The Obligatory NaNo post…

Well, it’s that and if I have to look at the memoriam to Bruce N. at the top of my page, I’m not too sure how long my strength will hold out.

But yeah, I’m doing the challenge again. 50,000 words, 30 days, http://www.nanowrimo.org.

Think it’s easy? Oh, hon, you are just so funny!

Try it. It’s anything but easy, and I have no idea how I managed to participate – and win! – for the past 9 years. My books actually have a three- to four-year cycle from concept to publication: I write most of it for NaNoWriMo, then let it sit for two years, and only then, two years after the first draft is completed, do I revise it, and send it off to my editor, and start haranguing my cover artist, and get the template together.

The first novel in my series, that I published in 2009? I wrote that in 2006. And it was before I learned about what it was to self-publish. My, how things have changed. How things changed indeed from 2009 to now, 2015, when I have five books and a script-book under my belt.

I will say, without hesitation, that there is a lot of freedom when it comes to writing sci-fi/fantasy. You create everything from scratch, you set your own rules, you set your own canon – and it’s also one of the most difficult things to maintain. You create a world, a story, a set of rules, and it’s on you to not screw it up. As I will be writing Book 9 of the series – how I got to 9, I marvel to this day – I am also going to be revising Book 6 and prepping that for publication. Target date for publishing… July 15th. And the biggest challenge will be to keep the story within canon. I have set the rules into place with the first arc; now the challenge is to stay with it.

And yes, Ragan Whiteside, this is why you wait a year between installments. :) Because really, the revision process? That’s how long it takes! I have to cut out all the excess verbiage I am prone to when I’m narrating, I have to add scenes, add characters, kill characters, and then adjust the grammar. And all of that before my editor rips it apart.

Why Book 9, if this will be my tenth year? Easy answer: last year, I stretched my Origins story from the year before last. It turned out to be such a massive to-do that I just could not manage to get it completed within just one year. It was massive enough for me to stretch over two NaNo wins, and… I did it. Again. Even though, if truth were told, my motivation has been at nil. By that point, I was just too busy with photography and travel to think about writing.

found via Google Images
found via Google Images

Considering what these last few months have been, I will also confess that I very seriously thought about throwing in the towel altogether for this year. Very seriously. I love writing, and I love my story, without which I wouldn’t even be anywhere near any of this, but there is only so much that I’m capable of doing before everything in me up and says, “ENOUGH!” I am exhausted, mentally if nothing else. Losing two very important people in my life nearly back-to-back was an exercise in perseverance that I never, ever want to repeat. I still haven’t the foggiest how I managed to get up, go to both my jobs, do the photos for Sinbad’s show at the Cutting Room, and stay on top of everything.

Indeed, strength is a funny thing. It may not always seem like it’s there, but when it’s all you have left, the caliber of it will surprise the hell out of you.

If I can survive the past few months – hell, past few weeks alone – I think that by now, it’s safe to say that I can go through anything and come out on the other side of it.

And that’s why I’m taking on NaNo this year again. 50,000 words, 30 days. Ninth manuscript in my hands. Will edit Book 6 and work on the script version of Book 2 simultaneously. Why? Because I can.

K.G.

The Obligatory NaNo Post

In retrospect, maybe I should’ve taken a break from writing this year.

I really don’t want to have to admit this, but there’s simply not enough time in the world to make everything happen the way you want to. I’m swamped with my photography work; I have not yet unburied myself from the cruise photos – still have to go through the 70s Night and comedy show shots, and that’s the second half of the cruise…so maybe, progress? – and I have two more post-cruise shows’ photos to get through as well. Next week I have two shoots. The week after I have another shoot. It’s also concert-planning season, so if I’m going to have gigs, now is the time for me to think about where they will be and send off portfolios and samplers to make it happen.

Where does writing fit?

Oh, and I’m still toying on that translation I’ve started last year. Yes, it takes a year to translate three books by hand from one language in another, and it’s something I love doing.

It’s not something I like admitting, when I can’t do something, but this year’s NaNo may well prove to be a bad idea in the regard of my overall creative workload. I won’t say that I don’t like it – I love every minute of it – but I simply do not have as much time to contribute to it as I have before, and that’s something I’m loath to admit. I love my series. I love my storyline. I don’t love not being able to give it the time and devotion that I want to allocate to developing it and making it grow.

