Thursday, February 11, 2010
The (self-publishing) journey begins...
So what next? What if, as a writer, you've done everything the books and experts said you should - joined critique groups, sought professional assessment, studied the craft, written story after story and buffed each one until if you rubbed any harder you'd flay the poor thing? It's entirely possible that your work is simply crap, that you wouldn't sell unless you had a skilled ghostwriter, a six(or seven)-figure marketing campaign and had run for the vice presidency (not naming any names here). Maybe you weren't persistent enough and gave up too soon? Maybe you just weren't lucky enough to land on the right editor's desk at the right time? I know firsthand that what is salable and a hot commodity one year, may not be the next. How commercial an editor perceives your work to be has a lot to do with whether they'll take an interest in it.
Heaven knows I've been dogged. I hope I can tell a good story. But for whatever reason, the door to opportunity has not yet opened up for me via the traditional publishing route, despite having a literary agent whom I adore and admire and who has been a relentless champion on my behalf. While I try my darndest to refrain from spewing negativity in public, let's face it, the world of publishing as we know it is changing. Fewer new authors are being taken on. Publishers are cutting back on manpower and titles. Amazon is at war with the big publishers. And e-books and POD are floating in the wings, ready to take over center stage. While a lot of folks see this as a bad thing, maybe it just means things are going to be different in the future? Agent Nathan Bransford wrote a very thought-provoking post recently called 'It's a Great Time to Be An Author'. It's worth reading.
So what next for me? Write another book? Umm, eventually, but before that I'm going to journey down a new road: self-publishing.
(Gasp.) Really? Isn't that the 'kiss of death' in the world of writing? Like some giant graveyard where writers who couldn't hack it get buried with their delusional dreams? Meh, possibly. I'm sure it's often true. But not always.
In the months to come, I'm going to use this blog as a self-publishing journal. I believe there are a lot of other writers in my shoes. Some may have considered self-publishing, but they shy away from it for one of two reasons: 1) the stigma attached to it (see above), or 2) the expected costs and learning curve involved. Since I'm not ready to chuck my beloved stories in a drawer and forget about them (neither the ghost of Robert the Bruce nor Queen Isabella would forgive me), I'll brave both the naysayers and the effort it takes to realize my dream - which is to share my books with readers.
For now, here are a few current historical fiction authors now published by major houses who originally self-published, along with links to some of their stories:
Maggie Anton (Rashi's Daughters series, Plume) - After publishers initially took no interest in her book, Anton self-published and sold 20,000 copies in 18 months.
Elle Newmark (The Book of Unholy Mischief, Simon and Schuster) - Newmark came to writing later in life and after getting passed over numerous times and sinking into a funk, she finally got mad and took control of her own fate.
C.W. Gortner (The Last Queen, Ballantine) - Read about Gortner's careful consideration before he decided to self-publish and how it turned out for him.
Want more names of successful and well-known authors who self-published at some point in their careers? You can find them here and also here. I think you'll recognize a few of the names.
Up next, some of the steps I'll be taking before sending my book off to the printer.