I’ve been thinking a lot about self-publishing. That’s hardly surprising. Everyone even slightly involved with publishing has been thinking about self-publishing. Some have been thinking more pleasant thoughts than others, but we all are thinking about it.
Where I keep getting bogged down is when I hear people talk about how hard it is. Because the next person goes on and on about how easy it is. There doesn’t seem to be a reliable consensus here. And when you’re a writer who is considering all her options, it’s extremely frustrating to have conflicting information. It’s impossible to decide what you want — and can we please stipulate that every writer wants slightly different things? — when you have no idea what’s involved with getting what you want.
This all came to a head last weekend when I finally made time to read the lengthy conversations between Jenny Crusie and Barbara Samuel that were posted on Argh Ink, waaaay back in early May. What? I’ve been busy.
Jenny Crusie is one of the smartest people I know and one point she made in the second post was how excited she is about the prospect of self-publishing non-traditional projects, things a publisher wouldn’t want. Not novels, other stuff. And then she said,
“But all of a sudden there’s a place for whatever weirdness I want to do.”
And I thought, Hmmm. I wish I could say I spent a great deal of time thinking about this, but sometimes when an idea clicks it just seems right and you don’t really need to agonize over it.
So I have decided to conduct an experiment. I’ve got a good deal of weirdness right here on this blog. Not Crusie-quality weirdness, but still. There are more than 200 posts written over a period of five years. The majority of them are unremarkable. Some of them are about writing and not appropriate for what I have in mind. Some of them are plain awful. But several of them are really not that bad. Several of them were well-received and evoked a favourable response from readers.
Obviously, a 30,000-word ebook of short essays already published on the internet by a completely unknown writer is not the sort of thing any publisher would be interested in acquiring. Unless, you know, it turns out to be a big hit. Then maybe.
But I don’t see any reason not to publish it myself. If it’s a huge flop and doesn’t sell more than 50 copies to friends and relatives, oh well. There will be one more thing out there with my name on it to make a small dent in obscurity. Who knows, maybe I’ll connect with a few new readers who like my writing and want more. But at least I’ll know exactly how easy or difficult this process is. Not for someone else, but for me.
I’ll choose the content and do the formatting and find a cover artist and write the blurb/product description and set the price and do the marketing myself. I hope I’ll have a wee bit of help with promotion, but I’m not counting on it. I’m even trying to figure out how to include pictures, because a couple posts really need the visuals and I’d hate to omit them, and everything I’ve read says you can include them. I’m just not sure how, exactly. Yet.
I’ve pretty much decided which posts to use, but I’m in the process of tracking down my former editor (a man I respect and for whom I wrote dozens of op/ed type newspaper columns, years ago) to solicit his editorial advice. It feels dishonest to edit or re-write the posts, so I won’t do that. Plus, I think they’re pretty clean. But there are other editorial things to consider.
I’ve studied the guidelines over at Amazon and have so far read most of Mark Coker’s excellent book Smashwords Style Guide. And I’ve watched the tutorials for Scrivener — I’ll tell you right now, they make this process sound ridiculously easy. I’m skeptically hopeful.
I have an idea for a title but it needs a subtitle (really, long titles are common for books like this) and I might need help with that. I want to call it: HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? (which was the title of my first blog post, when I accidentally ended up with a blog). For a subtitle, I thought maybe: Talking to Imaginary Friends about kids and pets and BEARS! Any feedback would be very much welcomed. Suggestions, anyone?
I have a very rough idea of what I want for a cover, but we all know I’m not an artist. And now that I know what a glyph is, I want one. Bad. So I’ll research that.
So that’s what I’ve been up to the past week or so. I’m surprised by how excited I am about this project. Also extremely nervous, but mostly excited.
Does this have implications for what I might do with my first* novel once I finish it? Well, yes, of course it does. How could it not? But a book of essays is not a novel. I’m looking at this as a learning experience. A necessary part of being a smart businessperson and gathering the tools I need to make informed decisions about my career. What I do with that knowledge will depend on what I learn. The entire process might turn out to be a complete pain in the ass, never to be repeated. Or it might not. But at least then I’ll know.
*Okay, I should clarify. Technically, this is not my first novel. It’s maybe the fourth. But it IS the first one to make it to the completed first draft stage and the first one that I think is good enough to be published.