Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Adventures in Self-Publishing, Part 1

Back when dinosaurs walked the Earth, I won the Golden Heart in the Romantic Suspense category with In Deep Water, a sweet romance set at a lighthouse in the coastal village of Pajaro Bay.

Since every writer on Earth (and his brother) is now self-publishing books on the Kindle, I've been feeling left out of the fun.  So I have decided to publish my dear old first manuscript, In Deep Water, and use it as a learning experience to see how this self-publishing game is played.

I think it goes without saying that even if I'm doing this mostly for experience, and not expecting to become the next Amanda Hocking, I still want it to be my best work.  So I'll be revising the manuscript over the next month, working to update it and polish it up until it's the best story I can make it.

While I work on the text itself, I'm finding I have to learn how to:

•design book covers

•format text for the Kindle

•write my own blurbs, descriptions and sales copy

•figure out the bizarre world of pricing

•publicize my work

•put my book up for sale and then evaluate what happens over time, hopefully learning from my mistakes and deciding whether I want to do it all over again with another manuscript.


So far I'm completely overwhelmed, but I'm also having loads of fun.  Creative control is a heady thing, and I can see how this could become addictive.

I'll let you know what I find out, and I welcome your advice and feedback as I play in this new (to me) playground.

In my next blog (Wednesday, January 25), I'll post what I've learned about cover design (pixels and image rights and display fonts, oh my!).

So are you self-publishing?  Or have you considered doing it? What do you think about this new part of the book market?



chanceofbooks said...

Good luck, Barb! Don't forget to do Nook too! If you are going to self-publish, then you need to hit all the major outlets IMHO--kindle, nook, smashwords, All Romance E-books. I buy most of my books using the B&N nook 1 click button on my nook.

I'm excited to see you in print! I'm not pursuing self-pub right now because a)I don't trust that my previous three MS deserve to see light of day ;) I'm getting better with each MS & my first 3 kind of scare me. They would need gutting to get ready. b) I'm currently shopping my recently completed MS to editors/agents and c)I'm not good at or have the time to do the extra stuff like cover design & formatting--right now with two little kids, just getting the words down and edited is a triumph. Also, I don't have the $ to pay for editing right now--this is just my personal opinion as a reader, but I can really tell the difference between self-pub books that went through a rigorous outside editing process like Courtney Milan has blogged (or went through it previously like those authors bringing out backlist that they have the rights back on) about and those that have not. I don't trust myself to edit myself cleanly enough or deeply-enough. I really want to go through the process a few times before dipping my toes in the self-pub waters.

As a reader, I like the diversity of options. I find that $5 and under is my preferred price point as a fast reader, so I'm always searching for bargains. I love the "Sample" feature on my nook--I can take a risk-free peek to decide if an author will work for me regardless of publisher.

Deborah Wright said...

Barb, I find this fascinating and I love that you're sharing your experience with us. I can't wait to hear about all the things you learn as you travel this path.

At this point, I don't have any plans to self-pub, and some of my reasons are similar to Annabeth's. I think I'm still looking for that sense of validation (self-doubt can be a killer) that comes from an agent/editor wanting to sign you/buy your book. That said, I'm not turning my back on the self-pub route. There are a lot of good arguments to be made in support of it.

I can't seem to find a term I like...self-pub makes me think of vanity presses (which this is NOT about). Indie-pub isn't quite right, since you're not going through a publishing group of any kind. I kind of like Bob Mayer's description of "author-centric" publishing, but again, it isn't quite complete. *sigh*

By the way, do you read Bob Mayer's blog? You'll find a lot of information on publishing in general, not just about self-publishing. You can find it at

Can't wait to read your next installment!

Barbara Cool Lee said...

Thanks for the feedback, Annabeth and Deb. Yeah, those are all the things I've been thinking through, too. That's what I think a lot of authors are pondering right now.

I truly mean this is an "experiment"--I find the process fascinating, and very fun! But I'm still writing 1000 words a day on my material to send to the big pubs; I'm not choosing either/or, but trying something new on the side.

Why I chose this MS: In Deep Water has been through a *lot* of vetting, being edited twice by NY editors, and getting close to a deal once already. It also won a dozen RWA contests, which involved a lot of feedback from first-round judges and final-round editors and agents. That's why I picked it. I feel this book never sold because the story didn't fit a conventional market, not because nobody liked it. It's a perfect manuscript to try this process with, because I'm proud of it, readers enjoyed it, but it's *never* going to sell to NY unless I completely change the storyline.

I think an important factor in self-pubbing, which others have discussed, is that my name goes on the cover. That means the work has to fit my brand/style of writing, has to be well-edited, has to be something I'm not going to be embarrassed to hold up against my other work in the future.

(That's why my story-of-my-heart vampire novella, "Cat's Blood," isn't the manuscript I'm using for this. That is a story that's completely out-of-character with the rest of my work, so no matter how much *I* liked it, it's a lousy choice to attach my name to in the marketplace right now.)

Thanks for commenting, guys. I'm really interested in how others are dealing with this "new world." It's going to be an interesting year....

Genene Valleau, writing as Genie Gabriel said...

Congrats on this big step, Barb!

I love that authors have the option of self-publishing. And I think you're very wise to consider this as one of the ways to get your work to readers, and that you're taking steps to keeping quality in your work. I think that's a key ingredient to self-publishing well.

Looking forward to updates on this project!

Paty Jager said...

Barb, I'm loving the self-pub project. It took a bit to get used to the formatting, uploading, and staying abreast of the whole biz. MY daughter makes my covers and does a great job. Her latest is Logger in Petticoats and it's up on my blog if you want to take a gander. I'll be uploading it when I get the final read back from one of my cps.

I've found the indieromance loop to be very helpful in keeping up with what's happening in self publishing and for getting answers to questions.

Alice and Eli have both jumped on the self pub trail. It will be fun to watch your rise.

Meggan McQuaid said...

Self-publishing, e-pub, micro-pub...these are all popular discussion topics in my critique group. I expect that I will self-publish. I'm new enough to writing that it doesn't have much stigma for me. It just seems smart.

But I fully agree that the only way to do it is to put out excellent, highly polished work.

I, too, look forward to reading your findings and wish you lots of good luck.