Category Archives: Self-Publishing

If Self-Publishing Is On Your Mind

… and if you’re worried about doing it “right,” check out When You Are Your Own Publisher over at Jaye’s blog.

Don’t let fear of making a mistake keep you from reaching for accomplishment. Mistakes are fixable. Far more fixable in self-publishing than in trade publishing. A certain level of anxiety is good–it pushes us to check and double-check, to put our best work forward–but too much anxiety leads to really bad decisions.

Reviewing Reviews

After hanging around writers in various states of publish for the last twenty-plus years, you’d think I’d have internalized the “Don’t read your reviews!” advice.

After hanging around me for not too long, you’d see I can be quietly and subversively hardheaded about certain pieces of advice.

I do indeed read my reviews (a simple process these days, since I don’t get that many).  And I consider what they mean, individually and collectively, about how I’ve connected with readers.

That phrase—connected with readers—is the foundation of my review-reading mindset.  It isn’t about judging “quality;” it is about understanding if what I produced matched the readers’ expectations.

Continue reading Reviewing Reviews

An Additional Piece on Author Solutions

David Gaughran takes on the Author Solutions situation again, this time from the perspective of their participation in a Canadian book festival.

The festival’s stance boils down to, “Well, writers should know to investigate them first.”

Here’s the deal: Writers trust writers groups and book festivals.  They assume there is a basic ethical standard that would keep said groups from inviting and supporting known scam artists to stand beside professionals at their events.  They assume said groups wouldn’t want their own professional image tarnished.

Increasingly, alas, it’s the assumption of shared basic ethics that permitting companies like ASI to hook new writers with the full support of publishers and book festival organizers.  “Sure, ASI is ripping people off, but we’ll keep endorsing them as Super Cool, and blame the writers who fall for it!”

Go read the article and marvel at the book festival response.

 

On Self-Publishing: An Informed Article

From Forbes, The Future of Self-Publishing:

There is a steep learning curve to self-publishing, and it’s one that not every author wants to, or is able to climb. If you have a traditional publishing deal and you’re happy with it, why would you want to take on all that extra work? As Abercrombie says, publishers can do all that for you.

However, going the traditional route doesn’t come without its own overheads. As a fledgling author seeking a deal, ie is at the same point in their career as the newbie self-publisher, one has to learn how to write compelling synopses of your work, how to write a query letter, figure out which agents are accepting unsolicited manuscripts and how to format that manuscript appropriately.”

And how to adapt to the submission preferences of each agent, track responses or lack thereof, remain up-to-date on agents that are considered good and reputable, perhaps invest in conventions and workshops in order to meet and hear directly from attending agents and editors…

The article also points out how self-publishing processes will adapt and develop to better serve the market, and many self-publishers will manage that learning curve just fine.

 

Judith Tarr on Escaping Stockholm

Novelist and equine expert Judith Tarr has had quite enough of seeing writers pushed and manipulated by publishers.  The first segment of her series “Escaping Stockholm” is here.  At the end of that post is a link to Part Two, and Part Three should be available May 30.

I never broke into trade publishing with a novel (just a couple short stories), but first met and befriended published novelists over twenty years ago.  I’ve watched and listened to their experiences.  Some years ago, I decided I didn’t want to work under the constraints and conceits of traditional publishing because what such work would require wasn’t the sort of thing I wanted in my life.*  What Tarr is discussing–the treatment of authors on all levels of what should be a professional relationship–highlight many of the reasons I chose to self-publish.

And if you haven’t read Tarr’s work, you are missing some really cool stuff.  You can check out her offerings through Book View Café and Amazon.

 

*I consider it unreasonable to give an editor one, two, or more years of exclusivity to make a decision about my work.  I get that traditional publishing has many reasons for wanting both exclusivity and open-ended time to decide.  That doesn’t mean I find those reasons acceptable.  Some writers will call me arrogant for refusing a single person exclusive rights to hold what I’ve created–without given either a decision or compensation–for as long as that single person wishes.  Most non-writers would call me crazy for agreeing to such a thing.

