greek ever got into fights about a grocer's apostrophe.)
(*** A true story from my TV producer days. A colleague doing an illustrated book-of-the-series for a nature show missed something rather significant on the light box. Very NSFW. If I recall correctly, presses were stopped and the early copies snaffled up as collector's items.)