Sunday, October 19, 2014

Adventures in Self Publishing - An introduction

Vanity presses were once a sad case of vultures feeding off dying dreams. An aspiring author would spend thousands, and if they were lucky would end up with a case of unsold hardcovers in their garage. Traditional publishing was not much better. I once got a letter in response from an agent, saying my novel had potential but could use a professional eye. Note that I had not so much as sent them a sample chapter by this point. Soon after, I got a letter from a "script doctor" offering his services, from the same address. He even called me, sounding exactly like a cartoon mobbed up con artist on my answering machine. I never got far enough to have a legitimate publisher take 90% of the take. Modern self publishing is easy and painless, and should also be mostly free. Sadly, the vultures are still out in force. While there are legitimate services (proofing, editing, formatting, cover design), there are also a ton of marketing scams, from fake twitter followers to fake Amazon reviewers. I mention this because there's no reason one's broken dreams of being a famous writer should also punish one's bank account. The one thing that traditional publishing has over self publishing is that a traditional publisher won't bother to print you if you suck. The people that do make it tend to suck, and the ones that don't suck even worse. Not to be rude, but lets just start there. Your book sucks, and you suck for writing it. I don't suck. I'm writing in a genre that is in a downturn, I don't have proper promotion, I haven't been given the right break, the Goodreads mafia doesn't like me, I'm still establishing my brand, and maybe I should go ahead and spend $500 bucks for that sidebar ad. No, I suck, just like you suck. We won't get rich self-publishing. People I know that consider themselves successful cover part of their utility bill with their writing. The numbers are even sadder. Amazon has this delightful self-worth meter called Author Rank, which will replace alcoholism as the main contributing factor to authors' suicides in the years to come. I hover around 800,000-1,000,000, because I suck. If I sell one single copy, I jump up to around 200,000 before sliding down again. Selling one copy sucks, but I'm still doing better than 4/5ths of the titles out there. There are only around a couple hundred self-published authors on all of Amazon that make enough to live on. You won't be one of them. You will be one of the other hundreds of thousands. The ones that suck. And it's a wonderful time to suck. Teenage boys sitting on couches make millions on YouTube. Twilight fanfic sells millions. Any amateur idiot can get on the exact same platform as the professional idiots. Temper your expectations, and there are still wonderful rewards. The first $2 direct deposit from Amazon. Reaching double digits in a very specific category during free promotions. Opening the box with your proof copy from Create Space that you got for less than $10. I can't help you stop sucking, but I can share what I've learned along the way. Self publishing can be intimidated, but once you've got it down, you can go from your proofed copy to being submitted online in a single evening. And there's no reason to spend a dime on it.


  1. In 1970, while living in California, I sent my first manuscript to an agent (i think that's what it was supposed to be), and within a week two men were knocking at my door. They were supposedly with the outfit that received my ms, and quickly offered me a program in writing, with their editors, proofers, etc. Their brochures listed names like Rod Sirling and other famous writers. Needless to say, I didn't bite. Like those ads to learn to draw, I almost sent off for that (lol).

  2. Yikes - still a lot of scams, but at least they don't come to your house anymore.