FAQ About Self-Publishing
A student in graduate school for publishing & writing was assigned to interview an electronic publishing professional for her electronic publishing class and asked me if I’d be interested. I said yes, and then she sent me these excellent questions, many I’ve been asked before. I thought these would fit perfectly under an FAQ. Here we go:
You initially started with self-publishing before going the traditional route. What made you decide to publish your first book that way?
The publishing process is daunting, and I wasn’t planning on writing turning into a career, so I researched how to publish my own book. I wasn’t in it for the money. Also, I admittedly had a bit of an ego. I’d written fan fiction before and had nearly a million views at the time. I didn’t want to query an agent or publisher and be rejected. I already knew I was good enough, and querying felt, ironically enough, like I was seeking validation. Being successful on my own gave me more pride in my writing abilities. I did it without an agent or publisher. Going the traditional route now is more of a business decision and not one ripe with a need for authenticity.
What were some of the difficulties and advantages you had with self-publishing your book?
The two biggest difficulties for me were time and money. One of the reasons self-publishing is frowned upon is due to the amount of writers who don’t put the time and effort into releasing a well-written product with a decent cover. That was my goal after I wrote my first manuscript. I hired multiple editors that worked in the publishing business and a graphic design artist who graduated with a degree in graphic design (not just some Joe Schmoe who knows how to cut and paste on Photoshop). My first year, I came up in the red (-$16,000). But my second year took off. I was able to quit my full-time job at WKU to write. Self-publishing isn’t for everyone. Publishing in any form isn’t easy, and anyone who says it is has no idea what they’re talking about.
More and more people are turning to self-publishing and eBooks. What do you think appeals people to this?
Immediate gratification. The traditional route can take up to 5 years. You have to write and revise your manuscript, query agents (which can take several months to years), then your agent has to query editors (several more grueling months of what I like to call the Hurry Up & Wait game). By the time your book is acquired by a publisher, it’ll most likely be another 1.5-2 years before it reaches bookshelves. If you’ve written a book that’ll fit into the current market, self-publishing is usually the better route (in my opinion), just because agents and publishers have moved on from the current popular genre two years ago and won’t be interested in your manuscript.
Another reason is that one’s book might fit into a tiny, unique niche that agents and/or publishers aren’t publishing at all.
Do you find that your job is a lot easier working with a publisher rather than publishing on your own?
The truth is, I’ve never worked on my own. I’ve always had a team behind me every step of the way (sometimes up to 10 people working on a single manuscript). However, the prospect of not managing all of those people sounds amazing. I still self-publish for some of my titles, but I hope to eventually move to a publisher for good. Though I may always be a hybrid author.
You blog frequently. Why do you feel that it’s important to have a blog?
I feel it’s important to have a blog if you blog. If you aren’t going to put in the effort, it’s a worthless tool to have. Blogging isn’t for everyone, and it’s probably one of my least favorite things to do. Writing a blog post can take up several hours of my time, which I’d prefer to spend writing on my manuscript.
Do you find it hard to manage a blog while creative writing?
I don’t find blogging to ruin my creative process in the least. Actually, I believe that reading nonfiction books along with fiction ones helps me be more creative in writing creative fiction (same goes for writing things outside the fiction world). But as far as my time goes, see above.
Can you describe a typical working day?
A day is never the same. I also have different routines depending on what I’m currently working on. If I’m writing my next book, I like to go straight to work after showering and eating something (because once I go to my office, I won’t eat again for about 8 hours). I recently bought a typewriter, and now I write first drafts using that. No distractions, and there is no screen to burn my eyes. I’m able to write a lot more and faster this way.
If I’m revising, I drag my feet. Might watch a little TV or decide to go to town for no good reason whatsoever. Sometimes I get sucked into the time portal that is social media—especially Twitter. I hate revising because that’s the time when I’m forced to read my first draft and fix it. There’s a reason no one reads my first drafts: they’re so dreadful even I don’t want to read them.
