I feel obligated to announce it in a loud and blatant manner.
I'm a self-published author!
I also have one traditionally published novel. Recently one of my writing buds asked a question in his blog about whether it was better to self-pub and continue to look for the traditional way too or to not self-pub because it would damage your cred. Here's the link to it. R. Mac Wheeler. Mac is an interesting guy who writes in several genres and is trying his best to break into the field. (I also like his writing and am looking forward to what he eventually decides to do.) He's got some neat things to say about it. (Also he critiqued several of my novels and although I was dinged, I do appreciate his directness.) (Not that I appreciated it the first time I read what he wrote about Bubba and the Dead Woman, but he was spot on. Whether I like it or not.)
Incidentally, a revised version of Bubba and the Dead Woman should be soon appearing soon at all the epubbers. Yea, corrections! I bowed before all the people who said my overuse of commas sucked the mighty purple wang and went to town.
Back to self-pubbing versus e-pubbing. Everyone, every writer wants to see their work in print. It's a big deal. It's a huge deal. It feels good. I still have like ten copies of Bayou Moon in hardback. Occasionally someone will ask for a copy and I'm all like, "Hiss. Go buy a .01 library reject on Abebooks." These are all that are left, unless I start selling madly and St. Martin's decides to take advantage of an ambiguous contract and republishes Bayou Moon. (By the by, when any of you budding Stephen Kings and John Grishams sign your publisher's contract, make certain that you're not signing your electronic rights away forever. There should be some sort of time limit on e-pubbing even for the traditional publisher. For some reason this makes them think that it's not really out of print. Just a learning lesson for the uninitiated. Since I signed my contract in 2001, I'm entitled to say, "Duh," because Kindle wasn't even close to a household word then.)
Here's what I did fifteen years ago. I wrote my books. I polished my books. I made sure I had a synopsis and an outline. I developed a list of literary agents who represented what I wrote. I wrote a query letter. I polished the query letter. I ruminated about the query letter endlessly. I sent out query letters. Interestingly enough I found an agent fairly quick. This agency who got me first wasn't the best agency around but they got me in the door. St. Martin's picked up one of my mysteries.
Throughout the next year, I re-wrote the book for the editor. I bent over backwards to make this woman, whom I've never met, happy. She didn't like the original name of the book. She didn't like the original ending of the book. She wasn't happy about the heroine's interactions with the love interest. This, you would understand, was my first to be published, novel. I would have flown to New York from Texas and given this editor a hummer, if she had been a man and had thusly demanded it. She did not and I am kidding. I would have given her a foot massage, however.
Finally, the book was published. Happy days. People assumed I had it made. I spent $10,000, which is significantly more than my advance, on publicity. I went to book signings. I went to book stores. I went to mystery conventions. I sent out press releases and notices to everyone I knew, was related to, or had ever spoken more than two words to.
The book didn't sell particularly well. It was received all right. It had some nice reviews from official reviewers. Library Journal, for example, was nice to me.
|The Headless Horseman and the Pumpkin wishes to interject|
their thoughts on writing. No, really.
But I had been tainted. Literary agents don't want to touch you if you previously published and it didn't sell well. Eventually I found a really good one who was willing to take on one of my works, Shadow People. But what I discovered about this literary agent was that she was only willing to send out about six of the manuscripts and if it didn't get picked up quickly then hasta la vista.
|Okay, I know this has nothing to do with this blog, but I'm|
kind of rushed for a humorous interlude.
A few years went by and I kept plugging away. I followed the above formula. I wrote, I polished, I queried. Pretty soon, the literary agents knew who I was before they read the manuscript and wouldn't even bother with me. (That's sad.) (Honest to God, one had a database about all the authors she had read manuscripts or partials and she quoted to me in email when I had sent her what and when.)
Then there was an interesting article in Newsweek in 2010 about self-pubbing. It dawned on me that I didn't need to query anybody. I didn't need to write a synopsis. I didn't need to worry about anything except making myself happy writing. I didn't sell well at first. (Well, I'm still not selling well, exactly.) But I am selling. I ended up giving books away to draw readers in. It was a wise decision. Bubba and the Dead Woman still outpaces everything else.
In fact, Bubba compels readers to buy other works by myself. One particular reader who was enthused about Bubba, however, was so appalled by The Life and Death of Bayou Billy that she/he announced that she/he/it was deleting everything of mine unread. (Let's see. The words 'horrendous' and 'smut' were both used in relationship to Bayou Billy. So I gathered that the person was unhappy with the book. But since she/he/they/whatever didn't actually 'buy' any books, I figured that they're just frustrated because they didn't read the description of the book where I WARNED folks that poopoo language was contained therein.) (There. There's my relatively brief reference to someone bitching about my work.)
Writers. Writing isn't easy. It isn't going to be a matter of just here-ya-go and people will snap it up. I see people on smashwords all the time asking bizarre amounts of money for minuscule amounts of words. (Some of which ARE smut and possibly could be horrendous.) I'm not sure where they got the idea that if they published the work on smashwords then readers would descend in droves to buy their 5000 word short story about their penis for $12.99. (Not making that one up, btw.) I don't think self-pubbing has the poor reputation it used to have. There are authors out there who are very good and are worth snapping up. (I'm not saying I'm one, but I think I have potential.) But the world I started out writing in doesn't exist anymore and the pickings are slim.
Here's the most important lesson. There's no rule book anymore. Literary agents can be great, if you're able to get the great ones. (There's a few of them out there.) But for the rest of us, we've got to wing it.
I say throw the rule book away and write your own damn rules. Any would be writers out there, here is the message. 99% of writers work hard to do their thing. No one will 'give' you anything. So eff the rules and do what feels right. (Hahaha. I should have said write. But it was too much of a groaner.)