Friday, March 28, 2014

Countdown to a Self-Published Book 1 : Making the Decision

We’ve followed the multi-talented Kathryn Craft through the engaging and triumphant story of her journey from pitch to traditionally published book (which is doing fantastically well – congratulations, Kathryn). Now it’s my turn to count down to publication, with my about-to-be-self-published book, Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin.

Thirty-four days to publication date: 1st of May
(draft cover)
 Why Self-Publishing?

(I promise this wasn't intended as a follow-up to Stephen Tremp's excellent guest post yesterday.)

I started and finished the first draft of Maddie (I nickname all my books for easier reference) while I was pregnant with my second child, more for the sense of achievement than anything else. I wrote it knowing that I would be shelving it for about two years before I would be able to begin the process of finding an agent and a publisher for it – because, with my time and energy focused on two small children, the likelihood of blowing deadlines and not meeting the publisher’s expectations and requirements would be very high. Worse than a rejection would be an acceptance that is revoked or a contract breeched.

So, at first I was still considering finding a traditional publisher. But then I made a lucky connection and was offered an editing job I couldn’t resist. The unexpected lump-sum was a perfect amount for a publishing budget. Could I, perhaps, do it myself?

I began putting some feelers out, and came across the now-notorious John Locke e-book, How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months. Locke had already owned two highly-successful sales businesses, and made the point that the publishing industry is the only industry in the world that stigmatises those who choose to start their own businesses. I had a conversation with my neighbour, who owns and runs a garden landscaping business with two employees, and he agreed: there’s nothing weird about being a small-business-owner.

So I took Locke’s analogy further and applied it to myself and my own little corner of the universe. My world has been affected by another industry that seeks to stamp out anyone choosing to trust their own natural instincts and manage their own process–obstetrics. Here in Australia, we’ve been lobbying to preserve our rights to choose where we birth and with whom. It jumped out at me that pursuing a traditional publisher would be tantamount to driving Maddie to the hospital and handing her over to a bookstetrician. Some authors have different needs; the key is having the choice, and not being ridiculed for making whichever choice it is you went with. And that applies to both sides of the industry.

Right or wrong, that thought brought out my stubborn streak. I homebirth and I home-publish. And I’m proud of it. But self-publishing hasn’t meant taking any shortcuts, as you'll see in my next post.

How about you? Have you made the decision yet? What did you decide, and what helped you make the decision? Or are you still on the fence? Tell us your publishing story in the comments.

Elsa Neal
Elle Carter Neal is the author of Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin, which is now available on Kindle. She is based in Melbourne, Australia. To keep in the loop about “Maddie”, join her mailing list here, or find her at ElleCarterNeal.com or HearWriteNow.com

23 comments :

  1. Love this post and the "connection" between obstetrics and bookstetrics. This is great, Elle!

    When I finished my first book, I began looking for a publisher via the multiple-inquiries route. I received two "acceptances," if you want to call them that. Both wanted a significant amount of money to publish my novel, and one contained a glowing letter that — even in my naïveté about the industry — I realized could not be a legitimate evaluation of my manuscript, which had been thoroughly perused by several beta readers but not professionally edited because I had no money to pay an editor. Neither could I afford these two takers' excessive charges.

    So I went to a local indie bookstore where I loved to wander the aisles and review the literary treasures that populated the shelves. There, I poured out my publishing woes to the proprietor. He told me about a professor at a local college who had self-published and urged me to call the man. Because of my shyness, I hesitated to make that call and almost cancelled the appointment after I finally got up the nerve to phone him. Bottom line: nervous as I was, I went to meet the man, and he was a wealth of information and a very willing mentor. I followed his suggestions and self-pubbed my book, and later we collaborated on publishing two anthologies of works from students throughout our large school district. It was an incredible experience to read the many hundreds of papers submitted by elementary, middle school, and high school students and to open the creative doors to any who wanted to take a shot at cover design.

    Since then, I've formed a couple of publishing companies and published a number of others' books in addition to my own. Now I am looking forward to spending more time in that arena after retiring from editing. It's been quite an exciting ride. :-)

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    1. Thanks, Linda :-) Congratulations on your publishing career.

      I only half-heartedly sent one ms out to agents. I think I garnered six rejections, and by that stage I decided my book was out of date and required another rewrite, which I'll be doing this year or next and self-publishing. Always holding me back has been the concern that a potential publisher will require more commitment from me than I can manage.

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  2. I have always felt that choices are good. It shouldn't be e-book OR print, which was a common complaint when digital was coming into its own. There's room for both, just as there are now so many more viable paths to publication. Choice is a GOOD thing. Thanks for the post. Good comparison.

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    1. Thanks, Terry. I agree - print and ebooks often have different audiences, which even overlap when readers want both. I don't understand why some publishers are still so anti-ebooks.

