DEFYING GRAVITY: Self-Publishing
Thanks, B.E. for asking me to weigh in on a subject that’s hot right now—self-publishing. What does that have to do with gravity and defying the same? A lot actually. Self-publishing has become so easy, anyone can do it. But just because anyone can doesn’t mean they should. I remember when I first participated in National Novel Writing Month. People dashed off their 50K/60K/90K novels, printed them out and started submitting. In December, a massive wail accompanied by much gnashing of teeth went up from the publishing world. Agents and editors cringed and wondered if they could take the whole month off.
Why? Because NONE of those books were ready for submission much less publication. In the almost ten years since, wannabe authors completely bypass the traditional route and throw their work out there. As a result, for most of those ten years, self-publishing was tainted. Only junk was self-published. And I’m being polite to label it junk. I’d hazard that at least 95% of it was absolute crappola.
That perception is slowly starting to change. New York Times best-selling authors are starting to self-publish—Courtney Milan, Allison Brennan, Debra Webb, Jennifer Lyon and many more. Still other talented authors are finding self-publishing as a route to enter the world of traditional publishing. They self-published first, hit big, and then New York came courting.
Do you have the entrepreneurial spirit? Have you studied and perfected your craft? Do you have a support system of editors and cover artists, of beta readers and proofreaders, friends with chocolate and strong shoulders? Do you have absolute faith in your ability to tell a compelling story? Do you believe you are up to the challenge?
If you can’t answer yes to those questions, then self-publishing probably isn’t a good fit for you. You are basically going into business for yourself. You can nickel and dime your way but at some point, you’ll need some cash outlay if you don’t happen to have editors and artists in your family and friends circles. Even beyond the business of self-publishing—the fine-tuning, the marketing, the production of a saleable book—you have to believe in yourself and have faith that your writing is up to the scrutiny. If you think it’s tough sending out queries, just wait until you hover over the sale pages waiting to see if your “baby” bombs. If you think rejection from a potential agent or editor hurts, just wait until those reviews start coming in—the ones from strangers who don’t worry about your feelings. This is when friends and chocolate comes in handy.
THE WRITE STUFF
B.E. asked me why I decided to self-publish. I’m traditionally—if with a small press—published and I have a manuscript under consideration at a major publishing house. I’m not one of those who thinks traditional is bad. It’s not, especially if that’s what makes you comfortable. Me? I’m something of a control freak. And I don’t always write to “spec.” I can. I have. But it’s not really the way I write. I LIKE the idea of having control, of not “fitting” my voice and my stories to the constraints of an editor or a marketing department. I describe myself as a cross-genre storyteller. My paranormals have mystery and suspense along with the romance. My suspense novels have a touch of the supernatural and a helping of romance. My action/adventure thrillers have a big ol’ pile of paranormal and sex—at least as far as the men are concerned. The women? They recognize a good Happy Ever After when they read one!
In addition to the genre-bending I do, I also use a “cinematic POV.” There are those who call it head-hopping. Me? When I read, I want to know what every character in the scene is thinking. I have no desire to have actions and thoughts filtered through an observing character. It’s the way I write and I’ve fought with more than a few editors over the tendency. The freelance editor I use understands that this style is part of my voice and my brand and even though it drives her nuts, she works for me. And that’s pretty much the bottom line. I’m the boss. I have all the responsibility but I also get all the benefits.
Writing fanfic will not get you a six-figure advance, E.L. James notwithstanding. Trust me when I say that was a fluke.
You won’t get rich self-publishing unless you write erotic romance and even then it needs to be WELL-WRITTEN erotic romance and nothing is guaranteed. You have a 50-50 chance of flopping.
Keep meticulous records or the IRS will eat you for lunch and there’s nothing sexy about an audit!
Don’t get your hopes up. Go into it with the idea that you could fail. Any sale then becomes a win and you’ve got nowhere to go but up.
Don’t publish anything that isn’t the very best you can produce. Your name is going to be associated with that title forever—for better or worse.
Do be a professional.
If you aren’t comfortable flying without a safety net, then self-publishing probably isn’t for you. If you need external deadlines, you might be better served by traveling the traditional route. If you’ve had a couple of rejections without any interest and figure it’s time to self-publish, wait. Keep submitting. Keep polishing. There’s a reason you aren’t getting asked for partials or fulls. Yes, you might be submitting in all the wrong places but it also might be because your work isn’t quite ready for prime time. Make sure it is before you take this step.
Get educated. There are forums out there. The Self-Publishing forum on RWA (if you are a member) is full of information and helpful people. Savvy Writers is another blog with good info. There are Yahoo loops.
And finally, did I mention this is a business? There’s no room for ego and all the room in the world for hard work. You need a business plan. You need to know your stuff. But at the very bottom of it all? You need to believe you can live your dreams and that you can defy gravity and fly!
Now go watch this video and get all inspired and stuff! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3g4ekwTd6Ig
With a rampant imagination aided and abetted by a Muse who runs with scissors, Silver James loves to share the stories created in that vast cosmic void pretending to be her mind. Over the course of her lifetime, she's been a military officer's wife, mother, state appellate court marshal, airport rescue firefighter and forensic fire photographer, crime analyst, and technical crime scene investigator. Retired from the “real world” now, she lives in Oklahoma and spends her days at the computer with her two Newfoundland dogs, and the cat who rules them all, writing tales of mystery, mayhem, and magic. Oh, and a little romance.