22 August 2011

To self-publish or to not self-publish? (And a conversation with my childhood self)

If there is anyone that I answer to when it comes to my writing and its future…it is my younger self. It’s the young girl in me that has wanted to write as long as she could remember. She seems to be the driver of this ship, so I ask, “To self-publish or to not self-publish?”

In response, my younger self stamped her foot, crossed her arms, and gave me the “are-you-kidding-me” look and said, “No chance. It won’t feel the same! No way! You want that experience of going to New York to meet your publisher and see your name in [metaphorical] lights!” Alright, we better let her stop there, because she can really go on a tangent…and immaturity aside, I still wonder about the experience of self-publishing, and whether or not it would feel the same to me.

While my younger self avoids this blog post entirely –she’s pouting in a corner somewhere—I still can’t help but recognize the slow demise of printed, published books meeting the same fate as the music industry. And with recent news of Border’s Books going under, and the growing popularity of self-publishing sites such as Amazon, Smashwords and Feedbooks, and the ever-growing popularity of eReaders, I question what the future is of publishing through the standard publishing house? Will the published paperback get to be as rare as people buying CD’s and listening to them on a CD Walkman? I mean, I do have friends who still buy CDs, just like I will always buy my books…

And not to mention that I still want to get that letter of approval. I want someone else to tell me my book is damn good and they want it published for millions of people to read (or at least thousands…hell, hundreds would be good for me). I want to do a book signing. I want to look my name up on a library computer and see my name with my books there and hopefully a few people on the waiting list wanting to read them. Is that a childhood dream that needs maturing? What are the real experiences of self-published authors?

With all of this rolling around in my head, I turned to my followers on Twitter, my Google Plus circle, and my peers on the Writer’s Digest community.

On Twitter, I asked writers to talk about their experiences with self-publishing and if they would ever do it again…and in 150 characters or less…

@RyanLSchneider told me, “I will only self-publish in the future. Decent learning curve. But holding all the cards is priceless.” (You can also check out his blog to find details on his book and experiences as a writer at http://authorryanschneider.blogspot.com/)

@Peter_Smalley told me, “Self-pub is the radical idea readers can buy a great book for $5, of which the author gets $5.” (Check out his newest book Grimme)

And on Google Plus (my latest in Social Media fascination…check out my blog post on inspiring online communities to find out why)…I asked similar questions on the experience of self-publishing…
Michelle Murrain said, “It has been great/frustrating/rewarding/painful and I wouldn’t do it any other way. Happy there is an outlet for quality work that might not get published otherwise.” (Check out her website Casitian Universe to get details on her latest novel)

I also got some great feedback and resources from Elizabeth Flora Ross on a blog post she wrote in 2010 about the pros and cons of self-publishing. Something she wrote on this post struck me the most, “My biggest failing was that I did not realize it takes much more than simply writing a good story to make a book successful. It requires a great deal of time and money, not to mention connections and a reputation.” She even questions the future benefits of self-publishing now that she has begun to query literary agents publish her second book the traditional way (Check out Elizabeth Flora Ross’s book here!)

But, on another completely different note…Elizabeth also gave me so great resources for writer’s on self-publishing and I stumbled across a blog post by Nathan Bransford, a novelist and former literary agent, entitled, Amanda Hocking and the 99-Cent Kindle Millionaires, which immediately caught my attention. He describes the success of Amanda Hocking a self-published author who managed to make a million dollars off of her eBook Switched. In his post, Bransford continues to  emphasize that this is not usual success for self-published authors. At the same time, though, he does state, “[There is] more money to the [self-published] author per copy at $2.99 than a traditionally published eBook at $9.99.”

Yet, I still had my reservations about self-publishing and questions still remained. I still wondered whether it felt published to be a self-published author. If I really went this route, would I feel the need to explain myself if I told a friend I was published and had gone through the route of self-publishing? With those thoughts rolling around in my brain, I turned to one of my favorite writing communities, Writer’s Digest Community, and I asked the same question about the experiences of self-publishing. On writer, Tye Holland, talked about his experiences with self-publishing and faced a similar realization of the work with marketing as did Elizabeth.