The reason I love NaNo so much is because it motivates me to be industrious when it comes to the series. I do the bulk of my storyline exclusively during NaNo, and the wordcount requirement makes it imperative to get as much of the storyline down as possible. It’s absolutely fantastic for when I’m trying to get a big story out, such as what was with Books 3 and 4 of the series. Most of the plot was put down during NaNo, and it made for an easy edit job and an easier publishing down the line. I chose the two most complex characters to do a background on – Rhyssius and Morrhia – and this is going to take me a lot of time. I have set up the bulk of the story, but I need to put two and two together, and bridge them from two individuals to what they had ended up. The problem is, there is a lot of back story there, and there’s also a side-story to weave in about how the quaint semi-medieval world had ended up becoming connected with the rest of the universe. A lot of continuity that I had hinted at before needs to be brought to fruition.

It’s just…time! All of this takes time! And time is something I have precious little of. Taking on an incredibly complex storyline – hell, continuing it, all considered – is not an easy endeavor when you have a job, a business, and a backlog affiliated with the business.

How I’ve ended up with a word count that’s a full day ahead of schedule, I don’t know, but it’s good insurance because I would need to be ahead. One of my shoot gigs is actually an all-day endeavor, as opposed to me just being a weekend warrior for it and writing on the go with my laptop. So if I’m not writing for an entire day, I’d at least have a good cushion that will keep me on track.

After all, in the eight years I’ve done NaNo so far, I won all eight times. I want to continue the win streak, else I’d think myself extremely remiss. My entire life as I know it had changed ever since I wrote the first book – how much will it change if I keep at it?

K.G.

Bending Rules on NaNo This Year

I know this will catch me flak from quite a few people in the writing circles, but for the good of my books, this has to be done.

My NaNo novel for this year will be a continuation of the one I started last year.

Please hold your fire with the rule that you have to start a new novel every year. A lot of authors just will never tell you if their draft took them two years. So what I’m doing isn’t radical, but it’s just a step-away from my own adherence to that rule.

Why?

Simple reason: I could not, for the life of me, find the time to finish the draft clean before today, and if by October 1st I’m not done with the first draft of the prior year’s NaNo novel, then I can call it a hopeless cause. Usually, by Oct. 1st, I have a completed first draft of the book I’ve started the prior November; that is always the case with every other part of The Index Series. But unfortunately, this year just got straight-up crazy-busy, and I couldn’t manage to set aside the time for writing. Usually, I’d even write at work, during the slow days, but this job, unlike my other job, is very demanding. Not a bad thing, but if you’re trying to finish a book, it’s a detriment.

I will see what I can input between now and Nov. 1st, but I am aiming for a total wordcount of 130,000 words. I have 63,138 words written now. Whatever I write to hit 130K will put me over the finish line for NaNo.

The most important thing for me is to finish the draft. I think that unless I release the screenplay version of Book 1 that I’ve been planning to do, or Book 5 (which I too have to finish editing!!!), I will be breaking my annual-release streak that I had going since 2009. Granted, this year was more of a re-release (considering new cover and edit job on Book 1), but still. It feels almost like I’m stepping away from where I started with it.

Really. I’ve been doing NaNoWriMo for 8 years so far, and won it each time. And that’s great; it got the story that I want written out of my system. But I want to keep writing and write it smart, as well as write it. What’s the saying? Work smart, not hard. I want to work smart on this, and since I do the best of my writing in November, then I figure that the best way to do this is to do this when I write best. So two NaNos it is.

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, I refer to the National Novel Writing Month. Eight years I wrote my ass off for a month, of these came seven and a half books, of which four are out and available for sale. And if I didn’t follow my friend Candice Watson’s advice in actually going for NaNo in 2006 and writing my first book, none of that – hell, none of a lot of things – would’ve happened.

K.G.

Stigmas in Self-Publishing

This is another of those posts that we all knew was coming.

I’ve already addressed the differences between the two methods of publication. They both have their drawbacks and benefits. They’re pretty similar in terms of the steps that a manuscript needs to go through before it hits the market, but vastly different insofar as who does the work.

