Recently, I was contacted by Kirsty over at thelastwordfromme (a great music blog that’s definitely worth a click). Having seen a few posts regarding the results of my self-publishing endeavors, she very politely asked if I’d answer a few questions for a grad school project. And here they are.
Before you decided to self-publish had you previously sent your writing to publishing houses? If yes, what kind of response were you receiving?
For me, self-publishing was a choice– not a last resort. I guess I’d better explain what I mean by this…
Self-publishing– especially digital, ebook publishing– allows creative individuals to make their work available to the masses without having to contend with the gatekeepers of traditional publishing. For some people, this means finally getting that book published that’s been turned down for so long. For others, it means being able to make their work available to interested parties without having to sell their creative rights or lose control of their intellectual property.
For me, self-publishing was a no-brainer. Even if you feel that going the traditional route is more suited to your goals, self-publishing is a good way to start the process. You can still query literary agents about representing your work– but now, you have something to point to that says, “Look, people actually buy it!” If your writing sells, you already have proof that your book is a viable product.
Personally, I was born with a do-it-yourself attitude. Self-publishing appeals to my entrepreneurial spirit. I had always thought that the traditional route was a better option, but by the time my novel was ready, I was so convinced that self-publishing was the way to go that I didn’t even bother submitting it to literary agents. I never sent out a single query letter.
How much research did you do into self-publishing before deciding to go down that route?
I mentioned above that self-publishing appeals to the entrepreneur in me and a do-it-yourself spirit. You need that if you mean to have any degree of success in self-publishing, because you have to do it yourself; all of it. I’m tempted to make a laundry list of everything involved in the process, but it would take up too much time and space, here. Suffice it to say, you can’t just make your book available and expect the money to start rolling in. You have to market.
To creative individuals– especially in the literary realm– marketing may seem like selling out. But consider this: if you run the gauntlet of traditional publishing and come out on the other side an author, you are one author among many published by a particular company. If you self-publish, you are the company.
I’ve read several books about self-publishing and countless online articles and posts, and one of the things I remember reading said that a self-published book is considered a “start-up.” In other words, if you self-publish, you’re not just a writer anymore: you’re a business owner, responsible for all the ins and outs of your company– sales, marketing, customer relations, taxes, so on and so forth– not matter how small your business may be.
This shouldn’t scare anyone off from self-publishing. On the contrary, it should encourage you. In this digital age, there are myriad resources for small businesses. Apply them to your business as an author. If you want to be a working writer, you have to be a working writer.
Were there any downsides, that you were aware of, in deciding to self-publish?
The most obvious thing that comes to mind is that self-publishing alone won’t get you onto the shelves of any major bookstores. This wasn’t really a major turn-off for me. (Just about every bookstore within a 100-mile radius of my house has closed down anyway.)
The other drawback is that you’re alone in your efforts– self being the key word in self-publishing.
What kind of outlay (in money terms) did you have to put down to publish your second book? Have you managed to make a profit?
The cost of self-publishing depends on your own specific vision. For example, Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform allows individuals to make work available online without any direct cost to the author. They make money when you make a sale, not before. If you want your book in print, it’s going to be a little different. There are various small presses and “Print On Demand” services that you can go through. There can be fees involved, and usually you’ll need to purchase at least one proof copy for yourself before you make it available to customers. (I used Createspace to print my book, and have been very happy with the results).
It’s been about a month since my book became available for purchase, and so far, my profit margin is barely noticeable. But, again, I’m going to draw on the comparison to a small business. It takes most new businesses between six months and a year to become profitable. Remember: the term “starving artist” didn’t come out of thin air.
Would you recommend self-publishing to other authors?
I would recommend it. In this day and age, when anyone and everyone can make their voice heard over multiple platforms across the world, it seems like a shame that anyone’s story not be heard just because an agent doesn’t think he can make a buck on it. The whole process sounds positively archaic, when you think about it.
My advice, to those who do decide to self-publish, is this: There’s a reason people talk so much about “overnight success stories.” They’re remarkable because they barely ever happen. Don’t get discouraged. If you write a book and one person likes it, you’re already a greater success than most people ever dream to be.
What has the response been like to your books?
My first book– The Fallen Odyssey– was released on March 25th. It’s not exactly an overnight bestseller (nor did I expect it to be), but it’s made a pretty good showing. I hope that as word disseminates through social media, reviews, and good old-fashioned word of mouth, things will really start to take off. Social media has helped me to connect with other authors, several of which are now eagerly awaiting a sequel.
What are your future plans in terms of writing? Will you continue to go down the self-publishing route or will you look for a publishing house for future books?
I’m in the process of final edits on a new title that’s coming out next month. I’m also working on the sequel to The Fallen Odyssey that I hope will be available by the end of 2013 or very early 2014. I’m going to continue self-publishing, but I’m very interested in finding a publishing house sometime in the future. Ideally, I’d love to work out a deal where I can keep digital rights.
Check out The Fallen Odyssey, available in print and on your Kindle, mobile device or computer.