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I’ve written a dozen books, four of which I self-published, eight of which I thought didn’t make the cut but were great practice. I chose to self-publish after shopping a single manuscript for over two years without getting a nibble; the only sign of improvement was my rejection letters were getting more personal. Instead of, “Dear sir or madam…” they were finally addressing me by name, and instead of a typical form letter reply, they were actually mentioning the book’s concept and telling me why it wouldn’t work for their publishing house. It was frustrating to be dragging this same manuscript around, trying to find someone interested in publishing it and having to either print or photocopy it so that someone else could read it (this was before sharing digital files became so easy; I was actually quite behind the times in regard to computer technology).
I began to take notice of self-publishing companies in 2007, when it appeared that they were no longer considered “vanity publishing” but were now called print on demand. POD technology differed because with vanity publishing, you were required to buy a certain number of books from the printer for them to do business with you, and the costs were staggering. With POD, they’ll print a single book at a very modest fee, one at a time, no problem. I gradually came to see self-publishing as a more viable way to get my idea out there, a way to have a finished product to hand someone, instead of a stack of loose pages. My idea was if I could sell enough copies, then a traditional publisher would take notice. Fast forward 12 years…
I am about to burst the bubble, maybe break somebody’s heart regarding the dream of self-publishing. I apologize for doing this, but here is the skinny: When I self-published my first novel The Gyre Mission in 2012, I had an “If I build it, they will come…” conviction. Seriously. All I had to do was write the best book ever, hire a publicity company to help me spread the word, and rake in the money as it sold like hotcakes. Ahem…I feel kind of silly now, but dreaming big and ambition are closely linked. Always dare to dream; don’t let anyone take that away from you.
The thing is, 200,000 other people had the same idea, and suddenly, the market became saturated, simply flooded with books by people whose stories otherwise never would have been told. It’s like the wave of DIY punk and grunge bands from the ’80s and ’90s, when musicians decided to start their own music labels so they could put their own records out (haha, really dating myself here!). The thing with that, though, was they could tour to promote them, literally take the word right to the masses. The same adage cannot be applied to a writer, unless you can somehow book yourself at small book stores across the country and either have the funds to take off work or plan on eating ketchup packets from McDonald’s and sleeping in your car.
And that, of course, leads to digital marketing. Wow did that make life easier! I remember sending manuscripts in the mail, and the delight I experienced once I could send them electronically. What you saved on postage could buy you groceries for a year! However, keep in mind that those other 200,000 people doing the same thing as you just became 300,000 people, and they are not only competing with you, they are competing with the 500,000 books that are traditionally published each year. Trying to get a large media outlet (any traditional media outlet — newspaper, magazine, the Oprah Winfrey show etc.) to even read your query letter is next to impossible without either a connection at the source or a celebrity endorsement. For example, my latest novel, Amber Hollow incorporates several small towns in Wisconsin. The publicity company I hired pitched the city’s local media, small newspapers catering to maybe 8,000 readers total in a town with a population of the same number. They did reply, I’ll give them that, and their answer was “We are not interested at this time.” Translation: “We aren’t interested until the writer becomes famous or the book is endorsed by a celebrity.” Yes, even these podunk little towns that probably struggle daily to find enough stories to fill the pages of their tiny publications don’t even want to take the time. And the kicker for me was, I am from one of those tiny towns! The fact that I was a local didn’t even motivate them! Maybe it was because of the tryst I had with the mayor’s daughter…I swear that kid isn’t mine (just kidding!)
And the cost of advertising? You’ll find that it eclipses the cost of editing, cover design, and interior formatting. And all the work you have to do even if you hired a publicity company is amazing; get ready to do a lot of writing, and it sure as shootin’ ain’t gonna be your next book! You’ll be writing anything you can just to get your name out there. That said, thank you for letting me write this guest post for It's Raining Books! I truly appreciate the opportunity!
In summary: It’s really nice to have a finished product of your work, and with dedicated time, hard work and financial resources you may find success. My point here is that it looked like a quick-fix solution when I first embarked upon it and over a decade later, I see that it is just as much work as trying to be traditionally published. So, no matter what path you take, it will involve a lot of hard work, patience, persistence, and luck, so keep on writing and do what you think is best for you. Cheers!
Only the villagers know the secret of Amber Hollow, a place where sanity is checked at the town line and the parameters of reality become blurred. An unconventional horror story by design, Edgar Swamp delivers an action-driven page-turner that will keep readers guessing until the calamitous ending.
Read an Excerpt
“I’m not going back!” the woman screamed, her eyes rolling in terror. “You hear me? I’m never going back!”
“We understand,” Sadie said, approaching carefully from the opposite side of her partner, although her reply couldn’t have been farther from the truth. So far, she didn’t understand anything. However, she knew for certain that this woman’s passing wouldn’t do them a damn bit of good at getting to the truth. They needed to keep her still so she wouldn’t let go.
“We’re here to help you,” Jeremy said, “in fact, we were on our way to the hospital to visit you, to ask you some questions—”
“You have questions, you can ask Anthony Guntram! It’s his fault, all his fault!”
“I’m afraid we can’t do that, ma’am.” He gazed down, saw a police boat approaching from the mouth of the river. Good timing. “Please, let us help you. Take my hand.”
“I don’t want your help!” she screamed, and in her exertion one of her feet slipped and she almost fell, the only thing keeping her from plunging over the side was her grip on the cable, which apparently was pretty tight. “You can’t help me, no one can!”
“Let us try,” Jeremy begged.
“Never,” she croaked in a husky voice, and then she let go of the cable.
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