Choosing to Self-Publish

As I browse blogs written by those in the writing industry, providing advice for amateur authors like myself, there is pretty much only one piece of advice for the question “should I self-publish?”.

That answer is: NO.

I’ve just handed my first-ever manuscript off to someone for it’s first reading as part of the editing process. I’m planning on self-publishing, and as such I’ve been looking into what that means.

There are three types of self-publishing: vanity, subsidised, and print-on-demand (POD). Vanity publishing is where you pay a conventional printer to create a run of books and costs thousands of dollars. Subsidised self publishing also involves conventional printing presses, but part of the costs are paid by the publishing/printing firm & they assist you with marketing in return for a share of the sales.

Print-on-demand utilises newer printing technology that produces books on an individual or short-run basis. It can potentially cost very little up-front, and POD places can offer various services (for a fee) to help you distribute your book. It seems too good to be true, and it probably is: marketing a book is a lot of work.

I can’t tell you whether you should self-publish your book or not. What I can tell you is why I am opting to self publish Speak for the Dead.

The first thing about Speak for the Dead that had me leaning towards POD is the length. It is a “tight” story, compact and fast-paced. Clocking in at less than 45,000 words it is too short for a conventionally published novel. Self-publishing allows me to put this novella into print and sell it for less than a full-priced novel.

The second thing was the difficulty I’ve been having in pinning down the genre of my novella. Though it deals with crime, it is not a crime novel (which tend to be police procedurals), nor do I think it qualifies as a thriller (there is no sense of danger for the protagonist). That pretty much leaves me with the generic “teen” or “mainstream”. No joy there. Using POD lets me off the hook a bit with the whole pigeon-holing bit.

Thirdly, POD gives me the best of both worlds between “seeing my book in print” and “eBook”. eBook is obviously the easiest format to promote my novella in, but there is a certain satisfaction in having an actual physical book to hold. I’m still part of the old guard, I prefer novels (though there is something to be said for reading books in the dark on my iPad), and I’m most likely to read something new by picking up a novel at a discount book sale (do you know how expensive novels are in Australia???).

Finally, the thing that actually set all of this in motion, was that in conjunction with the NaNoWriMo winner rewards, I can get a half-handful of copies of my novella printed for free. So, even if I don’t sell a single copy & even if I can’t be bothered to market it one bit, I will still have my own printed novel. That makes me pretty happy.

Measuring Progress

I’m not sure when the idea of writing stories to publish first occurred to me. I’ve always dabbled in various creative pursuits, but the first time I really took my writing seriously was when I started reading the drafts a friend gave me and I realised that I could write better than that. This friend had been intent on getting published, I don’t know if they ever accomplished that goal, and I didn’t even go into my largest writing project with the idea that I would write a novel for public consumption. I just wanted to write something better than they could. Yes, I know how that sounds, and I’ll own it.

However, to this day, I still haven’t finished a single publishable work (I do have two short stories on SmashWords, and some flash fiction on Deviant Art, see the links to the right). I have a tendency to put things aside, go to bed, and never come back to them. My “studio” is littered with half-started projects waiting for me to get back to them, and I still promise myself that I will. One day.

Over the years, the thing I struggled with most when trying to re-involve myself in my magnum opus “Broken Wings” was starting again from the beginning. I’d edited the first chapter a thousand times, but the drafts of the later chapters hadn’t been touched since they were written. I wasn’t getting anywhere, I was just repeating the same, pointless cycle over and over again.
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Slow Blogging

On of the tips given to aspiring authors (like myself) is: write! The idea is that it doesn’t matter what you’re writing, because everything you write contributes to the development of your style and building the habit of writing every single day. For this reason a lot of hopeful writers spend a lot of time blogging, like I’m doing right now.

I know that I’m not bursting with good writing advice, and my life isn’t so interesting as to blog about myself, nor am I willing to go to the effort of researching something to link you to every day. You might say that blogging isn’t for me. Indeed, I prefer micro-blogging, better known as “tweeting”, which is more my speed.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t blog. I was reading about an idea called Slow Blogging, where instead of posting every day you post once a week, or once every two weeks. All the benefits of blogging without all the effort. Sounds like a win-win to me. So that’s what I’m going to try.

Wish me luck.