Well, it’s time to get back to blogging after another week of insane busyness. I’m not sure if anyone regularly follows this or not, but from the comments at least a couple of people have stopped in. Since I just had my first experience with self-publishing, and I try and make this blog about all things related to writing, publishing, editing, creating and reading fiction, it seems appropriate to blog on that experience.
First, a disclaimer. I don’t put much credence in self-publishing. Okay, I know that’s ironic coming from a guy who just self-published a book. Want to hear something more ironic? The small press which publishes the ezine running the stories told me after he heard I self-published that he’d like to publish them. (Still talking to him about that possibility so these few books may actually end up as collector’s items one day). I don’t give self-publishing much credence because the publishing industry as a whole doesn’t, and I share their reasons. Anyone can self-publish, and, in many cases, they don’t even have to hire a professional editor, copy editor, etc. So with self-published books, you don’t know what you’re getting.
Also, since self-published books are a dime a dozen and professionally published books are not, it is clear the ones people put money in and agents chose to represent have been vetted as standing out amid the hordes of possibilities, which means they are probably higher quality than the run of the mill self-published book. (Don’t yell at me. Of course there are exceptions!) So generally the pro-published ones can be bought with confidence that your money and time will not likely be wasted. We all know how that goes though.
The reason I chose to go this route is that I have queried a ton of agents about my novel, which gets rave reviews from readers, editors, and others but can’t see to land an agent, and I have yet to sell short stories to major markets, so I need to build my brand identity and name recognition. The best shot at doing that is at the two conventions I will attend this year: ConQuest 41 in Kansas City at the end of this month, and World Fantasy at the end of October. I will also try and slip out to Raleigh in August for National Science Fiction if I possibly can.
The goal is to give these books to agents, writers, publishers, and editors as swag. 13 pulp-style space opera stories, all 5-6 pages, 15-1600 words, with one chapter from each of my novels at the end and information on my website. If nothing else, I hope to sell enough to family and friends to support the swag copies, and one or two people might actually like the stories enough to take a further look at my work. If I get really lucky, I might get a reputation as a promising writer and generate far more interest than that. Either way, I have nothing to lose.
I chose CreateSpace because there was no set up cost. As long as I formatted it myself–and I spent a lot of time doing so and editing, reviewing, tweaking and still let an error through (AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH)–it only costs me shipping and cost to get the books. Selling them through Amazon’s distribution net keeps my costs down but gets me very little profit. Selling on my website gets me 4 times as much. But anyway, the point was, other than artwork, shipping and cost per copy, my overhead is very low. The quality is high. And it was fast.
A lot of sites offer you self-publishing with required set up costs from several hundred to one thousand plus dollars. I not only don’t have the money, I don’t see the point in investing that in something I will mostly distribute as swag. So this made sense for me, and although there have been some hiccups, it’s overall been a good experience.
The hiccups came in two ways. 1) Figuring out how to format the files to meet their technical requirements was tough because I had no idea what language the instructions were written in. They looked like English but read like anything but. 2) Once I did that, I had made some errors which only a person who’d done this before would know, such as making the pages you want facing the front of the book always odd pages, etc. 3) My artist is in college and almost failed to meet the deadline, so I hired another guy, and ended up having to combine their work into something that worked. Both are talented, great guys who do great work, but my deadlines were just ridiculously tight because I only decided to do this two months before I needed the books, and I still had to write the stories! 4) I set myself a stressfully short deadline.
In the end, I had to send proofs in three times to get the books right and still ended up with 50 books containing flipped pages in two spots. Not a major big deal for average readers, but for the swag-pros, I couldn’t live with it. To their credit, CreateSpace replaced those books for free, expedited shipping.
I will say it’s cool to see your book for sale on Amazon, and to receive books with your name and words on them even if they have minor errors. And I really hope they are well received by the recipients as they were by my beta readers. I am doing a giveaway on good reads to generate buzz and reviews, and who knows where this could lead. The stories start circulating in Digital Dragon online in July, and these 13 are just the first part. I hope to write at least another 13 more.
I’ll let you know how they’re received and how the various sales/giveaways go. For now, that’s how my first self-publishing venture has gone. For what it’s worth…
(To purchase The North Star Serial, Part 1 for $7.49 plus shipping, go to my website at www.bryanthomasschmidt.net)