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  3. "there’s nothing weird about being a small-business-owner" that line made me laugh!

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  6. I should wait to comment until I can spell. Eight books in, I have no regrets. My work would have languished in binders if I had not been brave enough to go indy before it was cool. I'm truly thankful that a dream was realized before I was too ill to have it realized.

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    1. That's awesome, Diana. And I hope your health improves soon so that you can write and publish even more.

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  7. I was a free lance illustrator for many years, then a business owner, then took up writing. I don't care what you do, whether it's in the art world, writing, or manufacturing, if you're doing it yourself, it's a business and should be treated like one. First, you should know your worth. Artistic endeavors have a perceived value, but the value is in the artist's/writer's eye. So whether drawing pictures, selling widgets, pitching agents, or you're self-publishing, you have to have faith that your delivering a good product. And, yes, a book is a product, an artistic one, but a product nevertheless. You're putting it out there to sell no different than if you were selling widgets. I like that Elle looked at her publishing experience as a business, because, really, that's what it is.

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    1. Exactly, Polly. If you're not prepared to run a business, then you will need to find an agent and publisher who will handle the business side for you. But you will still need to do some critical thinking once in a while to ensure you're not taken for a ride.

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    2. to sell no differently...aarrgh!

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  8. I love that you name your books! Not a bad idea. They are quite like our own little darlings aren't they?

    I wanted to thank you for the post because today is the day of my book release, Violet Storm. I struggled with deciding whether to self-publish or to continue querying agents (where I had not been seeing much success). I felt that I couldn't move on to other projects while I had this completed book ready to go. I took the entire self-publishing process seriously and made sure the quality was up to par in what publishing houses would have expected. I'm really happy that I did. And I can now put the proper focus on my other projects. :) I wish you luck on your adventure!

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    1. Thank you, Anna. And congratulations on releasing your book today!

      I have to be strict with myself about finishing one book before moving on to the next - those other books are siren songs for me :-)

      Thank you, and best of luck with your book launch.

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  9. I've self-published 7 books, but chose to involve a small independent publisher for my latest, out 30 March. Why? The book is the 1st of a fantasy trilogy, and, at 800+ pages would cost a lot to publish on my own. Advantages so far have been the brilliant professional cover, a massive amount of promotional activity including a launch party, video recordings of me and some of my characters, the prospect of an audio version and several other things I could never have done alone. On this occasion I'm very pleased I went for the publisher. Would I self-publish again? It would depend on the book and its intended market. Like the current argument between print and ebook, I think there's a place for both! Good luck with your book, Elle.

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    1. Thank you, Stuart. It sounds like you have a good deal with this publisher and they are working hard for you. All the best with your launch tomorrow.

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  10. As a designer, I feel compelled to suggest some further work on your draft cover. From any distance or in small thumbnail, the author looks like "lle arter eal." The light script initial caps do not work. In general, modern cover design uses a distinct typeface for the author, and branding practice favors always setting the author's name in the same (or similar) typeface for every book. I would recommend redoing the author name in a typeface that is different from the book title, easy to read, and that you could live with on future books.

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    1. Thanks, Larry, and you're absolutely right that the cover still needs a lot of work. I wanted to include the cover with this post, but ran out of time to do more than a poor rush-job. Hence, the "draft cover" label to indicate that I wasn't happy with it myself. Thanks, also, for the tip about branding the author name - that's an important consideration.

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  11. With some reluctance after a long pursuit of an agent and publisher, I made the decision five years ago to publish my first novel through the publishing arm of my wife's corporation, which meant self-publishing in every sense except legally. My oeuvre now stands at seven novel, a novella, and a short-fiction collection. I get to draw on my background in design as well as a lifetime as an editor and writer. I get wonderful feedback from thousands of readers. Those parts I enjoy. I do not enjoy not being taken seriously because my work is self-published. I do not enjoy being excluded from organizations like International Thrill Writers because of their antiquated criteria.

    In the end, whatever route an author takes, it will be a mixed bag.

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    1. I think and hope that the issue of not being taken seriously will change as self-publishing becomes more commonplace. It's critical, though, that we take ourselves seriously and ensure that the product we deliver is on par with a traditionally-published book. That will be the key to challenging the stigma of self-publishing.

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  12. I love your birthing analogy! Good luck with your Maddie book, and thank you for sharing your journey with us!

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    1. Thanks, Heidi. I wasn't sure if the comparison would resonate with anyone else, but it was significant to my shift in perspective.

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  13. Catching up on some blog reading here--congrats on Maddy's forthcoming birth, Elle! I would like to point out that no matter how you publish, an author is starting a business. Even if traditionally published you will be working a part-time job just with the media immersion, marketing, speaking about, and hand-selling of your book. No one else will do these things for you. And if you hire someone, you're an employer!

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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