Mostly, though, my routine is that I take a shower, eat, hydrate (very, very important), and dress before going to my office. I don’t play in my office, so when I sit down in there, my brain automatically knows it’s work time. As much as I’d love to write in my PJs, I can’t. I’ve trained myself. Clothes mean business; PJs mean lazy time.
If I’m on the road, which happens quite often, I’ve been known to record myself telling a story or plotting while driving, then I’ll write it out later. If I’m with other people, I rarely get work done. This is why I like to drive alone.
How do you manage your time, and what goals (if any) do you set for yourself for a daily workday?
I have a spreadsheet for each project I’m working on that shows my word count and goal. Normally I don’t set a daily goal like most authors. My reasoning: if I set a goal of 2,000 words, I’ll stop writing at 2,000 words even if I’m motivated enough to spit out another 4,000 (because I’m lazy that way). Instead, I have a word goal for the first draft and a deadline on when I want it finished. So on days where I just can’t quite reach the word count I need, I don’t feel so bad because the day before I wrote 10,ooo words.
How do you think electronic publishing and self-publishing are changing the publishing industry?
It’s forcing the dinosaur publishers to evolve (finally). Some of them are digging their heels in and refusing to adapt. Many authors I’ve spoken with have different attitudes toward their publishers based on the digital age. For example, two authors have had complaints about [publisher name redacted] and their horrible digital prices. Because they price their ebooks as high as their paperbacks, less digital copies are selling. This hurts the author and the publisher, but some just refuse to back down. On the other end of the spectrum, there are new digital imprints emerging that are practically raping authors in their contracts. There has been some backlash on the Internet about a few of these imprints. However, I believe some of these imprints have changed their contracts, especially after John Scalzi exposed them on his blog. Regardless of both ends, I believe digital publishing is an amazing thing, and it’ll continue to grow. Those refusing to enter this new age are truly going to miss out, and some imprints are definitely catching onto this and turning out wonderful books, like those from Avon Books.
Where do you see the industry going in the next 5 years?
It’s already heading this direction, so it isn’t much of a prediction, but I definitely see publishing aficionados dealing with authors like myself: the hybrid. It’s already being accepted (like at my agency, Foreword Literary), but there is so much controversy and criticism about self-publishing that it’s still a tough business to break through. Only a tiny, tiny percent of self-published authors make enough money to live off of. I’m one of the lucky few who hit the top 100 right before the self-publishing market became flooded, which is one reason I was able to get ahead of the game. (Also, my book covers are professional.)
What project are you currently working on, and is it something you developed on your own or with a team?
I just turned in a new manuscript to my agent. It’s a New Adult Romance (Contemporary), and it’s the first time I’ve written anything that wasn’t fantasy or science fiction. All of my books, except one (which is also with my agent), were written solely by me, though there are always a slew of eyes reading, editing, and helping me revise. I’m about to finish the first draft of book 3 of my Summer Chronicles (YA Science Fiction). But there’s also a new project I’m plotting right now that’ll be co-written with another author. (Read about my co-author here. Or read about our writing process here.)
Is there a new tool or program that you are interested in learning about or incorporating into your job?
I’m always looking for new ways to make my job easier. Be that programs that help me organize, ones that make actual writing easier, or ones that kick my ass into gear. I’ve worked with dozens of programs, from Dragon Dictate, Write or Die, to Scrivener. (You can read more about my writing process & the programs I’ve used here.)
Because you blog frequently, do you ever have problems with information overload? If so, how do you combat those issues?
Not really. You have to approach a blog post like you would writing. Kill those darlings. Chop, slice, delete. Simple is almost always better.
Do you have advice for anyone interested in your profession?
DON’T DO IT. Hahaha. But, if one is determined to be a writer . . . WRITE. You can’t do anything until you write. Many people start a novel, but only a handful of them actually finish one.
If you have a question you’d like me to answer, please leave it in the comments section.
Halo of the Sun
Webs of Convexity
(Tocsin Saga, #1)
The Acid Method
(Paradoxical World, #2)
(Summer Chronicles, #4)