Wednesday, November 19, 2008

on self-publishing: a message from the converted

With each day that passes, the ambivalence I had had regarding self-publishing is becoming a distant memory. My advice to those who want to self-publish but are afraid of the stigma that accompanies it: Don't be afraid. And don't listen to those who tell you not to because of said stigma. Times are a changin'.

That is not to say that there aren't any crappy books that have been self-published. But there are a lot of crappy books that have been traditionally published, too. As my twin brother says, there's a market for *everything.* Rise above it.

The keys to self-publishing are commitment and planning. Make the decision and stick with it. Don't waffle back and forth, and don't let others talk you out of it. Some people may tell you it's hard. Some agents may tell you that the traditional publishing world and/or literature departments in universities across the country have a disdain for it. Some booksellers may tell you that they never stock self-published books. All of the above *might* be true.

What they don't tell you is that there is such a thing as viral marketing, i.e. marking via word-of-mouth that is used to promote and sell everything to music to movies to medicine. Heck, why do you think Barack Obama's campaign was so successful? Technology gives us a quicker and easier access to a market than ever before. Podcasts, Facebook, blogs, etc. connects us to many at once.

Of course, I'm not saying anything that you probably don't already know. You're a smart bunch.

If you are committed to self-publishing, then go all the way. Don't skimp. Make every aspect of your book as professional as possible. Proofread and edit it w/in an inch of its life. Get feedback.
And when you're finally ready to sell, don't just sell your book out of the backseat of your car. Make contacts. Network yourself professionally (no stalking!). Get a Myspace or Facebook page. Get your own website. Join a Meetup. Make the book as accessible as possible. Arrange to do a reading. But plan these things. Assess how much time and/or money you can invest into promoting yourself. Be thoughtful in your approach. Set goals and timelines.

I can probably do a better job of all of the above than I am now. But I am certain I'm on the right track, and that feels *really* good.

I'm not telling you to abandon traditional publishing. I'll likely go back to querying agents when my current fiction manuscript is ready (and that likely won't be until next spring). But it's so encouraging to know that there are more options than ever before (and really, don't we writers need all the encouragement we can get?), all w/in our reach.

Take 'em! Go for it!

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