 

 

Interesting Timing

Today I followed a link provided by David Gaughran to a website run by Bowker (the exclusive provider of ISBN numbers in the U.S.).  The site purports to be informational for folks looking to self-publish.  The trouble is, their recommended service includes Author Solutions.  ETA: It used to be listed as the first option, but has oddly enough been moved down the list.

If you’re not sure why that’s a bad thing, check out the Writer Beware blog for years’ worth of background.

The rest of the site is also filled with misinformation that does, indeed, make self-publishing sound so immense, costly and daunting, it’s small wonder inexperienced writers, or writers who haven’t researched much, would see it as a relief to have companies like Bowker and Author Solutions on their side.

What’s interesting is that this news–this seeming support of self-publishing from Bowker–comes on the heels of big (yet oddly quiet) news from the distribution sector of the publishing world.  Book distribution company Baker & Taylor changed its policies, permitting self-published titles to appear alongside of, and be sold at the same terms as, titles published by the “Big Publishers.”

So why did this happen now?

I think it’s tempting to assume it’s because self-publishers and small presses are seeing greater possibilities for success than ever before.  But I’ve a cynical bent, you see.

I believe these two major shifts happened because, as is outlined here, the large publishers who work with Bowker and Baker & Taylor now have their own “self-publishing” divisions which are–what a coincidence!–mostly supported by Author Solutions.  While the main source of income for Author Solutions has been authors purchasing services rather than readers purchasing books, I’ve no doubt “Big Publishers” wanted a better chance of making money off bookselling as well.

That doesn’t mean small press and self-publishers can’t take advantage of the opportunities.

Warning All Writers Should Heed

David Gaughran outlines the on-going influence and growing reach of the Penguin-owned vanity publisher Author Solutions.

Follow the links he has provided.  You’ll find an extensive background on Author Solutions, as well as the current lawsuit against them.

Write down the names of publishers that have chosen to support Author Solutions by funneling their own imprints to them.

Write down the names of those publishers’ imprints.

Consider those lists when deciding which publishers you’ll submit your work to.  Expect to read your contract very, very closely, and have an IP attorney review it as well.  As Gaughran stated, “And it’s much harder to tell the scammers from the legitimate organizations when they are owned by the same people.”

After seeing the number of major publishers and writing-related businesses that have chosen to bind themselves to Author Solutions, this writer is far far far more concerned about steering new writers away from such exploitation than I am that Amazon will somehow subjugate over a 150,000 writers.  Alas, most of the business seems to be otherwise occupied.

 

 

 

What a Writer Deserves

From Joe Ponepinto at The Saturday Morning Post:

“Literary writing teachers are fond of telling students they should write for the love of writing itself. But I wonder what they would tell their charges if the university wasn’t sponsoring that philosophy; if they had to work eight hours in a cubicle or on an assembly line.

That attitude also conditions writers to believe they don’t deserve to make money from their writing, and helps make it easier for publishing companies to keep straight faces while offering today’s Draconian contract terms.”

It’s nice to see that sentiment spreading.  Writers have been offered little or no pay only because so many writers are willing to accept little or no pay–not because there is no money to be made from writing.  Even as novel advances fall and royalty rates remain low, and writers are given the impression funds are scarce, major publishers are posting incredible financial gains.  When a publisher can afford to give all its employees a $5000 bonus, you know things are good.

But the writer is told to never expect to make a living from such work–usually by the folks who make a living processing and packaging the work of writers.

In contrast to Ponepinto’s reasoned piece is this in Salon.  It is, sadly, a view inside the mind of a writer who jumped into self-publishing without researching the business, and who is now angry and resentful that the world hasn’t responded as he wishes.  Had he invested perhaps a month or two investigating what are fast becoming Professional Practices in self-publishing, he would have known that 1) self-publishing isn’t synonymous with ebook only, and hasn’t been for quite some time; 2) sending mass emails to reviewers is the fast-track to being ignored; 3) self-publishing sales tend to happen over a period of months and years rather than weeks.  Lastly, he’d know there is a community of writers who are making good sales and are willing to help other writers do the same.

