I've been reading a lot about self publishing lately, and I think I am ready to take the plunge. Now, I'm sure your asking yourself many things at this point:
"Don't you have an agent?"
"Haven't you already self published Railroad!?"
"Are you insane?"
The answer to these are yes, yes, and yes, in that order.
But let me set aside those for now and address my recent reading. (I promise I'll get back to them.) I've been eyeball deep in various handbooks and guides and blogs from self publishing greats like JA Konrath, Scott Nicholson and Barry Eisler. All self publishing success stories, and all with tons of advice for wayward little ole me.
On the surface it sounds like a get rich quick scheme, the kind where you invest so little and get so much for practically no work. The numbers they run are phenomenal! The ideas they represent are ideal! The dreams they live are, well, dreamy! Self publish your work and keep nearly all the returns! Don't sign your life's work away to folks who do nothing for you and take more than they should ever deserve! Be a rebel, bitches! (Learn how to properly use an exclamation point!!!!!)
Then you dig a little deeper, and you realize how hard these authors work for their money. It sounds like they just press a few buttons and the money just rolls in, but in reality they have a customer base that they must satisfy in order to get the rewards of monies and repeat business. It dosen't help that the customer base is fickle, and that satisfaction is a hard climax to achieve and repeat business is an illusive literary G spot. (No, that wasn't an insinuation that we are all just a bunch of artistic prostitutes ... though now that I think about it ...)
In my research into this brave new world, I have learned a lot about writing and myself. To begin with, there are several things you need to score before you should even attempt self publishing. And upon review, I would like to think that I ... no, wait, let me start again ... upon review I know I have all of them. I know I am ready to do this. (I really need to work on that self confidence thing!)
What is it these gurus suggest you need?
I'm so very glad you asked!
Like many writers, I have been writing pretty much all of my life. But I only seriously began my author's journey in the last five or so years. That has been five long years of nose to the grindstone hard work that has, with some blessings and grace, paid off. In the past few months I have had a real upsurge in great reviews and very kind words from folks concerning my work. I've made many sales (a little over 50 as of last count) and written crap tons of material. I run a fairly successful web serial that has folded over into its own self publishing venture.(more on that in a minute)
But most importantly, people are asking to read my stuff. They write asking where to find more of my work. They are asking for interviews. They are emailing me after rejecting a story to ask if they can purchase the tale for another anthology. They are posting my books on their blogs without me begging them too. In short, folks seem to really like my stuff, and that is a pretty good feeling.
All humbleness aside, based on this outpouring of affection I have come to the conclusion that I have talent for writing. I know what I'm doing, and I do it well. No don't get me wrong, I don't think I am all that and a bag of salt and vinegar chips. (mmmm, I love you S&V!) I still have a hell of a lot to learn, but I believe I am in a professional place where my work is good, damn good in some cases. And I firmly believe folks want to read it. Some enjoy it enough to read it aloud to others.
I know I can produce an enjoyable product for my customer base.
Every writer needs editing. Some folks need help with character development, some need grammar lessons and some just need a quick proof read. But in the end all of us need a set of fresh eyes to make sure the manuscript is clean and ready to roll. You are fooling yourself if you think you don't. I know this and accept it for the truth that it is.
As a result, over the last five years I have made a concentrated effort to find folks that I know will do me right in this regard. Whether they be professional editors who I pay for their help, or amazing beta readers who will be perfectly honest with me about my stuff, I am blessed to know so many people I can rely on to produce a quality product in the end. Even my covers are the result of super talented artists that I have either sought out or lucked upon, and pay or barter for their wonderful services.
I know I can produce a quality product for my customer base.
Folks often ask me how I can produce so much material so quickly. To be honest, it's because I consider writing my second job. I write a lot. I mean A LOT. Even with a full time job, I still manage to produce a high volume of material. How? I choose to write instead of doing other stuff. Every chance I get I am at my laptop, working on a story or a blog post or a poem. I don't watch much television. I don't go out much. I don't have any kids. I don't have any time consuming hobbies, because writing IS my time consuming hobby, my child, my entertainment. I write. Period.
Self publishing is based in part on a numbers game. You have to produce volume to keep the customers coming back for more. I'm not saying you want to just turn out stuff, hand over fist, without regards for how it looks or reads. (See how they all come together in the end?) What I'm saying is that if you want the reader to return to your writing, you have to give them something new to read. They can't buy anything if you don't give them something to buy. The traditional publishing model says "one book a year" is enough, but with e-readers and the internet and the flood of new writers, one book a year might not be enough for the modern reader. There are so many writers, if you don't put material out to compete on a regular basis, then the reader might just forget about you.
I know I can produce the quantity of work that will satisfy my customer base.
With these three things under my belt, I can confidently face down the demons of doubt and try my hand at self publishing. Now it's true that I have sort of done it already with the Railroad! series. But I consider that a little bit different because it's material I put out there over a period of time. Folks have read it and re-read it and sent me suggestions and corrections and it's been through so many hands that by the time it gets to the Kindle novella, it's more than ready for new readers. There is just something about dropping book that has never read before or a collection of stories no one has looked at that feels more dangerous. Like I'm taking a chance on myself. A chance I am ready to take.
True I do have an agent. (And a awesome one at that!) I have spoken with him on the subject and he has been very supportive of the whole venture. His agrees that many traditional publishers are looking at your self publishing history for a measure of your value as an author, but instead of turning their nose up at it--which they did as little as a year ago--they are now seeking folks who self publish successfully. (The self publishing gurus I mentioned before also see this, and have quite a number of things to say about it. None of which are good!)
In the end, I think I would like to try my hand at both sides of the fence. I'll try self publishing, but still seek traditional routes at the same time. I'm excited about it to the point of being nauseous. I feel like I'm starting my own business, which essentially I am. That makes me sick to think about. I'm nervous and frightened and pumped and worried. Always with the worry.
Look for my self published titles in the future.
And welcome to the business of me. I hope I can keep you satisfied. Oh yeah, baby!