Today’s posting is specifically targeted to self-publishers, or to those who are trying to decide if they want to be. I am sure most of my “regulars” will go have a bowl of ice cream and come back in a day or two when my blog returns to its normal state of inconsistency and confusion. But for now I must respond to Clare. Clare? Who’s Clare?? Well, Clare is this incredible blogger who pounds out postings half way around the world from me and I find them usually very compelling. She has a knack for stirring the pot and getting folks to throw all kinds of things in it. Most are not as verbose and I am, but she struck a nerve last week and I went a little sonic. I told Clare I would not take up her worthy blog space with my lengthy comments, but would have no problem posting them on my own blog. I have no pride.
Okay, so here’s the deal. If you are interested in self-publishing you may find all this worthwhile…then, maybe not. But you must read Clare’s posting first if any of what I have to say will make sense. And then I am sure both Clare and I will be happy to hear your thoughts or you silence. So without further ado, here from Switzerland (although she’s really an Irish lass), please put your mouse and keyboard together for Miss Wonder Blogger, Clare O’Dea. Oh, then don’t forget to come back and see my stuff that follows below.
The question at hand is to or not to self-publish and/or go sailing. Having been fortunate enough to own a sailboat years ago and actually sailing it on the great Chesapeake Bay, I can tell you it is a lot more fun and exhilarating than seeking a publisher for your book. If you have the opportunity to sail, metaphorically as Clare is or for real, do not pass up the opportunity. In the meantime, here’s my take on Clare’s five points based on my personal experience…
Drop in the ocean – Unless you are an established, published author (self or otherwise) I think you are a drop in the bucket in both arenas. It is very intimidating to me, a not-so-successful self-published author (5 books, more coming) to walk into a Barnes and Noble or scroll the offerings on amazon. Both places confront me with so many books that I am humbled and find it is practically unbelievable to think I could ever stand out among the crowd of publications jammed into these two venues. A lot of the success in the business, unfortunately, has nothing to do with whether or not you write well, but whether or not you market well. It helps if you are a known entity, or know a known entity, or have the money to advertise your way to the top. So I think you are a drop whether you are professionally or self-published.
All hands on deck – As our mothers used to tell us, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right!” But mothers never told us who should do the doing. Some do it better than others. If you are not a good doer, you need help. As was mentioned in one of the comments on Clare’s page, even if you have a publisher, you will still be expected to handle a full load of work promoting yourself and your book. True, a publisher will get you in the door a lot faster than you can as an indie, but you won’t be dormant by a long stretch. If if if if you are good with word processing and computers, you can learn to do a lot of the work yourself. The only work I pay for is art and illustration. If I could draw, I’d do that too. But it is actually quite easy to prep your manuscript for the printer. If you use a service like CreateSpace you can upload your file and watch it turn into a virtual book and they will tell you if you made any mistakes. Do all this FREE. Yes, there is a learning curve but it’s not a steep one. The only self-regret I have is that I cannot afford an editor. I have a good friend who qualifies, but I feel guilty bothering him too much. But he’s been a big help. Other than editing, the large cost factors comes after publication. I make a media kit for my books and send it and a copy of the book to everyone I can think of who might actually be helpful in publicizing my effort. There are material and postage costs here.
I create printed promotional pieces for my books. These cost money. I have done pay-per-click advertising on social media. I have six websites that I created and maintain. I have a blog that I refresh 2-3 times a week. I am retired and on fixed income, so I do not have a barrel of money to underwrite efforts beyond this. These are some of the things a publisher may help with, may not. But regardless who does it and how much it cost, you may get results and you may get nothing. I get the latter. But the deck always needs swabbing and somebody has to do it. That means YOU or somebody you pay if you have the money. Publishers don’t swab.
Pieces of eight – Ah, the need to be big, brash and bold! Let no one stand in your way as you build your social dynasty and develop bloodlines with whomever you need to get the job done. Shyness doesn’t cut it. You must be fearless to do anything to anybody and have a whatever-it-takes attitude. This is the area where I stumble humble. I need a mini-me or a blowup-me as a stand-in to do the dirty work. But isn’t this another area where you, as author, will most likely do all the work regardless of who publishes your book?
Ship shape – Clare is right. Being professionally published is what any new author would prefer. As much as I do not like to admit, there IS a negative, inferior stigma attached to self-publishing. True, that attitude is changing, but hurry and lick your ice cream cone because it will be drooling down your fingers long before indies are ranked up there where the pros are. A lot of the negativity comes from the big publishing houses themselves. These guys, I think, are still pretty snooty and I always sense a “vibe” of superiority about them.
Deep water – Right again, Clare. She says as a self-publisher you are a crusader, a pragmatist or a combination of the two. I am the pragmatist who did not have the patience or stomach for either being ignored or turned down by publishers. Been there, done there. But I’m 70 and I just started writing books four years ago. I don’t have the time to write a manuscript and then wait two-three years to see it on the table at Barnes and Noble, assuming it was accepted by a publisher. Hell, by 74 I may not remember I even wrote the book. So I do it myself and I admit having the fantasy of maybe one day one of my books may be noticed and I’ll be approached. But remember, I am pragmatic so it is my nature to take things into my own hands and probably still would if I were only 40.
In sum – If you are young, have the energy and patience, go the traditional route for a few years and see if you make it that way. First of all, it’s good practice (the apprenticeship) and you will benefit from the experience whatever it is. If you succeed, then there is no need to even consider self-publishing unless you have a well established brand for yourself and want more control and a greater share of the profit. If you don’t succeed and still have the need to have an audience for your efforts, then you can self-publish. You will probably do a better job of it because you will have learned much from attempting to find a publisher.
The bottom line is, if you are a writer, then you must write. If you must write you must have someone to read what it is you have written. It’s the process and you will not feel fulfilled unless you have gone through it. So come aboard, raise the sail and start your journey. If you don’t know what you’re doing, just sail on…the boat will hold you up and the rest will come to you. Thanks Clare, you make a great Captain!