Thursday, August 22, 2013

Why Self Publish?

Times have changed a great deal since, well, even a handful of years ago. E-readers, tablets, and even smartphones and PC apps have made it possible for people to read a book at any given moment. In the past, authors looking to get published had to make it past agents, then editors, and then their superiors, all the while hoping someone along the way didn't decide that their manuscript wasn't good enough, thus putting yet another temporary halt to their dream.  Self publishing was left to the stigma that it was the place to go for authors who weren't good enough. For those that couldn't make it past the agents and editors and had to resort to sub-par or self-indulging practices to get their story out. True, there are plenty of authors who, both in the past and present, probably should have had someone (or multiple someones) take a look at their manuscript before sending it out into the wild. Yet at the same time, take a second to look up all of the now famous authors who started out self published, selling books out of their car trunks and so forth. I'll wait.

Back? Yes, I know, it's an impressive list, isn't it? My point, before I start rambling too much (although given the name of this blog, should be expected by now anyway), is that self publishing has a lot of positive points and can be a very freeing tool for an author to use. Today it's easier and in many ways better than ever because we have such amazing access to technology. We're not stuck spending thousands of dollars and prodding as many people as possible in the hopes of selling all of the hardcopies. Instead, a single self published author using the right mode of distribution doesn't have to spend a dime to get their books to people. And not just people within their home country, but around the entire globe. Any self published author from this particular digital era will tell you that there's something very cool yet rather surreal to see that they've sold a book in Germany, the UK, or Japan.

There is - somehow - still the worry that the book world will get too saturated. As if it weren't already. Work in a bookstore long enough and you will see for your own eyes just how many books come in each and every day - old and new alike - and you'll realize that the publishing world is still chugging along and books are EVERYWHERE, self published or not. People will find your book whether you help them or not. Whether it's electronic or not. I may have even linked a great article by Nathan Bransford about this in the past. The only real challenge is to make yourself known - but this rings true for any author, self published or not.

I can use myself as an example. I used Amazon's platform to publish my book, Blood for Wolves, and then moved on to use Smashwords as distribution to the rest of the e-reader world (Nooks, Kobos, Sony readers, etc.). But Blood for Wolves is not, I repeat, NOT my first book. Not by a long shot. Rather, it was my sixth. I went the traditional route with it, got a lot of nibbles, but no bites. I kept looking at the self publishing world, but continued to resist it. I was extremely curious though. How did it work? What kind of results would I get? How much would a good cover cost? Would I be able to make back that amount? What kind of reviews would I get? Was the 3 month exclusivity with the KDP program worth it?

Finally, one day I just said, "Fuck it." And I began my little experiment. Yes, I know, one does not just experiment with self publishing. But one does not just walk into Mordor either - and guess what? That's right. But I also wasn't just chucking out a garbage story, either. I revised it multiple times, had several fellow writers review it so I knew what needed fixing, if I'd missed any typos, how the pacing was, and so forth. I lost track of how many times I revised it, in fact. Eventually I got to the point where revising again would probably mean I would end up jumping off the roof of my house instead. So I hit the publish button and let it out for all the world to see.

And let me tell you, that's one of the more terrifying and exhilirating moments of my life. Terrifying because you don't know how people are going to react - how much they'll hate it or love it. Exhilirating because you know that even if they do hate it, there are people who will be out there, miles and miles away, reading the words you agonized over for a year or more. But at the very least, I would learn more about publishing electronically than just reading about it. I could view my stats, explore great ways of promoting my book, and make adjustments if there ever was a next time.

Now, knowing what I know, there will indeed be a next time...

(Continued in Part 2)

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