Bookin' It

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The Joys (& Pitfalls) of Self-Publishing Part I

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What an adventure the last ten months have been. Deciding it wasn’t too late to write a book, if I really wanted to, has changed the course of my life. Granted, it’s pretty late in the game for a course-changer . . . but it’s not TOO late. And I know, because I did it! 

I could sit around now and complain and grumble that I should have done this years ago, and had decades in which to hone my craft, but of course that would be a big, fat waste of time. I can’t go back. I don’t get a redo. And who’s to say it would have worked out better, anyway? Back “in the day,” writers had to run the gamut of submitting bulky manuscripts to publisher after publisher, hoping someone would see the merit in their hard work. Usually, they suffered through the indignities of rejection slip after rejection slip. Sometimes, they never managed to find a publisher who believed in their book. That’s all changed now.

The digital age has ushered in so many wonderful things (and some not-so-wonderful ones) that someone my age is often completely mind-boggled at what’s out there. Me, I decided at 52 I didn’t want to be left behind, so I’ve tried to keep up enough to know which things I enjoy and find useful, and which just seem like major time-sucks that have no redeeming value in my life at all. One of the things I love the most is my Kindle. For me, digital books are fantastic for so many reasons, I can’t even list them all here. I don’t see it as an either/or situation where readers have to choose between digital and “real” books. My Kindle is part of my library. It’s not the whole library! It allows me to expand my book collection, which is pretty large, without expanding my house. But more on that another time.

Today, I want to talk about what it means to a writer, especially a new writer, to have the ability to write a book and put it “out there” for the world to see, all by his or herself.  This is a gift from on high! Yes, there are self-published books out there that are dreadful. People with little skill and no idea of what an editor is can throw their books up on amazon. But the reverse is true, as well. People who are very good writers can and do publish their work by themselves, from start to finish, and have it out there for a reader at a much more reasonable price. This door has opened and will be used by writers of every level, but sharp readers will usually be able to tell when a book is worth their investment of both money and time.

I would very much like to hear from others who have tried self-publishing, and hope that some of you (and I know you are out there) will stop by with a comment or two. I’d like to expand the thread with a few more posts about my own experiences, as well. Perhaps it will help an aspiring writer or two who are afraid to give self-publishing a try.

In no way do I mean to disparage traditional publishing methods, though they can cause roadblocks and frustration at times. I love ink on paper, too, and hope that publishing houses will be able to adjust to the current trends and stop falling by the wayside.

One last thing for this post (but there will be others). Editing.  I often find typos and small errors in books I’m reading. Even books by big-name authors, published through well-established houses. It happens. But a very distinct advantage of self-publishing a digital book is that you can fix mistakes, quickly and easily. I discovered this fantastic piece of news within hours of putting my book, Wake-Robin Ridge, up on amazon. I found a typo. GAH. After twelve Beta readers had searched, and I had searched dozens of times, and my very capable editor had worked hand in hand with me, still something slipped by. I fixed it. Voila.

Now I am in the process of going over every chapter with a fine-toothed comb, and checking, yet again, for any errors. I don’t like them. I won’t accept them. When I find them, I will change them. And I want to let everyone who has already purchased a copy of my book know that if you find an error, it will be fixed, and you will be assured of a free replacement copy of the book. Hopefully, there are no more mistakes. The couple I found were not major things, and obviously twelve other readers never noticed them. But they needed to be fixed, as do any other typos that anyone finds, anywhere. Try doing that with a traditionally printed book. Not so easy, eh? 

Self-publishing is easy. Self-publishing is inexpensive. But it comes with its own pitfalls. You still have to be sure you have a good editor if you want your book to look and sound like a professional wrote it. You need good editing software to catch the most glaring errors before it goes to your editor, but that will not replace your editor! You still need lots (and lots and lots) of eyes on the pages to proof for small typos, and to give you feedback on whether your story is working the way you want it to. Self-publishing should not be an excuse to get away with dumping sloppy writing on the public. Not every book has to have grand literary ambitions. Mine certainly doesn’t. But every book should be as well-written as you can make it, formatted correctly, and as free from typos and grammatical mistakes as is humanly possible.