Every published writer deserves to see their publisher act with competence, diligence and professionalism.  When a writer is self-published, the writer should expect the same of herself.

Alas, given the tone of his piece, I suspect he’s a person who will have a hard time putting down his anger long enough to learn what will actually help him.  Too often, writers who’ve been trade-published expect self-publishing to work the same way and, when it doesn’t, call it a failure.  And that sense of failure will persist until a shift of thought is made.

Is the self-publishing market different for literary works than it is for genre?  Of course.  But “different” isn’t insurmountable.  It’s merely challenging.

 

 

Writing Time, Production Time, and Assumptions

A few weeks ago, awesome writer Charlie Stross wrote on why he doesn’t self-publish.  I considered responding, then realized there was no reason.  Too often, commenting on such a post to offer a different perspective or correction to facts is assumed to be an attempt to “convert” the blog host.  Since Stross is happy with his situation, I have no reason to convert him.  (As if my small voice would make a difference anyway. 🙂 )

I considered posting my own response here, then…  Well, happily, I was distracted by writing fiction instead!

But now up on Stross’s blog is a guest post by Linda Nagata–“Why I Do Self-Publish.”  She does a wonderful job of presenting her perspective, and I found myself nodding along in agreement.

Of particular interest, especially when it comes to accurate information for those considering self-publishing, is Nagata’s brief summary of the book-production side of things.  Stross estimated it would take him three months to produce each book.  (Not write, just produce.)  Nagata shares her actual production time–including all formatting–was about seven days.

Nagata’s production time matches my own experience, though I completely understand the assumption of the inexperienced that it must take days and weeks and months to turn story into formatted book.  The process intimidated me in the beginning and, admitting my own limitations and anxieties, decided I’d be better off paying someone to teach me than trying to learn on my own.

After the Think Like A Publisher workshop, I practiced formatting a couple short stories for EPUB and MOBI.  By the time Sword and Chant went up, my files were pretty clean and I knew how to resolve errors.  It took me a day.  That experience also taught me how to better format my work-in-progress documents to make conversion even simpler.  I suspect the formatting for Sand of Bone to take a few hours.  Hours.

And as for the notion that self-publishing creates a massive burden of bookkeeping and management…  No, not really.  A sole proprietorship–whether writer or publisher–has the same reporting requirements.  At its simplest, you record what money is paid to you, and what you pay others.  “Production management” is really just “self-directed activities.”  If you can plan a vacation, you can plan a publication schedule.

So while I completely understand many writers have no desire to do anything but write a story, I don’t like to see other aspiring writers deterred by incorrect assumptions about how much time self-publishing requires one to “take away” from writing time.  Truly, it’s nearly the same as newbie writers assuming there must be a secret handshake that leads to publishing success.

The Story of Self-Publishing

While the success of Hugh Howey–top-selling book sales, movie deal, major print-only contracts–has garnered increasing media attention, those who still wish to denigrate self-publishing are quick to say, “But he’s special!  He’s an outlier!  One success doesn’t mean anyone else can succeed!”*

Howey takes that on himself here, and it is a marvelous piece.

I didn’t step into self-publishing with the expectation of becoming the next multi-million dollar success.  I wanted people to read what I wrote.  I wanted to earn a little money from doing what I enjoy.  Self-publishing was the way to do it.  I don’t have to worry about whether my publisher will follow through on commitments, keep the work in print, contract with shell companies in order to reduce my royalties to pennies, or sell the right to publish my work to another company as part of a bankruptcy deal.

I’d rather everything be all my fault.  Fail or succeed–it’s all my fault.  Self-responsibility produces less anxiety than lack of control, and far less than learned helplessness.

 

*This is a variant of the snobbish, “Who do you think you are?” which is more often a finger-pointing way of saying, “Don’t you know who I am?”