And now for something completely different

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.

17 Comments

Filed under self-publishing, writing

17 responses to “And now for something completely different

  1. Lordy, I love that subtitle. I call most of my online friends “someone I met in a workshop” to most of the corporeal people I know.

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  2. Wapakgram

    About Damn Time. The world will soon be a better place!

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  3. cc

    I am so proud to have such a creative, nervy, intelligent writer for am imaginary friend. Can’t wait for the rest of the world to discover your work. It’ll be so cool to say, “I knew her when….. bears were eating her daughter.’

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  4. “… kids and pets and bears, oh my”?

    I think the world is ready for something completely different. Just sayin.

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  5. How about something like: “To my Imaginary Friends: Kids and BEARS and QTWD”. If you don’t mind having QTWD’s name out there and don’t have other pets that I have, in my absence of mind, forgotten. And, perhaps, put a word like “reflections” or “musings” or “thoughts” either at the beginning or immediately after the colon (with appropriate prepositions, of course). Because “kids and pets” sounds a little generic to me*, and you’re definitely an individual. As the BEARS will testify.

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  6. Wow! I am so happy and excited for you!

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  7. Melinda VanLone

    Since I’m such a newcomer to your blog, I can’t wait to see what you put together. Most of it will be new to me. I’m already a huge fan of your writing ;-). So bring it on! I’ll be fascinated to watch the issues you end up dealing with. For what it’s worth, I use Scrivener for all my projects, and I have a graphic design/publishing background. If you need help in that area let me know 🙂

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  8. McB

    I already love the title! The subtitle I need to think on a bit. But I’m loving the basic idea of this book.

    Hmmm. Maybe “The strange but true world of imaginary friends … and BEARS!”

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  9. Geez. All this support is really humbling. Thank you, McB (keep thinking, I need help). And thanks for cheering me on, Cary and Adrienne! CC, I’m the one who is proud to have so many amazing Imaginary Friends. And Wapak, good grief. Now I gave to make the world a better place? No pressure, right?

    Merry, I debated whether to add “oh my” but I do kind of like it. Diane, I think somewhere on the cover in small print will be “A Collection of Essays” or something similar. The problem with QTWD is that I’d have to spell it out (I know, it’s just wrong that not everyone knows who he is!) and that ends up being an awful lot of words. Especially for one of those tiny little ebook covers.

    Melinda, I hope I don’t disappoint you! (or anyone else) The subject matter is all over the place, but I think it’s stuff that will resonate with a wide range of readers. At least, I hope so. And thanks to you and Ann (privately) for adding to my list of design people. I’ve been gathering candidates for a few months now, every time someone online mentions who did their cover.

    I tell you what, this whole thing is daunting. But exciting! I can’t even express how good it feels to have people offering support and encouragement. And subtitles! It’s ridiculous how bad I am at coming up with titles.

    Thanks, everyone.

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  10. Good on ya. I look forward to buying my Nook copy!

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  11. Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly get more nervous about this whole thing…

    Thanks, Bill.

    [edit: Um, I didn’t mean thanks as in “thanks for making me more nervous.” I meant it sincerely as in “thanks for coming over and offering a few words of support.” It means a lot to me. And yes, it will be available on Nook so you don’t have to engage in commerce with The Evil Empire. 8) ]

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  12. Melinda VanLone

    LOL don’t be nervous! Just do what you do, it’s obvious we love it :-D. I’m with you on the titles thing. I can’t come up with a good title to save my life. It’s sad, truly. If I wrote a non-fiction book I’m afraid I’d have to title it “Really Witty Title Here” lol.

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  13. Driving by and sticking my head out the window Woohoo! Go KDJames!

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  14. Sounds neat! I’ll be watching to see how it goes.

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  15. jenb

    As everyone has already said.. Just do it!
    It will be Great!

    Years ago when you wrote the piece about your Dad and the swimming pool; I knew you were a special writer.

    We will just be waiting here…..
    And maybe if you have time we can grab a bite sometime…

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  16. Thanks again, everyone, for the encouragement! I’ve been studying like crazy, trying to figure out how to make an ebook. With pictures.

    JenB, I thought about you when I was compiling posts and got to that one. I think that was right around the time you decided to stop lurking and join in the fun. SO glad you did! And yes, we’re long overdue for lunch.

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