Six months into self-publishing, and what have I learned?

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.

10 Comments

Filed under apocalyptic, author, fiction, fiction writing, self publish, self publishing, thriller fiction, Writing, Writing Craft

10 responses to “Six months into self-publishing, and what have I learned?

  1. Mike Campbell

    Steven,
    Interesting story about self publishing. I would have never known, I downloaded and read your book via Kindle and just assumed it was a major novel in bookstores everywhere published by a big company. I guess I thought that is the process that takes place. It makes me even a bigger fan of your writing to hear you took this on yourself and decided not to let others choose your fate for you. Good for you and I really hope the word spreads on this great book and I look forward to future reads! Cheers,
    Mike

    • Thanks, Mike. Your comment is so interesting to me, because as a self-publisher, I always felt very self-conscious about the cover and editing (for good reason). My wife always told me not to worry, and that readers won’t care one way or the other. I always felt that my book had a big, neon “self-published” sign above it…I’m glad to hear that it didn’t. With the new cover and re-edit (coming in the next day or so), even the most discerning reader will have a hard time telling this one from some of the branded authors. I will include the prologue for my new book in the new Kindle release…and I’ll make it available here! Best, Steve

  2. Steve,

    An informative post. I’m one of those aspiring authors you mentioned in your post; running a few months (and quite a few sales) behind you . I have a question for you: if there was one thing you wish you had known when you first published your book, what would it be?

    Thanks, and good luck with the career.

    PAUL JONES

    • Paul,

      The one thing that I wish I had known, was a good editor. I was about to say “I wish I had known how important good editing would be,” but deep down inside, I knew how important it would be. Many indie writers, myself included, have found excuses not to bite the bullet and spend the money on a good editor. Some may not have the cash to float on a part-time, first-time pursuit…or they felt like their own editing (including two good friends) was enough. For me, I just didn’t want to shell out the cash, and I didn’t know who to trust as an editor. There are a million editing services online…hard to chose where to send your money. Even harder to know what you’d get back.

      In retrospect, I should have been a little easier on myself. I had just finished a 400 page (150k word) novel, and decided to share it with the world…I should have spent the money up front. I had the same debate about hiring a cover artist (which I did eventually), but nobody complained about the cover. They did, however, complain about the lack of editing…which I understand. Even the readers who loved the story felt compelled at times to mention the editing. This was the only decision I regretted from the beginning.

      I wish you the best of luck. Looks like you dusted off a great book, and it’s starting to take off. Pretty cool. Remember, there’s no such thing as an “aspiring writer,” especially if you’ve self-published. I reserve that title jokingly for the group of writers that still don’t recognize themselves as writers. You don’t need a NYC book deal, just a written story or two. Keep writing, and thanks for the marketing idea from your blog. I can always use more ideas.

      Steve

  3. Pingback: An interesting post by Steven Konkoly, author of The Jakarta Pandemic

  4. Thanks for the advice, Steve. I’m squarely in the “didn’t want to shell out” bracket; but then I’m lucky as I’m a writer by profession (just not fiction), so I had access to literary types who were willing to give my manuscript the once over. Still, I know there are mistakes and typos in there somewhere – I just remind myself that I have never read a book without some kind of a grammatical, typographical or print error. So long as the errors aren’t to jarring, I think readers are willing to forgive.

    Thanks again for the advice – you have a new fan. I’m looking forward to reading your book.

  5. Thanks Paul. I just downloaded your book. Haven’t read a Sci-Fi book in way too long. Can’t wait to read it.

  6. Brittany

    Hey Steve! This book is fantastic! I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to let you know I am almost finished with your book. I am looking forward to your next one! Way to go with the self publishing. I would have never known that! and by the way I have read the whole thing on my iphone 😉 I have told so many people about Jakarta Pandemic and they are loving it too!!!

    • Thank you, Brittany, I appreciate the kind words, and the encouragement. I am booking along with Black Flagged. I have a few more scenes to write, and a few weeks of review. Off to the editor, and with any luck, you’ll see it on Amazon by mid October. You really read the entire book on your iPhone? I’m impressed. I don’t even like to read full emails on my BlackBerry. Thanks for passing the word around. Word of mouth has kept this book alive and kicking.

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