Preparing to Self-Publish
Ever since I wrote my post First, Find an Agent, I’ve been having second thoughts, which have since blossomed into wild and exotic imaginings.
Things have changed an awful lot since July 2015, when I announced my determination to find an agent for my novel, The Long Voyage Home. Since then, I have learned a great deal about the Internet, independent publishing and all things online. It has convinced me – as it has convinced many other writers long before me – that it is wrong to put one’s eggs all in one basket. And perhaps my entire strategy could do with an overhaul. So I have overhauled it and arrived at some radically different conclusions.
How to Publish?
For a start off, should writers of fiction (or anything else, come to that) really be trying their utmost to be published by traditional methods to the exclusion of all else? I think not. Concentrating on traditional methods means finding an agent before finding a publisher before finding readers. There are too many gatekeepers in this process, many of whom neglect their duties or else leave their gates permanently closed or merely ajar – for a mixture of good and bad reasons. One of those reasons is that they simply don’t have enough time and money to invest in risk, and that is understandable.
This is where independent publishing and self-publishing become immensely attractive. It is possible to publish an ebook, for example, without sacrificing quality and professionalism, and with little or no risk to the author. Self-publishing can, in theory, enable a writer to cut out the middleperson and reach readers directly. That’s a giddy prospect.
What to Publish?
Anyone new to this game should proceed with caution. Nobody should try to build a ship when they only know about canoes. I think of my novel as a ship (the story takes place entirely at sea, after all) and my short stories as a flotilla of canoes. So why not dip my toe in the ebook water with a collection of short stories? Not only have short stories come into their own with the electronic revolution, but also they represent very little risk – they don’t have anywhere near the blood, sweat and tears involved in writing a longer work.
So I’ve decided to start off with a collection of short stories as my first ebook. At present, I’m calling it A Hundred Ways to Live and other stories, and it collects together three tales extracted on my website, plus another that has still to be finished (providing an additional impetus to write).
How to Promote?
It’s all very well publishing your own ebook, but how do readers find it, and how do they decide whether or not they want to read it?
All the research I have undertaken points to the necessity of promoting oneself before one promotes one’s book. As I have said elsewhere, the hard sell simply does not work anymore. Instead, authors must attempt to market themselves, and in the most authentic ways they can. There’s no room here to go into this vital topic in detail. In summary, it mean adopting a variety of strategies involving social media so as to increase one’s visibility and to demonstrate one’s integrity, helpfulness and authority. Plenty of people have led the way and are doing this already – Robert Bidinotto, for example, or Joel Friedlander. These are people to emulate as we strive to be the best versions of ourselves we can be, both as writers and human beings.
But doesn’t this mean that all the work of promotion is left to the author? Yes, it does. And you know what? Even if you were published by traditional methods, you would still be doing all the work of promotion. That’s just how it is. Be cheered by the knowledge that the biggest online market comprises books. The Internet is a great place to sell one’s work.
I’ve made a humble start with this approach. It takes a long time and it certainly doesn’t end once one’s book is published. Writing and promoting one’s writing are lifelong projects, and form a symbiotic relationship. So we should not despair if our first ebook sinks without trace because, if we persevere, it could always bob to the surface later on.
A Dual Strategy
Of course, we shouldn’t take all our eggs from one basket, only to put them entirely in another. So while I plan my ebook, I shall also send my novel to agents. You never know …
There is no stigma to going it alone. It is now quite normal for writers to do this, and even highly successful authors have combined traditional with self-publishing. That is why we use the word ‘traditional’ to describe older forms of publishing, and not ‘normal’. We have a new normal, and it works.
Good luck in your endeavours.