I’ve waxed analytical on this in this post right here. In short, big difference between trad and self is that in self, the author does the work. Sometimes it costs, sometimes it doesn’t.

It’s no secret that I’ve gone self-pub. I’ve tried the traditional route. A year of querying got me nowhere fast, and the free proof copy code from CreateSpace was sitting there, beckoning me to make a book happen on my own. And I promised myself that, if by my 24th birthday I wasn’t going to land an agent, I would use that code. Being a woman of my word, that’s what ended up happening. What also ended up happening was a whole lot of learning,and one of the lessons I had to learn the hard way was that self-publication carried certain stigmas that, while they are being slowly overridden, are as pervasive as ever.

Let’s start debunking them one by one, shall we?

1. A self-published book isn’t a “real book”. 

Well, you guys know me, I had to dive right in there.

First of all, what makes a book a “real book”? Having the publisher’s logo on the jacket? Or, if you have to go for the fact that a bulk of self-pubs are e-book only, would a “real” book qualify as being on paper as opposed to an e-reader?

Let’s start with a dictionary definition of a novel, per the gods of Merriam-Webster: an invented prose narrative that is usually long and complex and deals especially with human experience through a usually connected sequence of events. If you have to get slightly technical, we’re talking about a work of fiction that is anywhere from 50,000 to 125,000 words in length, per most literary guidelines. Word count differences are, occasionally, determined by the genre of the book.

Note that nowhere in this explanation did I note method of publication, book jacket, or reading medium.

And also, let’s state the keen and obvious: most of the so-called “qualifications” for a real book are bunk. That’s right, bunk. Crap. A load of hokum. A real book only requires being written. The publication medium, especially in today’s world, had never mattered less.

Think about it in terms of logic, and logic alone. Would you consider an audiobook real? Yes? Then why not an e-book? And if you don’t consider an audiobook real, tell me please: is it any less a real text if someone reads it aloud or if it’s not presented as a stack of dead tree? Not to get environmentalist on you, but with all the going green hoopla out there, have you considered the trees that can be saved if someone would just get an e-reader?

And as far as publishing houses, let me get into…

2. Self-published books can’t possibly be good enough if they couldn’t get to a major publisher.

Let’s consider that some of the best fiction out there had been thrown out of publishing houses for not being X enough or Y enough. Harry Potter had been rejected by multiple agents, and again by multiple publishers before it finally got picked up and made into a global franchise. And right now, some of the best fantasy and science fiction is all but guaranteed to be self-published – why? Because publishers don’t take risks. They get books going less for the reasons of quality, finding an audience, etc. and much more for sales. This makes for a double whammy: writers with a great plot concept and a pitch for multiple books in a series get nowhere, while writers who stick to the same formulas that have brought success to their predecessors would get picked up, regardless of their quality.

If I really have to go there, think about Twilight. Yes, I’m going there. It is a franchise by now, a brand name, if you will. It got picked up because there was a market – teenage girls – and it was presented to the market in such a proficient way that it got snatched up like hotcakes. But the writing itself is not good. It’s 80% purple prose, the main character is a complete Mary Sue who doesn’t grow or progress with the series, and if you analyze the messages presented to teenage girls in this book, it is just downright unhealthy.

But it was marketed well, and it sold. Which is why Little, Brown and Company is very happy.

Also to note: about 85% of currently self-published authors have, at some point or another, queried agents and publishers, and had gotten rejected each and every time, for the above reason. This is part of the publishing routine in trad-pub: you keep asking until someone doesn’t slam the door in your face.

As you can imagine, this gets exhausting fast. And if you’re going to sit there and say, “Well, that’s what you have to do!”, then I’ll scoff in your face. Self-publishing is a legitimate, and even lucrative, alternative to traditional publishing.

Let me elaborate for a minute.

We all know the saying: money talks. So let me clarify the point a little by saying that royalties talk. Or, rather, royalty rates.

Royalty rates for self-published authors are, hands down, much better than the ones offered by traditional publishing houses. If a self-pub author goes through specific (mostly free-to-use channels), then the author enjoys a nice 70% on e-sales, and 45% on print sales. The traditional publishing alternative would be somewhere up to 16% on e-sales, and about half of that for print.

