SelfPub at a Writers Expo? Where do I sign?

No, really, its not an rhetorical question.

It shouldn’t be a question.

I’ve been on this journey for three years now, and I’m still asking myself that question.

When I started my self pubbing journey I did it because there was a voice inside me that wasn’t just the woman who occasional wrote a bit, had even finished a couple of novels. I had a story I desperately needed someone to hear, and I could, and would not stop writing. My other novels weren’t so serious, but one summer I had a very serious story, and it grew and grew until it couldn’t be contained. I didn’t need to tell someone – I HAD to tell everyone!

And one of my earliest thoughts was; nobody will publish this story I’m writing.

Quickly on its heels came an immediate fear; then no one would read it.

Image result for self publishing meme

My journey for self publishing has been explained away many times, mostly to myself at night during bouts of sleepless self doubt. I didn’t think a publisher would take it on, it’s an epic story. I could get far better margins for myself if I was self published. I had to get the story out there so people could read it, because that was all that mattered to me.

Except I read an article the other day going off about the #cockygate, (and frankly, many of us did, romance writers or not). The entire affair was offensive, but what I noted about the article was something I myself had feared; the writer tore apart the offending party (we all know who she is), and in the process pointed out something rather critical.

“You self published because you’re scared of rejection.”

That hit home. Hard.

Everyone is scared of rejection, for a very simple reason; it hurts. A lot.

Even if she was doing it during an absolute shitstorm of rage against an author dragging down the very people who would have helped her get there in the first place. Many self published authors are kind, open, and perfectly happy to give advice on how they have gotten that golden opening to write full time on stories they love.

And there are quite a few of us now, and the number is growing every day. Some are just hobbyists, others incredibly serious. And I think somewhere in the middle are a not so small group who, like me… are hopeful. For what I couldn’t say, but its more than a hobby, but not yet a career.

So, when you look at the self pubbing authors, do you think all of them were scared? Oh boy, I hope so. I was scared of having my work rejected, not only as a novice writer but also because my idea (refresher – 10 books and 11 novellas all as one series), seemed so mammoth that it would be turned out on its ear from a traditional publishing house.

There was no way I wasn’t going to write it. For reasons that will become self evident over time. I firmly believed, heart and soul ,and in the darkest of nights, that I had a very specific story to tell. And friends, I didn’t sit for six hours in a torture chair to have the word “Storyteller” tattooed down my spine for nothing.

I can’t even tell you where I began, or how much I learned during this process. I can credit Nanowrimo and the subsequent prize of publishing with Pronoun (who’s departure from the selfpub field I am not over).

There are so many articles, websites, facebook groups, manuals, books, and online tutorials for self publishing that it isn’t funny.

And many of them are self serving, or have obvious intentions of solely making money, or simply put, have their own opinions based on a very narrow field of experience. Where are you from? What genre do you write? Did you have a cover designer? Have you got a social platform? You must have an editor. Let alone how good are your stories – that almost becomes a backdrop against what you have to have as a self published author.

Do you know what there isn’t a lot of? A central place for many striving authors to go and discover if this rather complicated journey is for them. Or if they keep trying to fight an incorporeal judge who, by reputation, has already told them, in no uncertain terms: “No, we don’t take work from unpublished writers.”

Every publishing house ever – even the ones who say they do accept non published authors, still need for you to get a good editor, good synopsis, and a host of other things, for them to even look at it.

I would have given anything to go and talk to someone before I decided to do this. It brings me to tears to think about how many mistakes I made, how I wasn’t sure I was ready or capable for the dedication this requires. If I was prepared for the amount of work involved, that has nothing to do with writing my actual stories.

When so many other countries are embracing what is one of the most rapidly growing markets, why aren’t we making places to do this that aren’t online groups?

Come on, Australia, why not? We are such a country focused on community and the arts and driving our passions, why aren’t we catering to one of the greatest fields out there?

Why aren’t we telling people with very small means, that no matter how insignificant they might feel, will one day change the world, that there is a space for them to simply tell stories.

The Well of Youth is LIVE!!

It didn’t dawn on me until I was sitting at the launch, the display out for everyone, that I felt like I could be excited! The local Mayor was coming to give a speech, my Dad flew down from the NSW coast unexpectedly, but I didn’t feel until that moment that I’d really done it.

As people started turning up it started to pass in a blur, but I got so many pictures, and I am pleased to say this is one of the few I took alone (the rest are with the many loved ones standing next to the banner with me – or without me, I’m looking at you David);

There was cake too! – Ok, so it doesn’t look like it, but that big fat book is really a big fat chocolate cake that was delicious, thank you Vaye!

I got to catch up with so many old friends, and people I didn’t expect who made the afternoon wonderful! It felt less about showing off what I’d done, and more being grateful to all the people there.

To Scott who spent so much time helping me with it.

To Nushie, who couldn’t be there, but gave me such beautiful artwork, breathing life into my stories.

To Kate for making me look so pretty.

To Caroline for making me not feel awkward when she took pictures.

To Lorna for being my aid that day, unquestioningly making it go smoothly.

And to Emily who cracked jokes when I was nervous.

To Dee who gave such a… moving speech. It was very hard to do my speech afterward!

All the friends who came from far and wide, and it felt far less like I was talking to a bunch of strangers about my self spoken importance, and more about how far I’d come, and that they’d all had a part of it.

To my husband’s family who was there to support me – it meant so much and they have always made me feel so included in their family, even if I was a little odd.

To my Dad… who didn’t just come, he helped inspire all of this. I still got through the speech but it wasn’t easy!

I spent the evening hanging out with old uni friends who hadn’t seen each other in years and eating pizza while we reminisced. And then I went home and tired as I was I couldn’t sleep!

