My Self Publishing Adventure
I know how I got here and I have no one to blame but myself. But what do you do when the only choices you have are bad ones? It’s not like I decided to become a writer. I was one. I suspected it many years ago and ignored it for as long as I could.
It began innocently enough. I penned some silly stories as a child – short things, not meant for other eyes. Just to amuse myself, I said. It wasn’t an obsession by any means. I didn’t have to write. I didn’t have to make up fictional stories. It was just a pastime, something to do between reading science fiction books and if it helped me clarify my thoughts on some things, what was the harm?
But then some teachers in high school encouraged me. Oh, they meant well enough I suppose. They didn’t know what it would lead to. I wonder if they even suspected what writing can do to a person. Just write a journal, they said. You can get extra credit. How about a couple articles for the school newspaper?
Sure, why not? Okay, maybe it did make me opinionated and occasionally argumentative; it wasn’t like I had any great need to fit in anyway. It was just that I had to think things through in order for the stories make sense. I had to imagine alternatives and other points of view. Writing forced me to think and I found myself questioning and after that all hope was lost. I was an addict.
Yes, writing was a gateway to thinking, which eventually resulted in an undergraduate degree in philosophy. Normal people shudder at the thought and rightly so. Thinking, if it caught on, would disrupt our entire economic and political structure. Politicians would have to come up with reasonable positions rather than just look good on camera and spout sound bites to arouse emotions. Corporations would have to justify why their ‘new and improved’ products really are. No, thinking would be an awful thing.
I tried to stop. I got a job, a desk job, the kind that required short hair and a tie. I hated it. I didn’t do badly at it but thinking got me in trouble when I tried pointing out organizational policies and procedures that didn’t seem to make sense. Management scowled until one day I wrote something to explain why some things should be changed and I was promoted. Now I was management. Could things get any worse?
Five days out of every week I would get up, take a shower, shave, get dressed and arrive at work before almost anyone else. There I sat in my private office with my short hair and my tie reading over inane email asking for meaningless reports or inviting me to participate in unproductive meetings. On good days I could finish my first cup of tea before anyone desperately needed to see me. I was a success. I was miserable.
But there were bills to pay and kids to feed so I tried pretending that this really wasn’t all that bad. I had done much harder things when I was in college that paid only a fraction of what I was earning behind that desk. I tried telling myself that I was making a difference, that what I was doing was somehow meaningful. It had to be. It paid well enough. But thinking got in the way again and no matter how much I tried, I could not convince myself that this is what I wanted to do with my life. It wasn’t meaningful to me because I was a writer.
And so I tried to turn my job into that of a writer. I wrote technical reports. I prepared plans. I reviewed those written by others and edited them. I wrote policy documents, guidance, and templates. I prepared briefings. I created spreadsheets to justify budget requests or to prove whatever it was upper management wanted proven that month.
But it wasn’t satisfying. Much of what I was writing might be considered fiction in the broadest sense of the word but it wasn’t the kind of fiction I enjoyed reading and it wasn’t as much fun as the novels I was writing in my ever decreasing free time.
My obsession with critical thinking asserted itself yet again. I crunched numbers. I questioned assumptions. I examined alternatives. Should I continue being a success with great prospects for further promotion and yearly bonuses or should I risk it all and do something I always wanted to do?
It really didn’t take a lot of thought. I quit. Actually I opted for “early retirement,” which is much the same thing but sounds better and comes with a meager pension.
This happened the last day of January 2011 and this is when I mark my exit off the professional highway and the beginning of what has become my self publishing adventure. I’m chronicling my journey here for others who may follow me. We all start from different points, with different skills and with different things in our packs but we’re all exploring the same wilderness. I don’t have a guide so I’m going to make some wrong turns. If any of the markers I leave help people, I will consider my time well spent even if they only provide advice to tread lightly or a warning not to go this way.
Marker: “Tread lightly. This path is tougher than it looks and I’m not sure where it goes. Your friends may tell you to turn back but I think there are reasons to go this way.”
Marker: “If you can’t afford a guide, you have to be very careful. Check what you are doing over and over again.”
Marker: “Have reached a major milestone and have something to show. Getting here wasn’t as hard as I feared but I’m not sure how to let people know what I’ve achieved.”
Marker: “People will take what you give away for free but they may never look at it.”
Marker: “If you want to be noticed, you have to shout. You have to jump up and down. You have to wander the side paths to find people who don’t know you but who may be interested in seeing what you have done. It’s not easy. In fact this may be the hardest part of your journey.”
Marker: “Feeling a bit lost. Not sure if I’ve gone the wrong way or said the wrong thing. Are my prices too low for the quality I’m offering? Am I reaching the right people? Are others shouting louder? I may change direction a bit but maybe I just need to be more patient. For now I’m staying the course.”
Marker: “I stayed the course and am getting some more notice on Twitter and my blog but no book buyers. It seems a 99¢ price for a novel does not, by itself, attract readers. I can’t believe raising the price will attract more but I’ve heard it can. I may try this later. For now I will try to find more Twitter followers. I should also try to find book bloggers who will read and review my books.”
Marker: “Twitter may not be a good way to promote your book but it seems to be a good way to connect with other indie writers. You need to find people willing to read and post honest reviews of your book. Reviews are the primary way a reader has of determining the quality of an indie book.”
Marker: It is amazing how a little positive feedback on your books can motivate you to make them even better. A book you thought was good enough for a “reader,” may not be good enough for a “fan.”
Marker: Writing is something you have to learn, just like any other skill. It takes time and it takes practice. You may lack the skills needed to make your first book as good as it should be to publish until after you have finished the first draft of your third.
Marker: Formatting your book for print is much different from formatting it as an e-book. You can do it, though. It’s not that hard. This post may help you.
Marker: Reviews are your best feedback from readers. Listen to them.
Marker: Self-publishing will not be my first choice the next time.
Marker: The results of my two-day kindle free promotion under KDP Select were less than I hoped.