To make it clear, self-publishing is a more profitable alternative for the author if you crunch the numbers. And yes, that does make it very much a preferable alternative to going through the well-known gamut of trying to land an agent and spending months, if not years, waiting for a response other than a form rejection.

That’s right: people actually choose to self-publish because it’s more profitable.

Does that make their books less “real”? I personally don’t think so, if only on the account that those things on my shelf are hardly zombies, and same goes for the e-books that are populating my Kindle. They seem to be taking up space, they contain text that’s broken into chapters, and in a huge majority of the cases, I paid for them.

3. If it hadn’t sold millions, it’s not a book worth reading.

See above about Twilight.

Now, repeat after me, with feeling: a best-seller only sells well; it doesn’t make a good book.

Really. Little, Brown and Company made a killing on Twilight as a franchise, as well as a book. That doesn’t mean that the books are good. I lost a bet and had to read those books, and believe you me, I wish I had never made that bet. But it sold in the millions of copies, in multiple languages. Does that mean that it has to be great fiction if it had done so well in the market?

Absolutely not. And there are eggs like that every genre under the sun: they sell spectacularly, but the writing and storyline are very, very lousy.

Some of the best stories are mid-listed or dropped by publishers altogether because they hadn’t met sales-quota expectations. Why? Because of this very mentality, which people are very keen on buying into. If it must have sold well, then it must be great, right? Wrong. Again, Twilight. Also, half of what was written by Judith McNaught…seriously, if you want historical romance, read Philippa Gregory. I’m no romantic, but Gregory has a very rich, flowing style to her writing.

4. Self-published authors are lazy and not willing to put in the work that it takes to get published traditionally.

See #2, especially the part where I talk about money.

Now, let me give you a this-or-that scenario. Suppose you’re an author, looking to get your work published. You spent a year on rewrites, and another year of letting it sit and then rewriting it again. You have a choice. Do you:

a. send hundreds, if not thousands, on query letters and hope you hit jackpot somewhere, spending months of hopes and prayers for a five-figure advance sum but trade it off on low royalty percentages,

or

b. do a little bit of extra legwork, get your book on the market fast, not get an advance, but collect your royalties right away at a higher rate than most trad-pubs?

If you’re willing to wait and think that you would see a payoff in terms of volume sales at the lower royalty rate – okay, then you can go trad-pub. But also consider the tradeoff of publication rights. The publishing house isn’t just printing, marketing, and releasing your book: it’s also acquiring first publication rights, copyright, and distribution rights to your work, and depending on your contract, this can go into a ten-year stretch. So if your book is mid-listed, doesn’t sell well, and is otherwise not meeting the publisher’s expectations, then you will have a fun time wrestling your rights back under your purview. You will not be able to re-publish as a self if it doesn’t do as well.

With legitimate self-publishers, you do not give away your rights. Which, in turn, brings me to rehash something.

5. Self-publishing is paying to publish, and it can’t possibly be good enough if the author had to pay for printing/releasing it.

Call to your memory: first post about Book Country, second, and third. And fourth, about an Aussie vanity press.

If you’re not willing to click to read back through my last repeated ramblings on the difference between a self-publisher and a vanity press, I will reiterate: self-publishers never ask you for money up front for use of services. They may offer certain services for a fee, but none of them are required.

As a bonus, they let you keep the rights to your work. So you’re free to shop your work around after release, if you so feel like.

Vanity presses do charge you money up front, and their contracts and terms of use are sometimes so vague that you don’t notice that you’re signing away your distribution rights, copyright, and first-publication rights. Moreover, there are precious few vanity presses that actually deliver on their promises. iUniverse is probably one of the best ones, because it focuses on developing the author’s brand and business name.

If you don’t know what PublishAmerica is, then this subforum in AbsoluteWrite will give you a nice picture of what authors go through to get away from them. They pose as a legitimate publishing house, then proceed to fleece authors at every turn, even for their own book copies. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a vanity press and a scam.

Also, to clarify, a scam doesn’t necessarily have to be against the law. It’s just making money by dishonest means. And fleecing authors is dishonest.

