Saturday, June 2, 2012

Hey, what's the deal with self-publishing?

So this week we’re all talking about self publishing here at Word Whores! It wasn’t so long ago that it was the most uncool thing ever. Times have changed so much.

It’s probably no surprise that I like the trend. I actually have three self-pubbed projects out. First, I was invited by Meljean Brook and Jill Myles to put a story in our super cool three-novella anthology, WILD & STEAMY. That was a great way to get into self-publishing, as a group project with two smart writers who knew more than I did about it all.

Then I put out a spin-off novella from my Disillusionist series, DEVIL'S LUCK. That was my first solo project. After that, I went and created a new erotica pen name (Annika Martin) and put out a smutty category length novel, HOSTAGE BARGAIN. Just because I sometimes like to write really dirty! This winter I’m launching a spy PNR series, self pubbed,  

Oh, what fun I’m having self-publishing. A few random thoughts and observations:

There’s no right answer to the self-pub vs. traditional pub debate
Different writers have different dreams and goals, different skills, different comfort zones, which means different publishing paradigms will work for them. Here, I’m talking about my own personal experience. The only wrong way is being ignorant or sloppy about the whole thing.

I’m in the mix-it-up camp
I haven’t left traditional publishing completely. I started with a NY publisher (Spectra/Random House) and I like the idea of having one foot in both camps. It feels natural for me. I’ve also got stuff out with Samhain (digital first) and Audible, too. Different models give you different benefits.

I love the control of self-pubbing, but I would also like to walk into a bookstore or Target or Wal-Mart and see a row of my books; at the moment, being pubbed with a NY house is the best way for that to happen. 

I now write two kinds of books
These days, I’m splitting my major series projects into two groups: One group that fits the NY publishing model - that’s my more mainstream stuff, or the stuff that falls into a really obvious marketing category - I’m writing a new UF series like that, with big pubs in mind to target. 

The other group fits self-publishing. My upcoming spy paranormal, MR. REAL (winter 2012), is a perfect example of that—it’s steamy, quirky, and  super genre-bending (paranormal/romantic suspense/mystery/sci fi). Hell, I barely even know how to describe it, and I'm the writer. 

Self-publishing: awesome for the DIY control freak!
I’d rather be writing, sure, but it’s not like it’s that much of a time commitment. And, I love having control of my cover, my back blurb, the timing, the ARCs, title, pricing, all of it. Nobody gets to mess this thing up except me. I will be angry at nobody but myself! It is totally exhilarating to live and die by my own sword.

You so need an editor
I use editors and proofreaders, and sometimes even cover artists, even though I design some. No writer should pass or skimp on the edits. I’m so hyper about the quality of what I put out, even with hired help, I wheedle over every little decision, every word—way more than my NY pubbed books because there aren’t layers of people to catch things—the buck stops with me. With my Devil’s Luck novella, wow, I read that thing dozens of times preparing it. Though, I do format myself. I use Guido Henkel’s fabulous guide. (If you use it, consider trying out one of his books as a thank you!)

I’m starting to view self-pubbing more as an art than a skill
I used to think you either know how to do this stuff or not. but really, self-publishing is like novel writing—there’s always more to learn, and there are schools of thought on everything (formatting styles, ISBNs, cover dimensions, pdf styles, advertising, pricing, length, timing, back matter, and on and on). 

Self-publishing encourages diversity & author power
I know with all this self-publishing gold rush talk, a lot of people have slapped up a lot of garbage, but there is also a lot of interesting stuff going up—things traditional publishers would never have touched. Good things. It’s especially nice for shorter works and riskier works. (Digital-first houses have also added to this diversity.) Mostly, it means authors like me have more choices of what to write and sell. Yay! 

I’m not one of those authors who is totally raking it in with self pubbing—at all. I still work a regular job over here and struggle to make ends meet. But with self-pubbing, you get to offer your books for a lower price, and you get to keep more of it—that’s totally clear to me. I earn around $2 selling a $2.99 ebook on my own vs. around $1.30 from a $7.99 ebook a NY publisher sells, pre-agent (your results may vary). And more people can afford $2.99. (With paper, that’s not so true: self pub print costs writer and reader more, because the economies of scale aren’t there, so self pub paper often costs more than $8. Still, not everyone has an ereader. Which is why I’ll put out my PNR spy series in paper as well as ebook. I haven’t figured out who through.) 

That said, money isn’t the only reason I write. Sometimes other factors weigh more heavily. Hence my two-camps thinking above.

Self-publishing—and my opinion on same—is evolving
Things are changing so fast with self-publishing, it’s dizzying. I’m relatively certain my view on one or more of the above points will alter in the next six months. Maybe even the next three months. Which is kind of cool!


  1. Participating in each of the "types" of publishing must give you some fantastic insights into their respective quirks.

  2. Yes, it's been such a good eduction!

  3. AND it makes her a great teacher! :D

  4. Voodoo Bride thinks it's evil your erotic stories are menage!!! Just think of what Miss Doreen would say!
    Voodoo Bride demands you also write a non menage erotic story.

  5. Or maybe a non-erotic menage story? Just kidding! Okay, Voodoo Bride! I will!