Monday, August 2, 2010

Let the Self-Publishing Revolution Begin!

Today was a Monday but it wasn't so bad. I think having a three day weekend helped. My boss was back from his vacation which was not as much fun as not having him in the office but he still seemed to be in 'vacation mode' so it wasn't so bad.

It also wasn't so bad as far as workload and coworkers went. I've had far worse days, let's put it that way.

Also, a coworker sent me a link regarding getting my novel published on the iPad. I've been waiting for Apple to make that option available to first time writers so I was excited to see it was finally available.

Of course, this led to a trail of pages, some of which were blogs, some were informational, as to how hard it was to actually get your book on the iPad if you're self-published.

One of the the blogs had a rather rude and snotty comment from someone who said something along the lines of, "what's the point of self-publishing? It's only for losers who can't get their books published in any other way."

My first reaction was anger. Then it was calm. I understood his initial reaction. As I've said on here before, the problem with self-publishing is that there's a stigma associated with it. Back in the days before it became so easy, self-published authors did tend to be those who couldn't get their books published in the traditional way.

I resisted self-publishing because I didn't want to be one of those people who published their own book because no one else would.

But you know what happened? I wrote a book that I knew was good. It was a timely, comical book that in the era of Sookie Stackhouse and the Twilight franchise, the era of 'chick lit' and entertaining fiction, it should have been easy enough for someone to say, "I want to read that."

I followed the traditional path. I sent queries to agents. I got nice, kind rejections this time around. The writing was good and the story seemed fun but they just didn't think I would work for their agency.

Then I became annoyed. From their point of view, I get it: A new writer, no credits to her name, a story that could be amusing but could also suck when, right now, everyone's looking for the next JK Rowling, Stephanie Meyer or Stieg Larsson. They want their Harry Potter, their Twilight, the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Here's my take on that: The reason there are JK Rowlings and Steig Larssons in the world is because there weren't any already out there. Some one, somewhere thought: "Hey, this looks interesting, maybe I should give it a chance."

But there aren't many agents out there doing that any more. Most of the big publishing companies are 'eating' the smaller ones. There are fewer and fewer chances for writers to get their books published. The interesting thing is that most of the time, unless you get SUPER lucky, even if they decide to publish your book, you still have to do the publicity yourself.

Of course, you could hire a publicist. I mean, if you're paying an agent 10%, the publisher a huge chunk of royalties and possibly a manager to help you figure out what the heck you're doing, what's another big chunk of change to try to get people to read it.

Or, you could do what I and so many other writers have done. You publish it yourself. There are no upfront fees. I went through Createspace. I pay for the proof copies. When I sell a book, they take their fee from the sale price which I set. If I don't sell any, they don't make anything.

Today, I received payment from Amazon for sales on the Kindle over the past month. I make less than 50 cents per sale on this version since I sell it for only $1.99. I made enough for me to say, "whoa! And I haven't done any publicity for this yet!"

It may not be enough for me to quite my job and live but it's enough for me to feel like people are buying and reading my book. I've had enough 'fan' emails for me to blush and feel proud that I've written something that people enjoy.

So, aside from the fact that I didn't wait a couple of years to have an agent read my query, then request my manuscript, then request edits, then try to approach publishers and, if I'm lucky, find one for me, what's the difference between me and someone who went the traditional route?

Is it validation? It used to be that you weren't a writer until you had a product that made money. Just see the blog I once posted in response to such a statement by literary agent, Nathan Bransford.

Now, it seems, even if you make money, you're still not a writer unless someone spins their roulette wheel of 'Lucky New Writer" and decides it's worth taking a chance on you. And then, what happens? You get a book published and unless you're someone who can be a bestseller, you're relegated to the shadows where your book dies. If you are a bestseller, you sign a contract and you promise to deliver so many books in such a time frame. Then, in my opinion, you begin to go downhill. Some of the most promising new writers can't follow up on their original success. Those that do still end up going downhill. They're expected to deliver and they write furiously and fast, to earn their paycheck and give the publishers and not necessarily their readers, a finished book. Sure, Stephanie Meyer, you can deliver Breaking Dawn in less than a year but, uh, did you read it? Jane Green? Your original chick lit was almost deeper than the surrounding stuff but now you're becoming Nicholas Sparks for a new generation. Jennifer Weiner, watch out- you used to be very moving. Now you're becoming cliche. Stephen King...I feel bad chiding you because you're one of the greats but, well, when you announce that you're retiring, RETIRE. From a Buick 8, Cell and Duma Key are all horrible faded shadows of the great stories you used to tell.

I could go on but I won't. My point is this: All 'great' writers were once "new" writers. They were unpublished once. Nowadays, we have the tools to put our works out there and while I admit my novel isn't as polished as if I had someone from Harper Collins editing it, at least it's the book I wrote, not some watered down version of the story I wanted to tell.

I know, I know. Where's the validation if I had to do it all myself. My validation is in my sales. It's in the reviews I have on It's in the emails I get from complete strangers who loved my book. It's not on the scale of a bestseller but, you know what? It feels like it.

I'd like to take this opportunity to encourage other writers out there who feel like their bashing their head against a glass ceiling to take charge of their own writing. If you feel like it's good, if people already love it, try it. Use Createspace. Use Lulu. If you're scared of the commitment of printing the book, put it on the Kindle, the iPad, the Nook if nothing else. It costs nothing. People WILL read your work.

It's my dream to start a revolution. The agents and publishers hold the reigns right now but they're losing their grip. We don't need them to slow down a process in which they're becoming a relic. While I love books as much as the next person, I love reading even more. Sure, a literary agent knows their way around the industry but the industry is changing. The power is coming back into the hands of the writer, the creator of the product that is fueling them. Sure it's nice to have an official label on your book that says, "Hey, someone made me pay them a lot of my earnings of this book to get me here," but we don't need it.

Ok, so I realize some books shouldn't be published because they're not ready. But, honestly, given some of the rubbish that's making it to library and bookstore shelves these days, what's the difference. Do we need any more vampire novels, really? Yet each week in Barnes and Noble, there seems to be more.

I want to tell other writers that just because you did it yourself, doesn't make it any less valuable. It took me a while to realize I could admit this but I am an author. I have an Amazon page to prove it. In 100 years, I'll still have a book, somewhere, out there, published and it's unlikely someone will stop to scoff, "wait, it's self published. It must be crap!"

I need to get my name out there. I know this. But it's happening slowly. I'm part of a revolution and I'm proud to admit it. Agents can open doors, publishers can help you walk through them but if you can create the building yourself with doors that you actually design, isn't that better?

I'm proud to have published my book. I'm proud to be selling it. I'll keep pushing it, hoping to get more readers. It's not about the money. It's about getting your story out there.

And my story is just getting started.

Thanks, as always, for reading.

Happy Tuesday.

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