Reflections On This Self Publishing Thing

I woke up this morning to a post by by J.A. Konrath about Why You Should Self Publish.  Um, yeah, what he said.  All the way.

It’s been quite the ride this year.  I’m not sure exactly when it was I turned wholly indie.  I decided to write Forsaken By Shadow in August or September last year, I think.  At that time, I intended to use it just to build a little bit of a reputation, a name with readers, while waiting on a traditional publishing contract for the rest of the series.  I was more seriously considering the indie thing by the time I put it out in March.

Then life blew up in the form of my husband breaking his leg.  If I’d been affiliated with New York, with all their attendant deadlines and such (which would already be an issue due to the multiple jobs), I’d have been totally screwed.  I lead a very busy life.  That’s just a fact.  And when we start a family in a year or two, that life is just going to get busier in many ways.  If I’m to have a chance at making writing a career, I can’t wait on New York.  I have to keep moving forward, building my platform, building my audience and fanbase, title by title, getting as much accomplished as I can in the meantime before crumbcrunchers arrive.  Add to that the fact that there has just been SO MUCH STUPID evidenced by traditional publishing, and my decision is made.

I didn’t get as much written this year as I wanted.  Well, I wrote over 100k, but only about a third of that is seeing the light of day.  There was a lot of stopping and starting and rewriting and throwing away.  Plots that were abandoned.  The leg break incident threw a serious monkey wrench into my creative process, and I’m only just now truly recovering 9 months after the fact.  There’s been this tendency for me to look at those 9 months as wasted time.  I only managed to get one very short novella out in that time span, and that was LAST WEEK.  And yeah, I’m still kind of disappointed in that.

But here’s what I did accomplish this year.

  • I released my first title.  Nothing but a longish novella with which I have built name recognition.  By the end of the year I will have sold nearly 3,000 copies of that novella.  In 9 months.
  • I have made about what I made after taxes on a single section of community college teaching. Of course the government hasn’t taken their chunk yet, which will kind of wipe out a lot of the profit, but that’s still quite respectable for my first title out the door.
  • I have been on a month long blog tour and have written at least that many more guest posts and interviews over the course of the remainder of the year.  This has gone a LONG way to getting my name out there.  I can’t tell you how exciting it is to see people actually searching for my name and finding my blog rather than the former high contenders of “the crud” (seriously, who needs to google that?  It’s the same sinus shit everyone gets every year) and “Gerard Butler”.
  • I helped to found the Indie Book Collective. I wrote articles, did promo, and worked with my fabulous co-founders to get the IBC off the ground.  I’m pulling out in 2011 due to time constraints, but I am proud to see what the IBC has accomplished since it’s soft launch in September.
  • I have had people come to ME for help and suggestions and advice on going indie. That’s been exciting as well, to see that there are people who believe I’m doing it right and have something valuable to share.
  • I began with an initial, out of pocket cost of $120.  I made that back in the first three months and used the profits to fund 2 more book covers, an audiobook cover, audiobook production, copyright costs, and a little bit of promo/advertising. On my total expenses for the year, I have had nearly a 100% return on investment (i.e. I spent about half what I made).  In terms of doing it on the cheap, I definitely have done that right.
  • I have seen where I was going astray with my series metaplot and am now moving forward in the right direction.  Not that I have ANY idea what the next full length book in the Mirus series is going to entail since the events of Devil’s Eye totally blew up my metaplot, but I’ve got the production time of Red in between to figure it out.
  • I’ve met dozens of marvelous people along the way and formed an invaluable author network.
  • I’ve figured out what works for me in terms of how to promote myself and my work. And that cannot be overvalued.

There is no doubt in my mind that the indie route is the right one for me.  I’m incredibly self-motivated and organized, and nobody in New York is going to care more about my books and my career than I do.  I think I’m really in the best hands possible.  My own.

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26 comments

  1. Awesome post, and very inspirational. I think you got your mojo back today. :)

    One question for debate, and maybe I’ll put this on my blog tomorrow…. Do you think genre makes a difference in indie success? Your subgenre (whatever you want to call it) is very hot right now. For someone starting out as an indie, do you think it’s easier to make a go of it with UF, PNR, contemporary romance, or some version of YA since those tend to be shorter and more popular on Kindle?

