I have dragged my feet and generally taken far too long to get here, but as of yesterday at 9:46 am et, my first book, Autumn’s Daughter, became available for sale via Amazon.
Would you care to purchase a copy? I’d be ever so grateful. :)
A Few Thoughts on Self-Publishing
One of the reasons I’ve taken so very long to publish this book is that I’ve been waffling about the best approach. Book publishing is at a bit of a crossroads. Self-publishing an ebook is a much less expensive and risky proposition than self-publishing a print book, which ultimately means that the barrier to entry doesn’t do anything to control the quality of what’s out there. How on earth is a humble reader to know which self-published books are worth their hard-earned dollars?
But there’s also a rising democracy of art which is giving more and more power to individual artists to be heard without the backing hand of a major publishing house.
Major publishing houses make me anxious because the whole business model of advances on royalties seems…binding. The pressure to write something that can be sold isn’t always conducive to producing the most genuine or innovative stories. And let’s be blunt: there is a shit-ton of anxiety in the whole query process. I heard it quoted that the average book that makes it to publication goes through about 35 queries…so that’s months or years of writing and revising a frickin’ request for one person to read a book. And if…IF…you can get that one person to agree to take you on as a client, they then embark on the mission of trying to sell your book to a company, which they may or may not manage to do, and IF they do sell it, there’s a cranky corporate machine that analyzes your book for profitability, cuts it up, spits it out, brands it, and so on, until finally your book makes it to the real world for readers to engage with.
And what has the writer been doing, meanwhile? Writing and re-writing queries instead of stories? Slaving away on books that might never see the light of day? Running in circles revising this first book with no real sense of whether the revisions are improving the situation? Getting stuck in a quagmire of anxiety about whether writing is a valuable pursuit?
I’m not saying there’s no room for the major publishing house model: the touch of many expert hands might turn a real stinker of a manuscript into a polished jewel. I am absolutely certain that my own book would be cleaner and sharper if I had that sort of support network, and my launch-day sales would be higher because of the marketing dollars and expertise that publishing houses spend to support their investment. And when you’re looking at the risk and dollars involved in print publishing, the traditional model makes much more sense. But:
There’s another way to share stories, and I think it’s a way that is less likely to make me lose my marbles.
I work for a web development company, and our internal slogan is “fail early, fail fast, fail often.” We design in the browser, we run A/B tests, we mess around with test variables, we track analytics, and we make our process as transparent as possible to clients to give them ownership in the design process through opportunities to provide continual feedback. It’s mad efficient and it makes client relationships smoother because they know what to expect from the get-go. We don’t invest massive amounts of time and energy in any stage without client approval because our model is designed to be lean, light, and flexible.
Because of the magic of the internet, of the information age, this “minimum viable product” approach can apply to just about anything. I’ve put out a book that is as carefully edited as my poor brain filters, the help of my friends, and a few limited resources can achieve. Is it worth five bucks? Yes. Can we do more with it? Abso-friggin-lutely. So what do you want? Do you want an audiobook? Do you want me to pay for better copyediting? Do you want the sequel faster than next fall? Do you want merch and bling? Because we can communicate through any number of platforms (Twitter, Goodreads, Google+, my contact form), I can talk directly to you and we can make this little book our plaything, bring it into whatever medium we like.
Not to be a massive cheeseball, but I like the idea of being the people’s writer instead of being just one cog of many in a huge corporate complex.
I KNOW. I published on Amazon. It doesn’t get any more huge corporate complexy than that, and believe me, I don’t love all of their policies. But here’s the thing: I can’t actually talk to readers and cultivate that creative community with them unless I can first find those few honest-to-goodness fans who love my story for itself, not just because they love me as a person. Amazon is a not-stupid place to start finding and connecting with those folks. I can’t speak to how Amazon deals with publishing houses, but as an individual author, I have a massive amount of control over my work, far more marketing support than I could possibly afford to pay for on my own, and direct access to substantial communities of folks who are most likely to truly enjoy what I have to offer. Maybe established authors and publishing houses can afford to pooh-pooh that kind of opportunity. Maybe someday we’ll have built a big enough community that I can make my work free to everyone on a pay-what-you-want model…but I’m too pragmatic a person to pretend I’m even close to being there, so for now: Amazon.
So. To sum up: I have chosen self-publishing as my first option because I think it’s got some cool potential over traditional publishing that suits my worldview, and I am looking forward to connecting with readers. If you’re of a mind to go adventuring with me, the first, best things you can do to send us on our way are (1) Read my book and (2) leave a specific, honest review.