Why Don’t You Self-Publish?

At work, I’m known as “the guy that’s written two books.” People are constantly asking me how my writing’s going. It feels good. Actually, it feels great to know that my co-workers care about my efforts outside the Day Job. It’s rewarding to know that they think it’s really cool that I’ve managed to crank out over 200,000 words (not counting my short fiction), and they’re amazed at my ability to juggle work, family, writing, eating and sleeping.

I love the people I work with… until they ask if it’s published. I tell them about the two short stories I have published, and they congratulate me. Then, in the same breath, ask if the novels are published.

My usual answer is, “I’m working on it.” That’s the truth. I’m searching high and low for agents and editors that may show a glimmer of interest in what I’ve created.

Then they drop the hammer on me by asking, “Why don’t you self-publish?”

Dammit.

These days, I don’t really have a good answer for this. When I was asked this three or four years ago, my answer went something like this, “There’s no vetting or editing on self-published work. It’s just people throwing words at the screen and hoping someone wants to buy them. I don’t want to be lumped in with that crowd.”

While these statements are still true, there are tons of people out there who have put in the time, effort, energy and money to have their work professionally edited. There are some stand-out self-published novels these days. Would I like to be lumped in with the shining examples of quality work? Certainly. The problem comes in putting in the effort to become one of those stand-out people. I’m not talking in the craft going into the words, but into the energy the business side of things requires to be successful.

In the self-publishing world, there are a few hard markers by which to measure success. Sales figures are king. Number of quality reviews is the queen. Having a high average rating is the crown prince. Obtaining (and keeping) loyal fans are the dukes and duchesses of the measuring stick of success in the self-publishing world. However, it takes tons of effort to get all of that. Not just in writing, editing and producing the book. There’s a whole mess of crap that sits on top of the writing to make sure things go well.

There’s money to spend on a quality cover. There money to spend on a quality editor (even if you have a critique group). There’s money to spend on a layout person (or do it yourself *shudder*). There’s money to spend on getting the book in the right places online and in brick & mortar stores. Then comes marketing. I haven’t a clue where to start marketing anything, let alone a book. That’s probably my biggest barrier right there, so I’d have to pay a marketing genius (I happen to know one) to put together a marketing plan for me.

It’s just too much.

That’s why I’m not self-publishing. I want to focus on my craft of writing and leave the cover, layout, design, production, distribution and marketing to the pros. That means the publishing houses.

Yeah. Yeah. I know the truth of the matters about marketing. Unless a publisher has already advanced you stupid amounts of money, they’re not going to back you with even more stupid amounts of money for advertising and marketing. That’s normally on the shoulders of the author to take care of some (most??) of it. So, if I land a publishing contract, I’ll be reaching out to the marketing genius I know and offering him a healthy part of whatever advance I get to come up with a marketing plan for me.

Another reason I’m not going with self-publishing is this:

I think my book is great. My former critique partners thought the book was great. My wife thinks the book is great.

Does that delude me into knowing the book is great?

Nope.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in my book 100%. I just need to find that professional out there (agent or editor) that believes in the greatness of my writing as much as I do. It’s confirmation that my efforts have been worth it. It’s validation that I can produce quality writing. It’s an ego stroke. It’s that “rubber stamp” and “big thumbs up” from someone that knows what they’re doing in this industry.

Have I completely ruled out self-publishing? No, but it’s not for me right now.

Podcasts I Listen To

I have a huge commute (75 miles one-way) to get to work. Of course, I have the same return trip each day to get back home. This means I listen to quite a few podcasts. Here’s my current list, in alphabetical order:

I have plenty of audio to listen to, but I never seem to have enough to last me a week. I usually get 2-3 “commute days” of good audio from the above podcasts, which leaves me with 2-3 days in the car without the beloved voices in my head.

Any suggestions from anyone out there on a good podcast I can add to my list? Please leave a comment if you have a suggestion.

Monday Muse: 2013-02-18

From time to time, my muse rears her head and talks to me. I’ve managed to capture some of these conversations and am sharing them with you. I will warn you that my muse is a potty-mouth. I have no control over what she tells me. Sorry.

