Monday, August 20, 2012

Making the case for Self-publishing

Ever since Sue Grafton came out on her opinion about self-publishing, there has been a brush-fire of outcry from the ones who have decided to go the Kindle route.

Now, bear in mind, she's an author and author's, yes, can have their opinions. And she's written some great books. But I believe that someone has to make the case for self-publishing. So let's talk about it, seriously for a change.

What is Self-Publishing?

Wikipedia calls Self-publishing the publication of any book or other media by the author of the work, without the involvement of an established third-party publisher. The author is responsible and in control of entire process including design (cover/interior), formats, price, distribution, marketing & PR.

Now, understand, this is a big undertaking. One that involves a lot of thought and research and one that should not be taken lightly. But if you do decide to go this route, here are some things to consider.

1. It used to be that in order to self publish you either had to go Print-on-demand or find what they call a vanity publisher.

2. Print-on-demand is way more productive and the costs are low. Vanity publishers, not so much.

3. The latest edition of ereaders and reincarnations of ebooks has changed the way we receive books.

Stephen King in 2000, published a novella called Riding The Bullet on the internet. It became recognized as the world's first mass-market ebook. Possibly because of the success of RTB, he went on to publish another novella via the web in installments. That story was called The Plant. His ebook experiment generated thousands of new readers of his work. "We have the chance to become Big Publishing's worst nightmare," he said in one article by The New York Times.

But the self- publishing trend did not start with him. If you really went back into the dusty pages of history, you'd find one author who took a huge risk to make a big point of his work.

That author is none other than Charles Dickens.

This was in 1843, when his publishers, Chapman and Hall were disappointed with his lack of sales. They rejected a well-known story called A Christmas Carol. Ever heard of it? Dickens, never one to be told no, decided to produce the book himself at his own expense. And while he did not fare well with the profits, it gave him exposure, garnered some reviews and all of a sudden Chapman and hall started to take notice. The first print run sold 6,000 copies. The book hasn't been out of print since.

So does this mean Self-publishing is widely accepted?

Sadly, no. Now, understand, there are hundreds of people who have found success with publishing their works independently. Some have decided to take that success and sign with a traditional publishing. Some, after making the industry switch, decided to go back to self publishing because they enjoyed more freedoms.

Why did you Self-Publish?

I’ve been doing research on self-publishing since late 2005. I’ve seen the benefits of establishing an internet presence early so that people get a feel for you. But I’ve also researched the traditional side of the argument. Rather than waiting years after constant useless rejection slips, I chose to publish my work to gain a readership. Working at rejection, peddling my wares as a complete stranger to complete strangers makes no sense to me. And I say this because I’ve tried it. I’ve sent some stuff to magazines and contests with no reply. Literary Agents? I’ve queried thirty-one of them from New York. I’ve gotten a few bites of interest, requesting more pages but that’s where the connections ended.

However, once I did as much reading as possible on the subject, learned the ropes and learned how to go about this independently, I decided to try it out. And it works. I’m gaining readers, getting feedback. It’s much more involved. As I’ve gotten to know the writing community and interviewed several authors, they all seem to say the same thing. Self-publishing offers more benefits than traditional publishing. And most publishers are actually scouting some of these books published directly to the kindle.

I’m not looking for fame and fortune. I just wanna tell stories in this time period and deliver them to an audience now. Gray hairs have been popping up all over my head. I grew tired of waiting. For me, stories need to be unleashed in order to unclutter my mind.

What does being "successful" mean to you?

Self-publishing taught me a lot of things and I became engulfed in the fascination of cover design, formatting, back cover description and audio narration. It may be a lot of hard work, but I love doing every minute of it. It gives more of a legitimacy to the work. Author/Book Maker all in one.

Success to me means instant gratification. Writing, editing, designing, publishing. I love being part of a community that gives feedback and makes the whole experience of being a writer more interactive than it previously had been in the past.

The way I see it, I'm just a storyteller. I'm not looking for fame and fortune. I just want to have comfort in knowing I can tell a good story, have full control over the content and be able to hear someone say, "Hey, buddy, y'know that story you wrote? It was different. It really made me think. What else you got in that bag of yours?"

Making a living at it?

That will come in time.

Right now I'm just happy and content with writing.

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