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.

Until later,


Jack Ramsay said...

Good for you, Gemi.

Spartacus by Howard Fast. Best seller, I believe. Self published.

Contest - Matthew Riley. Same again.

Just two of many. Go for it, and best of luck. I'll be first in line to buy a copy.


Jack Ramsay said...

okay, so if I'd checked the links I'd've seen the Howie Fast thing...but Matty Reilly's a new one, eh? One of Australia's biggest sellers these days. Printed up a few copies of 'Contest' and lugged them around Sydney's book stores. Wish I had some of his self belief.


N. Gemini Sasson said...

There are some pretty amazing names on those lists, aren't there, Jack? I mean John Grisham? And how rich is he now, huh? A lot of times when success stories like these are brought up, people say those are the 'black swans'. Well of course they are the exceptions! But what are the chances your book would ever be discovered tucked away in a box under the bed. ZERO. And for sure it'll never get read that way - by anyone.

Sheila Lamb said...

Great post, Gemini. It gives all of us writers something to think about it. I've always been worried about the stigma (#1)...

Laurie Notaro - The Idiot Girl's Action Adventure Club.

Self published then "discovered" by A Famous Agent - four or more books followed.

N. Gemini Sasson said...

Yeah, Sheila, I'm thinking maybe I should just keep perpetuating that one. It would thin down the competition ;-).

Thing is, I don't think it's a black and white truth. Many self- published books do die a quiet, unnoticed death. Some, however, rise up from the mists and defy those stigmas.

Genevieve Graham said...

I'm looking forward to following that journal - before, during and after.

Anita Davison said...

That's a brave move Gemi, but I'm right there encouraging you, as I honestly believe your work is good enough to rise to the top and be picked up by a leading publisher - this may be a way to get noticed.

Cheri Lasota said...

"But what are the chances your book would ever be discovered tucked away in a box under the bed. ZERO. And for sure it'll never get read that way - by anyone."

No finer words, Gemi...I'm there with ya, gal. And I'll be taking the plunge with you. Glad you are writing about the process. This will help others along the same path.


Reb said...

Also I'd like to mention Anne Wilson Schaef. She had to self pub her first book "Women's Reality," which caught on in a grassroots movement and became a bestseller. Now every year when you peruse the calendars at your local bookstore looking for xmas presents, you'll see her famous "Meditations for Women Who Do Too Much." :-)