Living My Dream
The publishing industry is in a great state of change. There is truly a revolution going on. Not since the invention of the printing press has such vast changes occurred with such far-reaching consequences. When Gutenberg introduced his moveable-type machine, it made books economically available to the masses. Now, I'm sure there were many die-hards lamenting the demise of hand-inscribed tomes. I can hear them grumbling and moaning about how the quality of the machine-printed books were horrible compared to those beautiful expensive books meticulously copied out by the monks in the abbeys. And God forbid, now the great-unwashed hordes would have access to knowledge heretofore available only to the aristocracy. Social order was threatened. The world as they knew it was at an end.
See any similarities to what is happening in the publishing industry today? I say that with tongue in cheek, but in a way, the same thing is happening now.
Self-publishing used to be a BIG NO-NO. There was a stigma attached and still is to some degree. Writers were convinced it could end their careers. Some still do. Recently, in an article in Publisher's Weekly or New York Times, I can't remember, they referred to self-publishing as "previously scorned". Earlier this year, RWA sent out a survey on self-publishing. That was certainly interesting. And even my own HBA RWA Chapter newsletter reports on the progress of the members who have taken the plunge into independent publishing.
In some circles, it's cool to self-publish. OMG! I'm finally one of the cool kids. I've never been one of the cool kids in my entire life. I like it. You might like it, too.
There really is no reason NOT to self-publish. If you've been previously published and have a backlist or books that didn't sell, you could be sitting on a gold mine. If you are seeking a traditional publishing contract, you should go ahead and self-publish and earn money while you wait. It's the new slush pile. Agents and editors search through the Amazon Bestseller Lists looking for new talent. Many Indies have been offered, and some have even accepted, signing deals with big publishing houses.
You need to decide what traditional publishing can do for you. How long will bookstores, as we know them, be in business? Borders is history and the repercussions of its closing will soon be felt.
If you sign a book deal today, your book won't be published for 12-18 months. You could be making money during that time equal to or more than some advances. Besides, most traditional authors are expected to do their own promotion now. Many editors aren't really editing anymore. And I hear midlist authors, right and left, are getting royally screwed.
The readers are the new gatekeepers. NY isn't the only one deciding what gets published any longer or what is worthy to be made available to the masses. The readers decide. And that's how it should be. It's all about the readers.
I'm selling more books each month than I ever dreamed possible. When I was published with a small ePress, I didn't feel like I was a successful author. Sure, they were RWA approved, but I wasn't selling books and I wasn't connecting with readers. I'm doing that now, on my own, and I finally feel successful.
Self-publishing doesn't have to be expensive. I do my own covers, format my manuscripts, write my own blurbs, upload to Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords. Smashwords distributes to Apple, Sony, Kobo and Diesel. They now distribute through Scrollmotion, and all of my books are actual apps that can be read on smartphones and tablets reaching readers who haven't been won over yet, who might just want to try out one ebook they've heard about.
If you feel you don't have the computer savvy or skill to do it yourself, you can hire out cover art, editing, formatting and uploading. It's not that expensive. But be sure to pay a one-time fee. Do not pay someone a percentage of your sales for eternity for doing something that only takes a couple of hours or at most a couple of days or a week. That is just crazy.
What about validation?
Perhaps you think you will somehow be validated when you land that traditional contract. I don't know; that isn't my dream anymore. For me, selling thousands of books is validation. Knowing thousands of people are reading and enjoying my stories is validation. Fan letters are validation. Four and five star reviews are validation. (On the other hand, one star reviews just plain suck.) Seeing my books on the Bestseller lists on Amazon is validation. The money deposited into my checking account? Priceless.
I've never been a team player. I don't like to write to committee. The freedom to write and publish what I like to read and write is liberating. And I've found readers who actually like what I like. I don't have to bow down and submit to editors and agents, practically begging to be noticed. I don't have to write something dictated by NY. I write for myself first, then share my stories with the readers, with no middle man involved.
What about quality?
Yes, there is a lot of crap out there. But there's a lot of crap put out the traditional way, too.
Secrets to Success:
1. You must write a good book. These same rules do apply as they do in traditional publishing. You want to grab the reader, suspend their disbelief, pull them into your story and make them care about your characters. Your writing needs to shine. Your text needs to be clean with no typos. You don't want to stop your reader with awkward sentences, plot holes, or weak GMC. You also don't want to stop your reader with sloppy text and formatting.
2. An eye-catching cover is a must. I believe a picture is worth a thousand words and it needs to pop on the screen. Make sure the font is large and clear in thumbnail view.
3. Write a blurb that catches the reader's interest. You want to snag their attention and make them want to read your story.
4. Low price. For an unknown author, this is the best and easiest promotion, IMO.
Only you can decide whether self-publishing is right for you. You might want to ask yourself a few questions:
1. Is your writing costing you money? IMO, money should always flow to the writer. Entering contests and going to conferences is expensive. Instead of gambling with the money you spend on your writing, invest in yourself.
2. Is your writing giving you joy or causing you frustration?
3. Are you content to write for an editor or agent? Or do you want to write for the readers?
4. Do you want to wait years and years before catching an editor's attention? Then wait for more years to pass before you actually see your book in print? And will there even be any bookstores left when your book finally comes out?
I've spent the past year building my "business." I've laid the foundation and put out nine books. From now on, I will be writing new product and releasing it into the wild. I'm having fun and keeping a light-hearted attitude. I'm trying not to take it so seriously. I hope this shows through to my readers. If I'm having fun, so will they.
I love being self-published. I am living my writer's dream. I'm writing what I want to write. I have readers anxiously awaiting my next book. And I'm making a little dab of money . . . and then some.
In conclusion, all I can say is: It's a wonderful time to be a writer!!!
Anne Marie :)