Everything…from the ground up. Uhhh.
I’d like to sit here and tell everyone that I’m always a “do it yourself” kind of guy. I framed our attic for its eventual transformation into a beautiful 800 square foot home for my son’s Xbox 360 (that’s about sums up its purpose now). I even did all of the trim work, built shelving and helped paint (I hate painting). But I didn’t mow my own lawn last year. Why? Because I’m not obstinate when it comes to the do-it-yourself mentality…and when a good price comes along, I’ll let someone else breath noxious fumes and spend two hours on a lawn that’s going to brown up in August anyways (no matter how much water or fertilizer I pour onto it! Even The Lawn Dawg couldn’t prevent that). It doesn’t look like I’m going to win the noxious fume argument this year. My wife wants to direct this money elsewhere, which is fine…I really don’t mind mowing the lawn. So, what am I talking about at this point?
Self-publishing. I get a lot of inquiries about my experience, from other aspiring writers and curious friends. The question I get from everyone is: “Did I choose to self-publish?” Yes and no. If my first query letter to a NYC agency had been received with a warm welcome and a huge advance on royalties, I’d probably be scoffing at self-publishing right now. How dare these so called “writers” publish their own material, without the nod of the traditional literary institution. I fired off about seven letters in total, before I decided against continuing to prostrate myself to “the industry.” Once again, I wasn’t opposed to the concept of a lavish check, in advance of my certain bestseller, and I’m sure there’s a number out there that would convert me immediately. We all have our buy off amount.
What did I do differently than most of the aspiring writers that send hundreds of letters a year to agents? First, I quit sending letters. I’ll tell you why shortly. Second, I self-published The Jakarta Pandemic for the Kindle, NOOK and as a paperback…before I started sending letters to literary agents. Now, for the hardcore pursuers of a NYC literary agent, this is tantamount to committing writer suicide. Tainted! No agent or publisher will touch you now that you’ve had the audacity to self-publish your CRAP, without them. And that’s the key to it all. Without them. I’m not going to reiterate what a million other blogs have repeated, but the traditional publishing industry has a vested interest in scaring aspiring self-publishers. Just like real estate agents have no interest in you putting a “for sale by owner” sign in front of your house. Imagine if Stephen King took his business “in house.” It doesn’t cost very much to put a quality book on the market yourself. Good editor, good cover artist…a few more bells and whistles. With Stephen King’s name…the books will sell. You get the picture. Imagine if this became the standard across the literary landscape. It’s a post-apocalyptic tale for publishers. So, don’t you dare try to self-publish.
Why did I quit sending letters? I started reading blogs and articles by authors that have successfully navigated the self-publishing world. I didn’t reach this decision by myself…I’d love to say I did, but that would be dishonest. The more I read about the declining traditional industry, and the rise of the self-publishing realm…the more I wanted to give this a go on my own. Their words appealed to the deep rooted part of me that didn’t like to beg (the industry) and the visionary side that said “I can find readers for this book on my own.” I liked the idea of having complete control of my book, a larger share of the yet unseen profits, and the challenge of learning some new skills, like how to create a website, start a blog, and market my book. If I had a million dollars, I would have hired some help from the star…I’m practical. Since I didn’t have a large book launch budget, I found my own way.
More and more authors should be finding their own way. The traditional publishing world is in jeopardy, and they aren’t taking as many chances on new authors. It’s simple financial math for them, nothing personal…Borders is closing stores everywhere, local shops are scraping by (if they’re lucky). People aren’t buying as many physical books anymore. Blame the economy…OR blame E-readers, but make no mistake, E-readers are here to stay, and they’re proliferating at every turn. iPad 2…3 coming soon? Kindle for $114. I bet it goes for under a hundred this next holiday season. Every electronics company has a version of an e-reader. Hell, I’ve had people read my book on their iPhone! (I felt like sending them a free copy for the effort…holy cow that would hurt my eyes).
New authors will still get through, but not as many. Every time I walk through Borders, I see more books by the same, financially sound names. I don’t blame the industry, but I’m not going to lock my novels in a vault and wait for an agent to take a chance on my book. I’ll take my own chances. So far, nearly 4000 readers have taken a chance on my book.
If you’re interested in reading more on the topic of self-publishing, you need to check out Joe Konrath’s Blog, A Newbies Guide to Self-Publishing. He predicted the rise of Self-Publishing years ago…and turned his back on the traditional publishing industry. He’s gruff and tells it like it is. His blog archives motived me to keep the rights to my books…for now. Coincidentally, I just read his most recent post, and he also predicts the under $100 e-reader by Christmas. I swear I wrote this minutes before I read his post.