My first blog post! How odd it feels to blog — to write my thoughts, opinions and share from my vast store of wisdom for the world at large to read. But you wrote a book, you say. Why is blogging different? Well, it just is (*she says with a shaking, scolding finger point*). For some reason writing a 100,000+ word novel is far less daunting to me than writing a blog. I have a lot of theories as to why, but I won’t go into that in this post. Since I’m a blogger now, I hold absolute, cosmic-like power here in this space and can get into that subject some other time whether you like it or not. That’s neither here nor there at the moment…
So where were we? Oh yes, I was writing a blog post. Right…
I wrote a book! Yay, me! Those of you who know me personally may be wondering to yourself: Self, I didn’t know Stephanie was a writer…?... (*looks around and leans in to whisper*) I’ll tell you a secret: I didn’t know I was a writer either until late 2011. Though in retrospect, the clues were so obvious all my life that I must be rather thick-headed not to have noticed before. The story of self-discovery, of the day I was smacked over the head (figuratively of course) will have to wait for my next blog post, for I plan to confess the entire sordid story by way of an interview with the person I blame… er… thank… for getting me started on my novel-writing-journey. I’ve already suckered her into agreeing to let me interview her. [insert evil genius cackle here, with appropriate sound effects of thunder and some flashes of lightening]
I’m sure you have lots of questions. The first one being — When can I get my hands on this brilliant work of literature? Well, you can’t. Sorry. That is to say, you can’t actually get your hands on it in the traditional sense. You have the power to buy the book, but it will be digital only. No print edition for the paper-addicts in the bunch. Again, sorry. I’m a tactile girl myself, so I admit that not having an actual book to hold in my hands is a bit of a let-down, but a minor one only. As to when, I plan to release the book at the end of the summer, but the date isn’t set just yet. A few more things to work out still. Please stay tuned!
Okay, so who’s the publisher, and where can I buy said tome?… Um, well… I’m it. I’m the publisher. You’ll have to talk to me, since I represent myself. The book will be available for purchase at most online retailers, originating from the distributor Smashwords — retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iBooks, just to name a few.
So one more question: Why self-publishing? Are you just a failed author? And why e-books rather than traditional publishing? Hey, that’s cheating. That’s three questions. But I’ll answer them all because I’m feeling generous.
I had no intention of self-publishing when I got the writing bug. Only losers and delusional people self-publish, don’t they? There is a term for these people – vanity authors. Vain, because they failed at luring an agent or a publishing deal from a large publishing house (who always know great literature when they see it), then, embittered and angry because their pure genius wasn’t recognized, stomp off to go it alone, full of sound and fury as Shakespeare said.
Right? Well, maybe. Sometimes. Not always.
After talking with wise friends who have been in the business for a lot of years, I came to the realization that traditionally published books aren’t necessarily the cream of the crop literary-wise. Don’t get me wrong, great authors publish great books in the traditional way. But publishing houses don’t catch them all. It’s a business, and business people follow a set method for selling books. It’s also an expensive business, so they aren’t likely to take on projects that don’t fit their profile. Market economies do what market economies do: the market (aka readers) determines marketability, the supply and demand. The next classic might get passed over in favor of a clone because the original sold a million copies. I’m not saying that’s wrong; it just is. They run a business, and I can’t really blame them. Much.
The trouble with this method is that assuming you can get an agent and then a publishing house to take notice of you and be willing to invest the money to publish and promote your book, you’ve got a discouragingly small window to prove that your book can sell. For new authors, this is a behemoth task, and one that often ends an author’s career before she ever gets started. It’s a hard, cruel business to break into, and not one for the faint of heart.
I haven’t written all of this to bad-mouth traditional publishing. Far from it! It’s method I would have jumped on like a bear on honey had it been immediate and easy for me. That is to say, had my book been about zombie vampires who fall in love with paranormal aliens then go on to save the world from a dystopian existence…
Let me explain.
I initially tried to find an agent and a traditional publishing deal. Who wouldn’t love to slip the phrase “feel free to call my agent” into a casual conversation at a dinner party? But I didn’t search very long. Could I have found a traditional publishing deal? Those in the know said I could have. Maybe they were right or maybe they just didn’t want to hurt my feelings; but what I discovered on my own during that process switched up my thinking. While most of the agents I queried commonly promoted themselves as “looking for fresh voices, plots that haven’t been done before, unexpected twists,” etc., the message I received in their rejections was very different — “When your book is exactly like XYZ’s book, we’ll know it can sell and we’ll give you a contract.” Okay, no one actually said that, but the idea was clearly articulated between the lines of the nicely phrased, professional jargon.
Again, I’m not trying to bash anyone. Literary agents are hard-working people who have a tough job to do. They want authors to succeed. But it’s a tough business as I said, and not every amazing book will be taken on as a project. Even so, agents are doorkeepers to traditional publishing, and as an author, if you’ve been unable to get past them, you have no hope. At least that’s how it used to work. Fortunately, things have changed dramatically. Thank you, interwebs. Thank you, e-books.
The Association of American Publishers reports that last year 510 million e-books were sold in this country alone. Thanks to the internet and the popularity of e-readers and tablets, the old world of publishing is in flux; a new one has been born. No longer are publishing houses the sole gatekeepers of literature. Online (free) distribution tools have taken away the monopolistic edge large publishers once held. Writers have tools available to them that provide direct management over their own career and work output. According to Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, one of the world’s largest distributors of indie e-books, “If the indie author movement was a person, 2011 was the year the movement entered adolescence and 2013 is the year the movement reached adulthood.” I’ve arrived at the right time, it seems.
My lack of immediate success along the traditional path of publication gave me the chance to take a step back and consider my options. The world of books is much larger than I’d originally realized, and as an idie author I have so much freedom! I get to be the boss, and no one can tell me what to do! No one! [insert another evil genius cackle, the thunder, the lightening, et al.]
In future blog posts, I plan to interview other authors, published or not, do book reviews, possibly share some of my other passions in life (coffee, knitting, history, travel), and maybe now and then I’ll talk about what I’m working on and where my writing life is taking me next.
Anyway, thanks for reading my first blog post. That’s five minutes of your life you’ll never get back. Heh-heh. You’re welcome. And if you truly are a glutton for punishment, I’ll write more! I promise!
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