Muse: Congrats on finishing those edits.

Me: Thanks. It’s time for me to take a break from novels for a bit.

Muse: What?!?

Me: Don’t worry. I’m not taking a break from writing. I just need to work on some short form.

Muse: Why do you want to do something like that?

Me: I just need a brain break. I want to do another round of edits on Warmistress, but I need to clean out my headspace before I do that.

Muse: *rolls eyes* Fine. Be a wimp about it. What kind of short stories do you have in mind?

Me: I was thinking something urban fantasy. Got any ideas for Marcus Barber and the Modern Mythology series?

Muse: Yes. I have several ideas for him. What do you want? Pixies, Goblins, a Sphinx? Ooh! How about a Gorgon or Basilisk. I’d love to see how Marcus avoids getting turned to stone.

Me: Those are all great ideas. I love the thought of him being turned to stone. I wonder how he’d get out of that? I wonder if he could without intervention from The Ancients.

Muse: Tell you what. Let’s save that for later. How about we get your short story juices flowing with… rescuing a pixie from a half-blind butterfly collector.

Me: I like it! Lay the story on me.

Muse: *whispers into my ear*

Me: Great! *starts furiously typing*

Muse: Enjoy the short story, but don’t take too long. We still have to finish off Laurin’s story. *fades into the darkness*

Warmistress — First Round of Edits Finished

I just finished the first round of edits on Warmistress.

Does this mean the novel is done?

Not by a long shot!

I’m going to take a week or two break from the novel to clear my head. Then I’ll print the entire thing, three-hole punch it, and throw it into a binder with a couple of red-ink pens. I’ll carry this with me for a few weeks as I do another round of red-line edits. Then the edits will land into the electronic version of the manuscript, and we’ll go from there.

It feels really good to be done with the first round of edits. Quite a large load is off my shoulders.

I think I’ll go write a few short stories now, just to cleanse my palate of writing the novel.

Wednesday Writing Journal: 2013-02-13

Sorry to sound like a broken record, but I’m still editing Warmistress. I’ve made a few passes over chapters 11-13, but I’m not quite done with them. I did take a side character that the protagonist meets and made her quite a bit more bat-shit crazy. I either needed to make the side character compassionate or totally insane. I thought it would be more fun (and a little shocking) for the reader if the character went off the deep end and wrought utter destruction in the area of the protagonist. It worked out quite well, I think.

Wednesday Writing Journal: 2013-02-06

Edits are continuing along nicely. I’m done with chapters nine and ten, and a decent amount through chapter eleven.

I have some serious notes about going back to revise the end of chapter nine, but I want to wait until I’m all done with revisions of the book before going back for major surgery on the chapter. Fortunately, it’s just the end of the chapter and will only lead into minor revisions of the beginning of chapter ten.

Right now, chapter nine is one of my longest chapters, and I plan on making it longer. Once I’ve lengthened the chapter out a significant amount, I’m going to go back, find a nice break point and chop nine into two chapters. This will bump my total chapter count to twenty for the book.

Of course…. I may find another chapter that’s in need of pseudo-mitosis, so I may end up with more chapters than just twenty. I’ll see how things go.

Monday Muse: 2013-02-04

From time to time, my muse rears her head and talks to me. I’ve managed to capture some of these conversations and am sharing them with you. I will warn you that my muse is a potty-mouth. I have no control over what she tells me. Sorry.

Muse: I told you if you didn’t get your shit together and finish those edits by the end of January, I’d have to give my inspirations to other people.

Me: So you cheated on me with another writer?

Muse: Sure did. He’s going to be making Fast and Furious 7, so I gave him some chase scene ideas.

Me: *scoffing laugh* He can have those ideas. I don’t want them. I’m a fight scene kind of writer anyway.

Muse: What?!? You mean you’re not upset?

Me: Hell no. Those movies are crap. Keep giving the bad ideas to other people and save the good stuff for me.

Muse: Fine. Be that way. *pouts*

Me: Now go give some ideas to the people making A-Team 2. I’m sure they could use your help as well.

Muse: How dare you! See if I ever come back. *fades to darkness*

Me: *to the darkness* You’ll be back. You always return.