Thursday, July 26, 2012

Self Publishing in New Zealand - To Self Pub or Not to Self Pub, Part Two

Why Am I Self Publishing?

I've wanted to be an author all my life. If you've been following this blog at all (which I haven't been stellar at keeping alive, I do admit) you will have seen me transition from flitting about, from career to career, and gradually grow more serious about writing.
It's very difficult to make a living through creative writing alone. Perhaps almost impossible. I'm extremely lucky that I have a very supportive family and no major obligations (like children or a mortgage) to stand in my, no doubt poverty-stricken, way.
So I have to make a confession right up front.

The Money

I am self publishing, in part, because I hope it will mean another source of income that I can take advantage of in the next year or so. If you put your work at the right price point on Amazon, you are entitled to 70% royalties. Even if you don't, the average seems to be about 35%. That can add up. Particularly when you compare it to the percentage trade publishers generally offer (off the top of my head, I think it's between 8% and 12%. E-publishers often offer royalties on a par with self publishing, so don't rule them out on royalties alone).
However, money is a terrible reason to self publish.
Most people who self publish will not see much money from their work at all. After they've tapped out the market made up of friends and family, their work will languish in the depths of Amazon forever. Promotion is not a magic wand. Quality is not a guarantee.
Of course, the same is true of someone who publishes with a trade publisher, but in that case you most likely at least got an advance and professional promotions, as well as your book sitting in actual bookstores.

So why do I think I will be different? I don't. I'm gambling here, to some extent, and I'll tell you why.

Speed and Quantity Counts

I am a very fast writer when I want to be. My output isn't huge at the moment, although it's not bad, but it's as low as it is because I'm lazy. And it's rising.
I've had years to develop the bad habits I've got and I'm slowly trying to get rid of them now. I'm learning to make myself excited to write and dedicated to learning the craft.
But, if I light a fire under my own tail, I can get things done. I mucked around for months, thinking I should put something out there before really deciding to go with it. I've had an idea for years that would fit a series of novellas beautifully, about a young man who is really good at problem solving and is travelling around some strange islands doing just that.
About a month ago, I finally decided to really get to it and I finished the second half of the first novella in the series within a single weekend. When I finally crank myself up, I'll hopefully be able to do around one novella per month.
No, they are not works of literary genius. They are, hopefully, fun to read.
And from what I've seen, being able to crank out a lot of books  in a short time works to your advantage when self publishing. I can't imagine many publishers being happy to publish one book per month for you (except whoever published the Goosebumps series perhaps!), but having a huge backlist available when self publishing online is what helps people to make a living. With such a low price point, and no problems with delivery or storage, if someone likes one of your books there's no reason not to buy all the rest right then and there.
(I think I should point out here that of course, there is always the option to self publish paper books as well as the e-books I'm going to harp on about, but they are not something I've given much thought to yet as they are a much bigger investment in time and money when it comes to self publishing).

Size Matters

You'll notice I said novella and not novel. Perhaps I could have crammed my series of novellas into a single full sized novel, but I like the way it breathes at the moment. However, if I wanted to get it published by a publishing house, even an e-publishing house, I'm fresh out of luck. There are very few places that will take works of this size and subject matter (i.e. non-romance, approx 37,000 words) and most of the ones that might take it are fairly new and untested. They still might be a good option, if I wasn't happy to do all this work myself and I do think longingly of them at times.
At any rate, if I self publish, I don't have to worry about size. People have been self publishing even short stories to some success. My novella looks positively gargantuan in comparison.

Promotion

I am fairly well versed in the internet and in social media. I know how SEO works and what spamming is and so forth.
I'm not sure if promotion is a reason to self publish (it seems like it's going to be a pain in the arse, frankly) but it's not a reason to not self publish, at any rate.

Some other reasons for self publishing that I've seen people mention are:
Wanting to have control over your cover and the rest of the process.
Wanting to have control over the rights to your book.
Wanting to undercut the big publishers.
Wanting to see results quickly.
Being unable to get your book placed with an agent or publisher.
Writing a niche topic that probably isn't commercially viable for a publisher.
Knowing you've already got a ready-made audience and wanting to cash in on that, rather than share the profits.

There are probably more that I haven't seen or thought of. If you have another reason, by all means leave it in the comments!

I've got other novels in mind, or even half started, that I will eventually send out to agents and publishers. I have the book of poems that I completed last year (which still needs work) which I intend to send out as well. I am not putting all my eggs in one basket, so to speak.
But I'm excited about this experiment. I loved writing this fun little book. And I'm hoping other people will like it too.

Next post I'm going to talk about the bits of self publishing that I could do without.


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