Saturday, March 12, 2011

First day out in the scary, exciting world of self-publishing

I was sending out my work to traditional large and small publishers when I discovered self-publishing. It is a lot of work. The technical aspects of preparing a manuscript for publication are numerous, tedious, and you have to be willing to correct your mistakes as you go along.

There are many reasons I decided to take the risk and just put my work out there.  Here are two:
  • Feedback is necessary to the work of writing. I was getting positive feedback along with multiple polite "thanks, but no thanks" to my story submissions. The ones I just self-published yesterday fit a fairly new break-out genre of romances containing older characters. It might have been arrogant of me to think my first work would be recognized as worthy by at least one of the three publishers I targeted who were looking for work along those lines. I got close, in fact really close one time, but even that almost-but-not-quite-a-yes was a painful experience for my ego. Getting so close, but still not getting my foot in the proverbial publishing door, I started getting wrapped up in doubts like "What does it mean when the acquiring editor says x? Does that mean as a writer I'm bad/uncreative/unimaginative?". Those doubts led to wondering if the publisher really would read my work again if I made their suggested changes, which frankly in all cases was good advice about the story whether I ultimately chose to heed it or not. Those people in the middle--when they are invested in you--do help you improve your writing. However, what struck me most was how much my emotional state suffered for the five months I spent trying to hand over that level of control to agents and publishers. The irony of what I was doing finally caught up to me as I read blog after blog and article after article from authors who were making the leap from traditional to indie publishing.  It is an author reality that he or she who publishes hands over control of their art to someone. The difference seems to be that self-published writers are just cutting out the middle people in the chain. I can tell you I feel much better about handing control over to my readers who will let me know through sales, reviews, emails, and other sources if I am pleasing them or not.  If I need an editor--and we all do--I'll hire one as soon as I can afford the person. In the meantime, friends are helping (and bless you for it).  I looked for and found my own cover artist already. She is talented and lovely to work with as a creative partner. Quite frankly, the formatting grunt work of manuscript preparation I can do myself.  I spent 18 years in technical fields and I hate that part of the work--but I can do it.  So then what does that leave as I put my work out there on my own with only the distributor as a friendly face?  It leaves just me and the readers who are taking a chance that I'm entertaining enough to drop a few bucks on now and again. I will tell you that today, tomorrow, and every day I continue to do this I will be waiting for their feedback with a bottle of wine, a box of chocolates, and multiple boxes of tissues (if necessary) to hear what they think.

  • Money is necessary to keep on going. So many writers are learning that they will average more earnings though self-publishing. As an indie author you might not make the New York Times Bestseller list as quickly, or at all, but if you can be happy with your sales and making a living, how much does that matter? Being a newbie, I had to give this some serious thought because, well--okay I do go check out those shelves in the bookstores. So I had to ask myself a very hard question. Did I want to be famous or did I want to make a living as a writer?  With bills to pay like everyone else, this ended up being a fairly easy decision. Do I aspire to be the next indie publishing success story like Amanda Hocking or Brian S Pratt?  In a word--yes. Will I make it? Who knows? In an interview about her success Amanda Hocking said the most brilliant thing I've heard on the matter. She was talking about another writer she knew well who was as good a writer, and sometimes even better than her. The friend also wrote books with similar subject matter.  What was her secret to selling so well while he was not?  She simply said, "I don't know." It was an insightful answer. Why?  Because it is about the readers ultimately, and their reaction to your work is the great unknown. It is very scary and very exciting. I am choosing to look at it this way--if I write a good story that readers want to download and read then the money will eventually follow. In the meantime, I will just keep on writing.
Since my books went live at Smashwords Friday morning, I've had 248 downloads of Book 1 (a free 80K word story). I also had 3 downloads so far of Book 2 (76k words)  in the same series which is listed for sale at $2.99.  This happened in less than 24 hours. Am I rich yet? Please--even the thought is hilarious, and this would be the perfect place to insert the text emoticon for ROFL (rolling on the floor laughing). What I got was so much better than money on my first scary day out there.  I discovered that 248 people looked at my book cover, read my blurb, and thought what I wrote might be worth reading.  Three even went back to get the second book. I'm not naive. I know some readers will like my work and others will not. What I got from yesterday, from my first self-publishing experience, was simply enough validation to motivate me to get the third book in the series finished and up for sale as soon as I can.  Why is that just as important as the money?  Because since yesterday I have become a writer that readers want to read.
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