And then another person responded, author, Thomas Wilson, who gave me an extensive, candid answer (which I am going to post later on as a separate link on my page), talking about his experiences with self-publishing. In response to my question about whether they felt they had reached “success” with self-publishing,Thomas replied, “I am living my dream! My book is published, and selling all on it’s own. I found a much better editor, completely rewrote [my second book] No Rules of Engagement and edited it spending every night from 8 [to] 12…while working a full time job Monday through Friday. It is miles ahead of my [first book] Whisper. I am currently working on the cover art, synopsis, and movie trailer for this book with plans to self-publish it September 11, 2011 on Smashwords and Amazon. I am not writing query letters or getting discouraged, I am writing, getting better, and being successful with heading towards my goal.”

Let me quote that again, “I am not…getting discouraged, I am writing, getting better, and being successful with heading towards my goal.”


Poignantly, he states, “I am even sure over the last couple hundred years some truly talented author’s work never saw the light of day because no agent or publisher gave them a chance. Now everybody at least gets a chance.”

After all the people I spoke with, and the experiences they shared, I realized something very informative about self-publishing. When I started writing this blog post, I came from the place of curiosity and whether or not self-publishing would feel the same to me, and whether I would feel successful if I chose this route. Through my bit of research and talking with self-published authors, it seems as if self-publishing is what you make it. Not only that, self-publishing lets the author get out of the passenger seat, and be the one to drive the car. And somehow, this appeals to me the most, especially since I love being in charge of things (my younger self, currently over her sulk-session, vehemently agrees.)

Today, I am inspired to write because of the possibilities that lie before me. I no longer have to mourn the loss of a book while it sits dusty, and unpublished, in my  desk drawer. I can take action and become part of the learning experience of being a writer. I can be read. I am inspired because the publishing industry seems to be turning on its heels and starting to paying attention to the people who have made their own success in this venue. And I am inspired because self-publishing seems to be the new YouTube for writers…and you know what? You just never know…



22 comments:

  1. Great post Nicole. Good luck with all your writing dreams and I hope they all come true!

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  2. Very thoughtful post Nicole. The main thing that keeps me from wanting to self publish is all of the other things that go along with writing a book, designing the cover, the marketing etc. But, I can see the appeal if you are willing to undertake those tasks.

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  3. Thank you Nicole! I am just starting my curious queries myself and this was very informative. I will watching for more.

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  4. Your post is very informative. I decided to self-publish after attending the Writer's Digest Conference in New York last January. I pitched my nonfiction book at the Pitch Slam and had an agent request the proposal.

    Through a follow-up phone conversation, she explained that due to the changes in the publishing industry, publishers want a minimum of 100,000 page views per month on the book's website...preferably 250,000. She warned that this would take a team of people to accomplish.

    I'm not a celebrity nor do I desire to be one. My book fits a niche market, and I'm at peace with my potential, be it limited and modest at best. I'm a hard worker who is willing to learn all the different facets required to self-publish. I just received the full interior proof from the createspace design team, and I'm thrilled.

    I know you will find the answer you seek. Thanks for including the rest of us in your process.

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  5. I'm still weighing the pros and cons while I prepare either to query or self-publish.

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  6. Very interesting post. I do think self-publishing is a very good option. It's an exciting time to be a writer.

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  7. I don't know enough about the business yet and, thus, I can't really answer this question for my own good. However, for anyone who wants a success story, check out John Locke on Amazon...

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  8. My husband and I are self publishing our nine Soulful Journals, and I'm going to publish my book (when it's finished) through a mid-tier publisher. I'm still really new to this entire world though (we've been making the journals ourselves for years and selling them to stores), so I'm still just soaking it all in. I do know that the industry is really changing quickly.

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  9. Hi! I’m on a blog hop and saw your blog and fell in love! I’m your newest follower. I would love you to check out my blog at http://thenummylittleblog.blogspot.com/
    Thanks! -Jilly-

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  10. Excellent post---I'm going to come back to this and check out your links. You've given me something to really consider!! Cheers, Jenn

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  11. Ahh the inner child within us all =) Great post, Nicole. When I feel lost or confused, I always get in touch with my younger self.

    I wish you all the best in your writing!

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  12. I self-published and I urge everyone to do a lot of research before you pick a publisher because there are self-publishing companies that rip people off. Plus you have to consider whether or not you just want an ebook on line or you want hard copies for book signings because the prices can vary greatly.

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  13. Nicole,
    I've been such a slacker about checking my comments lately because I get so much spam. Imagine my surprise when I saw your lovely message that I won your 'Versatile blogger' award! what a fabulous surprise. Thanks so much. Let me know what to do to claim it. ;-)

    Peace,

    Evelyn
    www.productivepen.com

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  14. Thanks Nicole! I'm just now sending in works to be published and all this self publish is whirling around me! It is overwhelming! Your post has provided avenues to research and come up with an answer.