    Just curious what the dialogue will look like with that question….. And because I’m writing more traditional, epic fantasy, I want to know what my chances are. I know Ty Johnston is doing pretty well. Maybe it’s more of a numbers/time equation…?

    1. I absolutely think genre makes a difference, at least in initial success. As you say UF, PNR, and YA are HUGELY popular right now. Indie or traditional, those genres are the biggest sellers across the board and readers in those genres tend to be prolific and like to tell their friends. So starting out in that genre, while not a calculated decision for me because it’s what I wanted to write regardless, has definitely helped to get me out there a bit faster, I think, than if I’d begun in some other genre.

      Now in terms of LONG term success, I think that rests a lot more on both quality work and having a backlist. The more titles you have out, the easier you are to discover.

      The traditional wisdom about writing in multiple genres used to be that you should brand yourself. Like everybody knows that Nora Roberts is J.D. Robb, but they know they’re going to get the futuristic serial romance in the Robb books whereas the Roberts books will be self contained.

      I will ultimately be branching out to other genres. My next project is a YA paranormal (as opposed to the adult PNR/UF hybrids I’ve started with). And I have another series that would be a sort of paranormal cozy mystery (does that exist?) classification. And far far on the backburner I have a whole bunch of traditional, Mississippi-based romantic suspense without a paranormal element that I want to come back to someday when I have more time and want a change of pace. I don’t plan on developing separate personas. I think the concern that readers won’t be able to pick and choose gives readers little credit for intelligence. Despite the evidence of stupidity I see in my classes each semester, I do think fans will be able to judge for themselves whether they want to try your stuff in alternate genres. Particularly, since most sales will be online where the categories are far easier to see.

      1. Maybe it’s just a bit of a slower climb in fantasy… Longer books take longer to read, for one thing. I plan to do a lot more novellas to try to build an audience.

        I don’t think I’ll ever try any other genre, but you never know… Right now, all of the ideas I have are pretty solidly epic or high fantasy. :) But, maybe the shorter works will help build the audience for the longer series…

        Patience is not my strong suit. :P

        1. That’s one of the hardest things about this business whether you go indie or traditional. Publishing is a LONG HAUL GAME. You have to learn patience, no matter what.

  2. I think I’m really in the best hands possible. My own.

    And that really says it all, doesn’t it? Congrats on your success…I have nothing to add, aside from “I agree”. Now that I’ve “gone indie”, I can’t imagine publishing any other way.

  3. I’m really liking self-pubbing. I think space opera fans will convert happily to ebook. Now if I could just figure out how to make the fact of a gay MC stop making the stores lump Knight Errant in with the m/m romance novels…

    On a less enthusiastic note, your header image is not loading for me. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I thought I’d mention it. Only the top…oh, half inch?…is up there for me.

  4. “There is no doubt in my mind that the indie route is the right one for me. I’m incredibly self-motivated and organized, and nobody in New York is going to care more about my books and my career than I do. I think I’m really in the best hands possible. My own.”

    Very well said, and I couldn’t agree more!
    Jennifer

      1. Hehehe. The funny part is that I BELIEVED you when you said going indie wasn’t for you that you just wanted to watch what I was doing. Of course I know you were being absolutely genuine at the time, but I didn’t ever think you were “crossing over to the dark side”. It was a surprise to me when you did, and then when you went further to the point that you’re like “indie is for me, bitches”. LOL Because at first you were sort of dipping your toe in like… maybe I’ll do this for one novella and still send stuff to NY. And then the next minute I look over and you’re like: “I don’t need no stinkin’ publisher. Who’s with me?” And you had Norma Ray tied up in a closet somewhere cause she was standing on your table. :P

        1. I can totally admit when I am wrong. I got more information and made an educated decision. Self publishing has changed so much from the vanity publishing that I was warned about back when I started writing. And for me, there’s no better way to make up for lost time :D

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