The next day should have been about follow up but instead I was at the Allcan Events Fundraiser for Breast Cancer, giving a speech, not about my stories or that I was an author, but about my very brave aunt who fought off cancer for nearly twenty years.

A beautiful event hosted by a work collegue and friend, Gigi, I was honoured, not just that she took the time out of a busy prep Saturday for her fundraiser to come to my book launch, but she also asked me to speak at her luncheon.

Its been a few days coming but I am glad to see the books finally online everywhere and now the hard part of marketing.

I couldn’t have done any of it without the love and support of my husband to whom I am truly grateful. He probably won’t read that but its OK, I do tell him, every day. And intend to keep doing so even with all the books that are to come.

Thank you all of you who were there on the day, and those of you who couldn’t make it I still got your wonderful messages of love and support and it gave me a sense of accomplishment. Thank you all!

I’ve written a book, what now?

So you got it, you filtered through all those inspiring ideas and mad illusions, you found the time to put pen to paper (lol, no way, I mean fingers to keyboard), and came up with a great story that you think other people would want to read too.

Congratulations, because that is freakin’ awesome. Doing that part is sometimes the hardest of all.

Now you want to share it, but what do you do? Send your manuscript to get rejected with millions of others and give up? Do the risky, time-consuming self-publishing option? I’ve followed the latter, so it’s hard for me to advocate the former, but I can tell you this: Do the former, the worst that will happen is you’re rejected. Especially if you have a genre. If you can say to me: I wrote a Sci-Fi book! Then send it to a Sci-Fi publisher.

I didn’t.

I wrote a book that’s been called Star-Trek crossed with the Mummy, another called it Indiana Jones meets Victorian Goth. I call it a steam flavoured fantasy with a suspenseful horror twist. What a mouthful.

And I instinctively knew from online research I was going to have a really hard time selling it to a publishing firm that was going to look past my pitch in the first place. So I took the risk and self published.

If you are going to self publish, here is what I have learned so far, and I wanted to share it, and kudos to a cocktail loving friend of mine who wanted to pick my brain on how to go about it, and inspired this month’s blog post.

 

  1. Edit.

This takes the top priority, there is NOTHING more annoying to ANY form of reader than bad editing. Don’t ask me about the hours I spend at the computer or printed works looking for faults, I still miss them, and my editor is human and he misses them too. I’ve seen professional authors with publishers ask readers for editing mistakes before the book is republished. We ALL make mistakes, the more you can find the better. Get an editor, get beta readers, get friends and family to find them… and slaughter every one!!

*cough* I mean fix, fix every one.

When you are ready to publish I recommend Pronoun. They publish to Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, iBooks and Googleplay, they are super helpful and have made this much easier for me than I thought it could be.

 

  1. Get a good cover.

I think this is the most critical of your $$ spending. I am reading a fantastic book as part of a review club, and I cannot believe it doesn’t have heaps of reviews. I decided to review it because it had none, and while the blurb put me off a little, and needs an edit, I read the sample on Amazon and was quickly messaging the author screaming “GIVE IT TO ME!!!”

As the author was quick to let me know, he couldn’t believe something so insubstantial was of any importance, but we are fickle human beings, and are quick to judge books on their covers, despite what we say.

 

  1. Social media platforms

Have them. Work on them. Send out random tweets, update your FB page three times a week, get programs to help you do it if your time conscious. I have sold books based on my social networking, not many, but it’s a start. People know I exist, I have my own domain and website, if people try to look for me, they will find me. If they don’t know who I am and stumble upon me and like what I have to say then perhaps I’ve found someone who will read my book and love it as much as I do.

 

  1. Advertise

I see a lot of authors complaining their book isn’t selling but they aren’t willing to invest a little in smart advertising. And I do mean smart advertising. Don’t sell your dystopian Sci-Fi thriller to a contemporary romance e-magazine. Look up what other people are doing in your genre, and where their books are being displayed. I looked up “Steampunk e-newsletters” and found a group for fantasy/scifi fans and for a very small sum sold more books than with another enewsletter group wanting three times the price for a very generic readers group more interested in popular fiction i.e. romance.

I don’t have a romance…. Yet. Watch this space.

Or maybe not this pace but this website? Let’s stick with that.

 

  1. Get reviews

This is the hardest. Shouldn’t be right? But it is. How often when checking out a local restaurant do you see it only had 3 stars and after reading the mediocre reviews, give it a miss? Tripadvisor is a pinnacle of this, when I travel I check out the worst review and see if I can live with whatever warranted the poor review.

Now the tricky part. Don’t get friends and family to buy a copy, not read it, and say on Amazon: “This is better than Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings combined! Five stars! Buy this book!” People are going to look at those reviews and squint at them for being peculiar.

Join a readers group. Offer the book for free for honest reviews on your social media platforms. I can really recommend the Books Go Social Team, and their facebook groups. It’s a kind supportive and caring community and troll free (weird right? Yeah, completely troll free, indie authors don’t have time for that….)

 

Most of all? Don’t give up. I frequently wonder if getting up at 6am and staying awake till midnight is worth it, spending every spare second not at my full time job trying to squeeze in whatever task awaits next be it feeding the bottomless pit of twitter or facebook, checking reviews, editing, writing even, when I get to it. If you gave up writing on the keyboard then you will give up here. Don’t.

If you have a story you know you want to tell the world don’t give up. Don’t give in. Take a breath and realise what I did; that even though a year after publishing my first novella I’m not J.K. Rowling, but I have set out and achieved what I wanted, I started this, and by gods I’m going to finish it. If you really want this you’ll keep going too.

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