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  15. @The Desert Rocks - Thank you!! (Me too!! Good luck with yours!!)

    @Christina - Thank you! Me too, that's the thing that still leaves me guessing. Promoting this blog feels like a lot of work for me, sometimes! Let alone a book that I want people to read! Sometimes its nice to know that there are others who are doing the leg work for you!

    @Humor after 50 - Thanks for reading! Good luck to you!

    @JoDee Luna - Thank you for reading! Those numbers that the publisher gave you are amazing! That's an incredibly large amount to expect! THat's really awesome that you stuck with your goal and that you feel pleased with the turnout. I think that's wonderful. Good luck to you with everything!!

    @shelly - Thanks for reading! good luck to you in making your decision!

    @Tonja - it is, isn't it?? I love knowing that, if we want, the ball is in our court!

    @E.D. - The first one to sell a million copies!! Wow, kudos to him (thought you were talking about the English Philospher...he's the first guy that came up on my google search Ha ha...) That shows you the possibilities of self publishing!

    @Jodi Chapman - Good luck to you! I hope you find success with your novels!

    @The Nummy Little Blog - oh thank you!! :) I'm so glad that you like it!! I'm following your blog now!!

    @Jenn - Thank you!! I'm so glad!!

    2shyxter - yup, our younger selves still are very aware about where our "adult" selves are taking them!! It's always good to look back to them and consider their point of view! :)) Thank you for reading!!

    @Deb Claxton - Yes, very good point! It takes a lot of research to figure out the right way to go, as there are a lot of self-publishers that are too willing to atke advantage!


    @Evelyn -- Yay!! I'm so glad you accepted it! I'll post a comment to your blog on how to accept it!

    @Judy Harper - I'm so glad my post can help!! Good luck to you in all your publishing endeavors!

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  16. I enjoyed this post as a follower writer I think that's always going to be one of those options we weigh now a days. Some people will be leaning way more toward tradition while others won't. For me it's gotta be the tradition publishing way.

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  17. So very well said about that you just never know. :)

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  18. Nicole,

    Nice post! Great way of looking at the issue. I can relate to the young kid's dream of seeing your name in lights and wanting to have someone tell you your work is good. Self-publishing is a valid option. I like that you say 'it is what you make it.' This is so true, too. I'm not sure yet about self-publishing, but you have answered some of my questions. Thanks for researching this topic and the responses you got were quite interesting. Good luck with your writing!

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  19. @JordanSky-I know what you mean! Im pretty sure my final decision will be traditional! But I like the idea that there are options!! :) thank youfor reading!!

    @yup!! You sure don't!! Thank you for reading!!

    @Lena Winfrey Seder - Thank you for reading!! I was certainly amazed at the help I got!! Hopefully the young girl in me will soon see the possibility in this option! :)

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  20. Awesome post! I have a book that's been burning inside of me to be written for the past few years and I've been recently debating this exact topic. Thanks for presenting this debate in such an interesting way.
    Char
    The Epic Adventures of a Modern Mom
    http://1epicmom.com

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  21. Hi, there, I just came across your blog, I guess through W.D. blog. Anyway, I've done both. My first book was self-published. I payed to have a book printed out. It is on Amazon. this was in 2008. I didn't have a powerful enough base to get people to buy it after my initial three book signings. I still have copies sitting in a box.

    I have tried for 30 years to become traditionally published. I've blogged about it too, and when I wrote my vampire novel, I tried everywhere to get it published, because I didn't want to have to worry about something no one will find out about. I'm now published with a small publisher based in Main. It is said writing is only part of the work, the rest is really up to you to promote it--and that even goes for those who have traditional publishers, as they do not have the $ to back you, unless they see something really exceptional about your book.

    So, it is a big question. Promotion is the key. If you are willing to work at it, and do all the promotions on line, you might surprise yourself, but also don't be discouraged with slumping sales. You have to keep people coming to your blog who want to read something different.

    I wish you the best of luck, Nicole, which ever way you publish.

    Very nice blog, by the way, and I've joined up.

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  22. Nicole - great post! It's actually going to be a topic of a post of mine likely within the next week. I should've added you to my blogroll earlier. I've now corrected that mistake. :-P

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