Friday, September 12, 2014

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Self-Publish

I’ve been thinking about self-publishing for some time now. Of course, I also think about getting more exercise, and all that thinking does me a lot of good.

But anyway. Self-publishing has gone through rapid changes, and I’m not the kind of person who wants to be on the cutting edge, keeping abreast of every new development. I like being published by a company which will handle the cover art and editing and formatting, and I intend to try for this at every opportunity.

Last year, though, I considered putting a short story up just to test the waters. So I emailed a friend of mine called Merri Hiatt.

Merri was a fellow romance writer who died unexpectedly this year, but she lived life to the fullest, especially when it came to writing. She started from scratch—making her covers herself, learning along the way—and what I liked most about her approach was how businesslike she was. Her progress with multiple series was charted with spreadsheets and sales. No “Success is holding my book in my hands” for her; she counted numbers.

I asked Merri where to start, and she sent me a copy of the Smashwords Style Guide. Let’s just say I am not a technical person and found this a bit overwhelming. Since I didn’t need to have the short story out this way (submitting to magazines was an option), I shelved my self-publishing plans.

But then this year, my novel The Deepest Ocean came out, and a couple of the reviews mentioned wanting to see more of the heroine and her great white shark. This gave me ideas for a couple of novellas and I wrote them in a white-hot streak of creativity.

Except these didn't fit my publisher's requirements, and since they featured the characters (and shark) from the novel, they couldn't be sent elsewhere. In other words, they were ideal for self-publishing.

The question was how much I’d have to spend in advance. There are several reasons I like commercial publishing, but a major one is that there’s no money out of my pocket beforehand. This post by self-published writer S. L. Huang is especially interesting, because she spent more than $2000 on her book.

Though as she points out, the reason this price was so high was because she wanted to reach a certain minimum production standard. I didn’t plan to bring the novellas out in paperback, so typesetting wasn’t needed. There were a few other areas I could cut costs as well.

But for now, I’ve taken the first step to becoming a hybrid author—and that step is to have written something that’s right for self-publishing. I don't know if the novellas will sell, but that's a risk I'm prepared to take. A risk I'm comfortable with. I'm mentally prepared for this journey in a way I wasn't before.

So let the voyage begin. I’ll be charting the rest of the steps here as I go along. Wish me luck!

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