Saturday, May 30, 2015

Top 3 Reasons I Started Self-Publishing

You might have noticed I've been self-publishing a lot of my books lately. Or maybe you haven't noticed. In fact, I hear most readers don't care who published the book. If we want to read it, we buy it. Decisions are based more on covers and blurbs.

The truth is, I made the switch to self-publishing for three simple reasons:

Quarterly royalty cheque from one publisher (one novella)

Quarterly royalty payment on 6 short stories

Quarterly royalty payment on 4 short stories

I want to be clear about something: I'm not anti-publisher. Not at all! If not for publishers, I wouldn't be blogging at you today. I'm indebted to so ridiculously many industry people. You know who you are. I've learned so much from you. And if we don't work together anymore, it's not because I don't love you.

I guess I'm a hybrid author, because I do still work with some publishers--the ones that earn me money. Sometimes I worry I come off like a capitalistic asshole, but we're not talking "the rich get richer" here. I live below the poverty line. I say that with confidence, because I looked it up. Yeah, the poverty line is WAAAY above my head. Not complaining. I'm poor but happy. But I'd be a lot less happy if I couldn't pay my rent or buy food.

And I don't know what food costs where you live, but around here $1.90 isn't going to pay for three months of anything.

Writing is my job. It's what I do for a living. No fall-back. No day job. Just this.

Nobody's ever accused me of caring about money more than people, so I guess I'm just arguing against myself right now. I guess, deep down, I feel like I'm betraying old industry contacts by going my own way.

Mind you, many of the publishing companies that gave me my first chances have long since gone out of business, so...


This is going to sound totally backwards, but I think if a new author asked me whether they should submit their work to publishers or dive into self-publishing, I would advise them to try the old-school route first.

Following submissions guidelines, writing synopses, submitting and waiting and waiting and waiting did me good because it provided structure. 

Rejection letters crushed me back in 2006. Why would I want to put new authors through that pain? Because you learn from it. You learn from feedback. You learn what the market wants and what it doesn't--through the lens of a particularly editor, granted, but when you don't know what you're doing that's extremely useful.

I still get rejection letters--just got one last week, in fact. They don't have any emotional impact anymore. It's just part of the book business.

Same goes for edits. I remember I got my first round of edits back on my first ebook with Dark Eden Press, and I just cried. I said to myself (literally--said this out loud to myself), "That's it. I'm never writing another book ever again." The experience basically felt like taking a shot of wasabi (don't ask how I know this), but I learned so much. And I learned so much because I knew NOTHING.

From working with publishers, I learned marketing techniques that have come and gone. I learned about readers' expectations, and I learned that the queer fiction I was naturally drawn to was actually extremely unpopular. Who knew?

And I'm not saying all the advice I got early on was good advice. A few publishers told me not to bother writing lesbians and bisexual women because that stuff just didn't sell.  Well, my highest-grossing book just happens to be Nanny State, which just happens to be lesbian fetish erotica. It's also adult-filtered by Amazon, so I don't know how anyone even finds it anymore, but readers do. (Thanks, by the way) But, by and large, it's true--lesbians and bi girls and queer chicks and genderfuckups like me are hard to sell.

I write them because I AM them.

Oh boy. It would take three days to list everything I've learned over the past nine years. Thing is, I'd never have learned it on my own. Working with publishers was hugely beneficial to me. I realize now I worked with too many pubs (20 or 30, by my estimate), which meant spreading myself too thin. Placing 3 books each with 20 different publishers is a stupid thing to do. Feel free to learn from that particular mistake.

The publishing landscape has changed tremendously since I started writing. Even authors published by fancy-ass houses take on heaps of responsibility beyond just writing the damn book. Sometimes I feel like writing isn't even the work anymore--the real work is selling what you've written, as well as the neat little product called YOU.

The truth is, I don't like marketing myself. I'm not a showy-offy person. I'm too depressive and self-effacing to do the work publishers expect of authors these days. In that sense, self-publishing is my way of hiding. Self-publishing means I only answer to myself and my readers. Nobody's telling me I have to host a Facebook launch party or hit up GoodReads for... I don't know what they do there, to be honest. Reviews?

Hmm... I didn't expect to write so much. Guess I had a lot to say. But I'm going to stop myself now or I won't stop at all.

Thanks for meandering through my thoughts with me. I usually keep them to myself, these days. Maybe I should share more often. I kinda like talking to you.

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