We had quite a dust up this week over the self-publishing revolution, beginning with my thoughts on agents, followed by Clare’s post on reasons NOT to self-publish. As I have just released a new story for Kindle (more on that below), I reflected on the reasons I choose to self-publish alongside my traditionally published work.
1. It’s real money
I write for a living. Self-publishing increases my income substantially, and pays off monthly. I’m sort of old school on this. The pulp guys who wrote during the Depression were, first of all, trying to put food on the table. Writing is my job, and if I can up the income at my job, why would I not do that?
2. It’s not either/or
I don’t have to choose self-publishing to the exclusion of traditional publishing. I do both. The nice thing is I can make sound business decisions with more options and information than ever before.
3. It’s not about hate
One thing I didn’t understand about the original reasons-not-to-self-publish post was the point about not being a “hater.” Yes, I know there is some vitriol out there about trad publishing from authors who have been burned by it. But hate is a personal invective and traditional publishing is not a person. It’s a business. One should simply make clear-headed business decisions, with self-publishing as one of the options on the table.
4. It’s what I love to do
I love to write and have people read what I write. Self-publishing lets me get more of my work to more readers. This is why traditional publishers should not fret over authors self-publishing non-competing work (and should take a liberal stance on what constitutes “competing”). An author who makes more readers helps the traditional publisher sell more of that author’s books.
5. It lets me try different things
I am free to write what I want and put it out there in the marketplace. I can stretch my muscles, try new styles. My latest story, described below, is an example. This is major.
6. It’s a market for shorter works
I love the novella, novelette (10 – 20k words) and short story forms. This market was pretty much dead until the self-publishing revolution. Now you can actually make a buck off this type of material.
7. It’s fun
Traditionally published authors always love the day a box of their new book arrives from the publisher. You take out a fresh copy, smell it, admire the cover, riffle the pages. Well, it’s just as much fun to see your book become available online, even more fun when people start buying it.
8. It’s empowering
Writers have never had the power they have now to reach readers. It used to be there was only one way to do it, and that was through the largesse of a difficult-to-reach Kingdom called the publishing establishment. I like having more power. But with power comes responsibility, and it’s up to me to make sure my writing is the best it can be. I like having that power, too.
9. It’s a free market
It’s nice that the market — the readers themselves — get to decide how much reward an author gets. That’s as it should be. The more an author writes and publishes and pleases readers, the more the market will reward said author.
10. It’s fast
This may be my favorite reason of all. I don’t have to wait a year or 18 months to see something I wrote go out for sale.
As an example of all the above, let me tell you how my latest offering came to be:
A few months ago I purchased the Kindle edition of the Robert E. Howard Omnibus. Howard was one of the most prolific pulp writers of the 30s, best known for creating Conan the Barbarian. He wrote in several genres, including the Steve Costigan boxing stories.
I liked the style of these stories because I’m a boxing fan (old school, that is, from Jack Johnson to Muhammad Ali), so about six weeks ago I found myself tapping out a first person narrated boxing tale. I called my character Irish Jimmy Gallagher and set the story in 1955 Los Angeles. Pretty soon I had about 6000 words in a voice I really liked.
I rewrote the story then sent it out to a group of beta readers, who I told to be “brutally honest” with me. I really didn’t know what I had. The feedback was 100% positive, with a few suggestions and typo snags. So I took their notes and made some changes and then did the following:
* I created a cover to suggest the pulp-style boxing stories of yore. I purchased a license for a pen-and-ink boxing picture fromiStockphoto and designed a template (I’ll change colors for future stories) in Pages for Mac. Total cost to me: $45 and a couple hours of time.
* I wrote the marketing copy for the story, which is a crucial link in the self-publishing chain, but I enjoy that process, too. Fifteen minutes.
* I converted the story to .mobi format using Calibre software. For a novel with a TOC, I would probably hire this step out. But I wanted to see if I could do it with a simple short story, and I could. A few hours to learn the program and mess with it.
* I uploaded the story to Amazon on Monday morning (ten minutes to fill out the info on their publishing page) and it went live later that day.
From the finishing of the story to getting it vetted by beta readers, doing the formatting and design and placing it online, it was about a week. That absolutely rocks.
So now I have a boxing story for sale. If I had sold it to a pulp magazine in 1935, I might have been paid $100 for it as a one-time fee. Now I will make royalty income off it for the rest of my life. While one 99¢ story is not going to buy a new car, it is certainly going to be substantially more over the long term than our forefathers of the pulp days ever saw. So I will be writing more stories in this series, and start other series as well.
This is a good thing. No, a great thing for writers.
So those are ten of my reasons for self-publishing. And now it’s my pleasure to introduce you to Irish Jimmy Gallagher, who checks in at 6’3″ and 225 pounds. A boxer with dancing green eyes and a wit born of the Blarney Stone, Jimmy is a hell of a fella, quick with a laugh and quicker with the jab.
But if you foul him, stand back.
Available for 99¢ exclusively on Kindle.