However, back to my point. You don’t pay to self-publish. In fact, you keep more of your royalties because you’re covering only distribution and raw materials (if you choose to print). However, does CreateSpace charge a “set-up fee”? Not once in my three and a half years of use have I encountered it. It comes with default Amazon distribution, at no charge, and offers a one-time fee for expanded distribution. Is it required? No. But if $40 is all it takes for CreateSpace to list my books on the site of its parent company’s (Amazon) biggest competitor, that being Barnes & Noble, then you know what, it’s a good deal, as opposed to forking over $99 to upload and do everything myself (see Book Country posts). Is it required? No. But I like having expanded channels.

6. Self-published authors don’t work as hard as traditionally published authors.

Bull. Sorry to be blunt, but that’s just plain old-fashioned bull.

I’ve yet to meet a single self-published author who didn’t put in years – yes, years – of blood, sweat, tears, and sleepless nights into their work. Because a self-published author is, quite essentially, going through the publication process on his/her own, then the workload quadruples. There’s no in-house editing team to fillet the manuscript and make sure that the plot flows, the spelling’s proper, the grammar is cohesive. There’s no graphic design team to draw or photograph and create the perfect cover for your book. There’s no layout and printing expert to ensure that the PDF file that goes to the printers will meet their expectations precisely. There is no help. So the author is doing everything.

Daunting? Yes. But that’s what self-pubs do. They may hire outside help, or they may take a couple of months to learn all of that on their own. There has been many a self-pub author who had gone to class to learn Photoshop just for the sake of that perfect cover, and there will be plenty more, at that.

So, really, don’t give me the line about self-pubs not working as hard. Traditional publishers hold the author’s hand when it comes to the pre-release gamut. Self-publishers have no one but themselves and whoever is willing to lend a helping hand.

7. The self-published books aren’t worth their price, therefore a reader shouldn’t have to pay for them.

Now this right here, which is something I’ve encountered more and more in recent time, is utterly infuriating.

A writer is not just writing for the sake of telling a story. This is an intrinsic enough part of the process for a writer that it shouldn’t even need to be said, or spoken of. However, a written work – just like a painting, a meal in a restaurant, a cup of coffee – is a product. And last time I checked, in the world of commerce and retail, customers are required to pay for the product they are receiving.

I will repeat the prior point: self-publishers work very hard to produce their product. They work harder than most trad-pubs. The money that you’re paying for the book is what enables them to pay for the web access bills, for the electric bills, and the roof over their heads so that they can continue to produce their product. Same as where the money goes for a traditional publisher.

At risk of being blunt, I will ask you point blank: what makes you think that you are entitled to someone’s work for free?

Seriously. What, pray tell, makes you or anyone else so special that you think you don’t have to pay for your books? You don’t expect a coffee shop to give you a free cappuccino. Don’t expect an author, regardless of publishing avenue, to give you a freebie either.

I give away free copies from time to time, but there is always a tradeoff involved. It may be a review, or it may be traffic, it may be recommendation, but there is a tradeoff. But to give away a free copy just because someone thinks that being self-published means that I just have to give it away? No way in hell.

8. Self-published authors are greedy and don’t want to share their wealth with others.

At risk of, again, being blunt, why should they share? I call it fair trade. If a traditional publisher is going to help the author at every turn with turning a manuscript into a book, then the 85% of royalties that they withhold from the book price are fair for keeping the production team paid. The editor, the cover artist, the marketing specialist, the book signing coordinator – all of them need a paycheck at the end of the day. Where does that come from? The royalties.

So why, exactly, should a self-pub share any more than they share already? Every time they publish a book and price it below cost to stimulate sales, they’re paying for it by taking a financial loss. Every time they give away a copy, they take a loss. The distributor takes a small cut of the royalty too. And considering that they didn’t have the editor, the cover artist, the marketing specialist, etc., why exactly should they share?

9. People self-publish because there’s no traditional option for their brand of writing.

Now that one actually holds some truth to it. That or, again, the big publisher will not take a risk with that particular genre because it doesn’t think that the book would sell well, even if there is a genre for it enough to, at the very least, mid-list the book.

Niche genres, and niche subgenres at that, are notoriously difficult to make a success, because the audience is limited. Most people reading mainstream books do not know what steampunk is. A lot wouldn’t understand the term urban fantasy.  However, both of those subgenres have a very dedicated and surprisingly large following. Do the publishing houses consider that? Rarely. Which, again, is why an author in a genre like urban-fantasy, steampunk, or even poetry – which is notoriously difficult to publish traditionally – would consider self-publication.

