Thursday, 1 May 2014

Publishing Basics Part 1 Why I Self Publish

Exciting news; have just self-published my very first fiction book!

Yes, After The Winter is live on Amazon as an ebook and paperback.

Considering this big event, I thought I would take the time today to talk about publishing. I've self-published three of my own works now, and I highly recommend self-publishing to most writers. However, I also recommend that all writers go through the process of submitting to traditional publishers and agents as well. But I'll tell you more on that in Part 2.

Today I'm going to tell you why I self publish.

There are two facts that most writers need to acknowledge (for a very few it might not stand true, but I've never actually heard of any):
1. Your first million words (give or take a few hundred thousand) are going to be practice. 
2.  You can't make it with just one book. To become noticed, you need to write at least three books, preferably five.

Now consider the traditional publishing path.

First of all, they are expecting great quality work (which they should, don't get me wrong). If you are a debut author, you need to do the drafting and editing until it is as close to a publishable product as possible.

Second, then they will take 1-3+ years to take that almost ready to be published product and publish it. During this time you will be called to re-work, re-think, and basically chain your life's blood to this book. If you are disciplined you will be working on the next book, but otherwise you'll get to the end of the three years with nothing else ready.

Third, as a debut author, they are unlikely to do much, if any, marketing for you. It is true that they have a much larger distribution, so if people know to look for you they will be able to find you much more easily, but otherwise your one little book is going to sit on a shelf in a bookstore all alone.

So after a few years, you're not going to be any further along in your quest for glory.

However, replay that scenario this way. Think of these first three years as your apprenticeship to the art of writing.

You start your first year with a, let's be honest, reasonably rough draft (despite thinking it is ready to submit to agents). However, you know that you have to do everything yourself, so you edit it as well as you can (much better than if you think eventually someone else is going to come along and edit it) and you pay for an editor to go over it.

You then learn about marketing, categorisation, writing product descriptions, what's involved in a good back blurb and cover. In doing this you realise you've written a book that's a pain in the ass to market because you don't have a firm audience. You publish it all the same, and go through the process of getting reviews and building an audience... slowly. You sell a few to family, and through running giveaways you get a few more people interested in it. From this you get some useful (and some not so useful) feedback about your book.

In the second year you think you know what you did wrong last time. You write another book, this time making sure it's more marketable and fixing up the mistakes your editor pointed out last time. You are already thinking of great taglines and descriptions as you write. You realise now that you need an audience so you start visiting forums and blogs in your area. You get it edited again, and this time the editor can point out a whole new area you might need to work on, now that you've gotten over the basic mistakes.

When you are almost ready to publish, you contact the people who were kind enough to write a review last time and ask them if they'd like a free pre-launch copy of the second book. Some of the blogs you've interacted with ask if you want to do a guest blog post, and run a giveaway of your book. You publish your book and run another free giveaway. People see it has some good reviews, and so take the time to buy the first one and get the second for free. You then get a bit more feedback. You also try playing with the first book's description, to see if you can get it tighter. You might even republish it.

Then in your third year you really feel you've gotten this under control. Your first draft is a hundred times better than that initial book, it's market orientated and you've got a killer tagline for the series now. Also, you've got a great team who are willing to review your book and an audience who are waiting for your next book.

From this point you can choose. You could try submitting the series to a publisher, as you now have a much stronger product (you've had to re-write the first book a bit, but it's better because of it) and can point to your loyal fans. Or you love what you do and decide to keep doing it yourself.

Another option is to finish this series off yourself, and submit your next work to a publisher. The great advantage to this method is that your publisher will get the new book out far and wide, and people who like that will then go 'wow, I wonder if they've written anything else?' and find your self-published work on Amazon.

It's also good for the publisher as everyone who loved your self-published work will buy the book they produce.

Now, if you do something silly like publish three books in completely different areas, say like writing, internet dating, and romance, then it is going to take a while longer. But luckily I'm prepared for that. I think if I haven't made it after twenty years, then I'll think about changing careers.

I should also point out that despite self-publishing three books, I haven't actually published the very first book that I wrote. Or the very first three books. Those three, a trilogy, are still in the queue for a traditional publishing contract. I love them too much to bring them before I'm working at the standard of a traditional publisher.

So want to know why I'm holding onto these three to traditionally publish? Well, tune back in next time.

But so as not to leave you hanging with nothing to read, I'm going to run a giveaway of my 1920's romance.

For the next week, until the end of Thursday 8th, leave a comment with the worst line in a published Romance you've read and I'll send you a epub version of my new book; After The Winter.


  1. Congrats on your self-pub!

    1. Thanks Ryan, was pretty excited myself.

  2. So excited for your third book... Right now i cant think of a really bad line...possibly one that read something like... As i brushed my long luxurious hair.... Hmmm lol

    1. It's probably lucky you don't write dodgy romance!
      In my new serial my main character gets to read through the slush pile, so I'm trying to come up with a few really bad lines, but it's harder than you would think. Truly awful is an art form.
      I'll send you over a copy of After The Winter for your efforts all the same.