For me, being in charge of my book from conception to delivery was an amazing experience, and a fantastic opportunity to learn something new every day. I can’t wait to do it all again, and in fact, am working on just that. It is the perfect answer for my writing needs.

Have you self-published a book? I’d love to hear about some of your experiences. What was the hardest part? How did you go about your formatting? Did you use any software to make your job  easier? How did you find a good editor? Cover designer? And then, there’s that tricky partner of self-publishing . . . self-marketing! 😯

Let’s talk!

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13 thoughts on “The Joys (& Pitfalls) of Self-Publishing Part I

  1. Thanks for posting about this!

    I have currently self-published a graphic novel, (HOLLOW), with a second one coming out in about 3 weeks. I found that comic books are very different than self-publishing novels. For one, you have to print actual books. The digital age has not quite caught up for comics. It’s getting there–comixology.com is a great place– but still, I had to print books, which meant money. Plus, stores take a cut, Amazon takes a HUGE cut, and (many) conventions charge you for a table, which means after sales, you make very little off each book.

    As I am also working on a few novels (the first one in final editing), I’m thinking about the self-publishing route, however, I would really love to pay someone to help with marketing/distribution. If a traditional publisher can help me with that, I’d love to go with them. It’s more time and money than I have to do it ALL myself right now, even with decent sales on my graphic novel.

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    • Hi, Cyelkoth! I’m so sorry for the delay in responding to your comments. For some reason, I didn’t get a Pending Post notification. You are officially approved now, and I hope you’ll stop by often.

      I know nothing whatsoever about graphic books or comic books, I’m afraid. I’m guessing everything is different with them. But for publishing a print book at no up front cost, CreateSpace looks like a wonderful way to go. I’ll have more info on that when I actually do it. For regular print books, they do not charge you up front, but instead pay you a royalty on what you sell. You might check it out, if you haven’t already.

      Amazon’s royalty arrangement on eBooks is fantastic! Unbelievable, compared to the royalties offered by traditional publishers. I found self-publishing to be perfect for me, but there was definitely a learning curve involved. And a lot of the how-to books out there are already outdated, probably because amazon improves the process almost daily.

      It’s interesting to note that comic books haven’t caught up with the digital age yet. Hope you’ll let us know more about that, and also, hope that technology makes that leap soon and offers you more options.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. Stop back by when you can!

      Like

  2. Thank you for sharing this!

    I’m a young guy with aspirations to make a living off my writing. By doing web promotions, blogging, and hopefully, in the future, book publishing. Its scary. But you’ve confirmed that it is possible and worth the climb.

    Another awesome point you bring up, that I don’t think many young writers realize, is that you can’t find success writing on your own. An editor is so essential. Feedback is necessary. You can’t grow in a vacuum, even doing something as “solitary” as writing.

    Thanks again. Great post!

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    • Hi, Young Guy With Aspirations! That’s the best kind of Young Guy to be!! Hope you’ll stop by often, Screensnacks, and I apologize for the delay in responding to your comments. I didn’t receive the usual “Comment Being Held For Approval” type of email, for some reason. You are all approved now, and good to go.

      It is definitely scary to put your heartfelt work out there for others to see. (And if it isn’t heartfelt, then why would you write it?) But as an Old Granny With Aspirations can attest, it most certainly is possible, scary or not, and worth everything you put into it to reach your dreams!

      I think blogging is a wonderful warm up to writing a book. It exercises your skills and challenges your brain, and it’s just plain fun. And you will have a place to start when it is time to tell people your book has Gone Live. (Two absolutely thrilling words, btw.)

      And yes, an editor is essential!! If I could offer one bit of advice to many of the self-published authors out there, it would be to NOT skip hiring an editor, no matter what else you have to do without. AND, find Beta Readers. As many as you can. They will keep you honest before you even get to the editing stage. (That’s two bits of advice, I know, but hey…who’s counting?)