Self-publishing doesn’t differentiate by genre; it’s simply there. It does, however, put the onus on the author as a businessperson and marketer, and necessitates the correct outreach and brand-building, both for the book and the author alike. Building a brand from the books and the author alike is that ends up selling the self-pub. Yes, it’s infinitely more work, but it’s more work with a solid, long-lasting fan base. Which, in turn, produces sales.

—-

The unfortunate truth to the above is, while I can refute and dissect the preconceptions, until the public at large will get with the program and acknowledge self-published authors as individuals who have made an informed decision about their writing future, these stigmas will continue.

I won’t lie: it takes a long time for a self-published author to generate some steam. This is why cross-marketing, as so very well put in this post here (by Candace Mountain, awesomely), is crucial. Authors supporting authors goes a long way, and it pays off in the long run by generating readership.

While at times overcoming these stigmas may seem like a Sisyphean battle, with potential readers and reviewers turning up their nose with a sneering response that your work, which you have sweated leaden ingots over, is somehow now good enough because it’s lacking a Big 6 copyright clause, it is worth it to keep going. Whether or not it seems like it when you’re surrounded by the people who believe that your self-pub book is somehow less real, you do have an audience and you do have a following to reach. It just requires a lot more elbow grease than what people may give credit for.

Special thanks to the members of the FB groups WriMore International and SelfPubEBooks for the feedback on the stigmas.

Onward and upward, my fellow self-pubs.

K.G.

Notabene: My books are still 99c for ebook. After mid-January, back up they go to $2.99 each. Yep, I have paperback too. Click here.

Quality vs. Sales

Inspired by a post by Laramie Briscoe on the subject. Also Gayle’s epic post about writing as a business.

It’s a debate that has gone on in the writing world for some time: sales vs. quality of a written story. And this is an interesting debate, indeed, especially as book publishing had evolved with the advent of e-publication as well as self-publication as a viable – and successful – medium.

The sides to this debate are as follows.

1. Quality should be the marker of a successful book irrespective of sales.

2. Sales make or break the book

3. It depends on the publishing medium, in conjunction with any of the above.

Let me be the first one to point out an unpalatable truth for many aspiring authors: quality doesn’t put food on your plate. If you want to write for a living, you have to consider where your paycheck will be coming from. And if you want to write for a living, then you need to generate sales. Plain and simple. You can view writing as an art and a calling, but you must harness its business aspects if you want to earn a living from it.

Now, let me touch on Aspect 1 of this: quality.

If there’s one thing I have learned as a self-pub author, and as someone who has an ongoing series, it’s that quality is crucial to making or breaking the book. I’ve gotten bad reviews (ABNA 2010). I’ve gotten good reviews (Amazon). I’ve gotten eh reviews (also Amazon). I have faith that I’ve written a great story so far; it’s character-driven, suspenseful, very funny at times, but not without its foibles. This is exactly why I hired a professional editor: while there will always be foibles, just like there are foibles in a traditionally published book, I would rather make sure that someone’s eyes other than mine take a look at it. Because I was going via self-publication, I felt that I had an onus on myself to prove that I could write a good, strong story.

While I had the story written, I believed for the longest time, erroneously so, that it was enough. The plot was rich and could stretch over more than one book, the characters were great, but I had the belief that just because it was great, people will buy it, and that would’ve been enough for me to live off my writing. Looking back now, I know that that mindset was as naive as all get-out. The book was also rife with conventions errors, and it was something that I did not rectify until recently. You may’ve seen a post here, some months ago, that I was doing that, and the reason was that, after some living and learning, my opinion about my own story had changed. I wanted to make sure that it was good on all aspects. If it meant taking it offline, doing an overhaul, and re-publishing it, then that was what I was going to do, hands down.

Look, bad stories get published too, and they not only sell well, but reach the level of success that sparks the dreams of every aspiring author out there. After all, look at Twilight. That story is not good. Point blank. It’s poorly written, even more poorly plotted, and deeply anti-climactic. But it sold. And it got turned into film. The reason for that is marketing, and that’s aspect two.

In truth, marketing and quality cannot be separated. If your marketing plan centers around the quality of your book, then it really needs to stand up to muster, and pass it. Five-star reviews? Mentions in another blog or journal? Recommendations? All of those are the signals that your book is good. But how will it get to those reviewers, bloggers, etc?

Point blank: authors, you absolutely must market your book. How else will it garner a fan base? How else will you get honest feedback about where the story has gone, where it’s going, etc? How else will you, as an author, improve your writing? Without a fan base, without a targeted fan base, you will not get any of those things. And they are a crucial reflector of your work, and your progress in your further work depends on the feedback you will get.

This is also where the publishing medium comes in. Time for aspect number three: the publication medium making the difference in the above.

Self-published authors are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to the marketing aspect of their writing. Why? Because they’re on their own, mostly. In a trad-pub setting, the publishing house’s marketing department takes care of the nitty-gritty of getting the book out there. The reviews, the promo copies, the signings – all of that is taken care of by the publisher. Some publishing houses had even moved into the social media, taking care of the Twitter/Facebook presence for the book. Self-pub authors, of course, have to take care of all of that themselves. And a lot of the time, their resources are severely limited, and something will have to give. Whether it’s the writing or the marketing, that’s another matter altogether.

Nonetheless, this is not an indicator that an author cannot become successful. On the contrary, right now, it’s a much more accessible goal than ever before. Self-publication is, usually, at no cost up front. Or, if you’re e-publishing, no cost at all. But the marketing is twice as hard, and before an author uploads the book file, there is only one question to ask: are you ready to put in the innumerate hours required to make the book a success?

And of course, define success. If you mean success in the framework of, “People read it and liked it” – then great. I will not rain on the parade of anyone who wants their book to be liked, and for whom the income from it is secondary. But if you’re defining success as, “Selling well enough for me to make money from it” – then the answer to the above question should be nothing less than an immediate yes.

Looking back three years ago, I have to make a singular confession: I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. None. Zero. Zip. I had faith in the fact that I’ve written a good story, a free proof copy code, and little in the way of actual knowledge of how much work was involved. It was a nonstop series of stumbles, pitfalls, etc. as I fought to get the book some recognition. I had no idea that the book festival I had entered and placed an honorable mention in was red-flagged by Preditors and Editors because of its entrance fee, or what sorts of scams were out there for authors. I had no idea how to market a book. I honestly, truly, did not know what to do. But through copious reading, researching, and researching some more, I learned. And most importantly, as technology evolved and the idea of self-publication had grown more mainstream, I had to learn how to work around it.

The thing is this: you can write the best story in the world, but unless it sells and garners any sort of acclaim, it’s still just between you and whatever medium you had used to write it, especially if you’re independent. You have to market your book. You have to grow your presence. You have to grow your fan base. Giveaways, sneak peeks, previews – all of that opens up your work to a prospective audience. And the most crucial part of it is to stay relentless. Giving up is always a temptation, especially when you see that you’re not selling as quickly or as well as you would like.

Yes, I think that this post does designate me into the school of thought closest aligned with Option 2 of the above, but this did not come without a hands-on learning process, and a shift of thought. I will admit, once again, that I didn’t know what I was doing at first. I also had a highly idealistic belief about writing. I had a story, and believed that I could make a living off it if I put it out there easily. I did not know how much editing I would have to go through before my good story would actually be good. I definitely didn’t know how much work was involved in making something sell, and the fact that I had opted to self-publish shifted that work onto my shoulders. Which, in turn, had left me with two options: learn how to market on the fly, or give up on the idea of a book series being successful.

Also, my definition of success as an author had shifted as well. When I was starting out, my definition of success was a “well-liked book”. I wasn’t doing it for the money, and to an extent, I’m still not putting as much of an onus on the financial rewards of the books as I put on the financial rewards of my other endeavors, namely my graphic design business. The glaring difference between then and now is that right now, well-liked is simply not enough. I want a series that sells well, and I want to get enough from my book royalties to do more with them than just buy a nice dinner with once in a while.

At this point, with six years invested in the series from concept to publication, I want them to start working for me.

K.G.

And, of course, please show some love to my Amazon page, containing all works in paperback and Kindle form. Other formats available; see the column on the right.