      Here’s what I did, and it worked for me. I set up a private, invitation-only blog, and invited a dozen or so people who were interested in following along with my rough draft of my book. I posted chapters there, one or two at a time, and I listened to their feedback. They helped me so much, both by way of support and encouragement, and by catching typos and continuity issues. They also questioned me when something I wrote didn’t work for them for one reason or another. I took their advice very seriously, and usually made changes. Sometimes, I had reasons for a certain story line and kept it, though I might have added a bit for clarification.

      When my rough draft was finished, I went back through it myself, editing and revising, and using a machete to cut out stuff I knew was overwritten. And then I hired an editor to go in with a scalpel and finish the cuts, catch the grammar and punctuation errors, and help me refine the story. It was the best investment I ever made, and any errors that remained in my first upload of the book to Kindle were acquired during the formatting process, and in no way the fault of my editor.

      You don’t necessarily have to go for the big guns–the editors who work with the biggest authors in the country. Shop around for someone more affordable, but who has decent credentials and offers good value for your money. And discuss the type of editing you are looking for. I didn’t want anyone to totally rewrite sections of my work, so I found an editor whose style was very compatible with mine, and we developed a very good relationship as we worked.

      Every author approaches things differently, of course, but your goal is to produce not only a good story, but a book that looks professional and is as clean and accurate as possible. Start as you mean to finish, as the old saying goes. Make your first book as good as you can, and stick to that each time.

      Much good luck to you, and I hope you will stop by often. I love to talk with other writers! Have a great day!

      Like

  3. I am just so totally impressed with your efforts…not just the writing of the book, but the whole process. Amazing. Daunting for most, but not you!

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    • Oh, I have been daunted here and there along the way, Sharechair. In fact, right now as I realize that some typos slipped by ALL of us, I’m feeling a healthy dose of dauntification …um…dauntiness …er…daunthood?

      As I sit here, re-reading every chapter with a magnifying glass so I can upload a corrected version of the manuscript later tonight, I’m just plain discouraged. But. Once I get it done, I’ll be all full of optimism again. And SO happy that with digital publication, corrections are possible.

      Thanks for being impressed with me, though. I can count on the fingers of one hand how many people are. Actually, I can count that on one finger. I think you are probably it! 😀

      I will say I have worked hard on this, throughout the entire learning process, and all so that my next book will be better in every way. Better plot, better writing, better formatting, better proofing, and well-edited again. It’s worth every bit of the work to watch my dream finally come true.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Like

  4. I’ve self-published about a dozen ebooks and have published one paperback with a mainstream publisher. To be honest, I wouldn’t seek out another book deal — that experience was interesting, but fraught with angst and ended up bringing in less money than an ebook. On the other hand, ebooks continue to be easier and more fun for me to create.

    It’s essential to have an multi-faceted online presence, though, to drive the success of your ebooks. Especially during launches, in which I give away free pdf copies to about a dozen readers each time to prime the review pump and announce the new ebook on my blog, facebook, google plus page, and via an email list. Amazon’s free periods can also be used to great advantage, assuming you’ve enrolled in KDP select (and even more so once you have multiple books out). Good luck!

    Like

    • Hi, Anna! Great to see you commenting today, and to hear that you’ve been having good luck with your eBooks. I think for me, it’s the way to go, too.

      I agree with your multi-faceted online presence approach. I need to add a few more “facets” to mine. I’ve become a Goodreads author, and have started a blog there, though it’s only two days old, and I’ve announced on Facebook, and am trying to expand there. I’ve never done much with that, as it isn’t my favorite way to communicate, but I’m working on it. I’m not familiar with Google Plus. I will have to check it out right away.

      I’ve used my email list, and am enrolled in Kindle Select, which I think is a great way to go, certainly in the beginning. And I’m working on the multiple book thing, too. But I’m actively searching for those best ways to get the word out.

      I’m really glad to hear that it has been working well for you, and have been meaning to check in with you for some time. Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment. As always, I learn good stuff from you!

      Like

  5. I ordered it today for my kindle…you and another friend both had a book published. I better get busy reading!! 😉

    Like

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