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Why I Decided to Self-Publish

Pieces on a chess boardAuthors, are you deciding whether to go with traditional or indie publishing?

I was three days into Sarra Cannon‘s self-publishing workshop with the Heart of Carolina Romance Writers when I knew:  indie publishing was for me.

It’s not for everyone.

Traditional publishing has a lot of advantages. You’ve got a team behind you—experienced professionals working to package your book as a great product people will want to buy. If you self-publish, you have to do all that on your own, or hire out some of the work. In return, the gross profits go to you: after the retailer takes their cut, the rest goes to the author.

That sounds a lot better to me than accepting a small royalty, with most of the profits going to the publishing house for the life of the contract, just because they incurred the upfront costs before the book was published.

Of course, that means I incur all the risk. There’s no guarantee I’ll make back the money I put into my books. There’s no guarantee I’ll sell any books at all. But my background and skills put me ahead of most authors who jump into self-publishing.

Here are some professional and personal reasons I’ve decided to do this on my own:

  • My day job is technical writing. Not only am I experienced in writing and editing, I also have skills in graphic design and document formatting. I understand metadata. All those things traditional publishers can do for me, I can do for myself. The only exception is the final editing. Everyone, no matter how good a writer, needs an extra pair of eyes (or two) on their manuscript before it goes to publication.
  • The decision-makers at the publishing houses seem to be highly skilled in the art of Not Getting It, as demonstrated in this humor piece  (Publishing Vs. Amazon: A Play in Five Acts). They are Luddites, clinging to the old way of doing things, making incremental changes with the hope of adapting—in an environment that requires utter transformation. If you’re a book publisher and you can’t figure out how to thrive in a market where consumers are buying more books than ever, then maybe it’s time for a career change.
  • When Random House and Penguin merged, they had the chance to name their new company Random Penguin (for reals), which is THE BEST POSSIBLE NAME FOR A PUBLISHING COMPANY. Instead, they went with the boring corporate mashup Penguin Random House, which is a dull, lifeless thing.
  • Courtney Milan said that publishers want to STEAL from me, and now I’m scared to sign a contract. (Okay, that’s not really what she said, but that’s how it sounded to me as a newbie at last year’s RWA conference. Publishers aren’t really big meanies—they’re just trying to stay in business in a competitive climate, like everyone else. They write contracts that are favorable to themselves. That’s why you need a good agent to negotiate for you—emphasis on GOOD.)
  • I want complete creative control over my manuscript. I want final say over every word, every comma, every page break. I want a cover and a title I love. The problem with this, of course, is that I AM SOMETIMES WRONG ABOUT STUFF. The only person who’s seen my cover art so far is my husband, who sometimes makes useful comments like “That looks good.” Other times, though, he’ll say things like “That looks blurry,” to which I’ll reply (in my head of course), “What do you know, you engineer, it’s supposed to look blurry, it’s art!” And then, after my mental temper tantrum, I’ll go back and make it less blurry. Because he’s right.
  • For the past six years, I’ve been building an author platform. I’ve got a significant social media following. I’m active in writing organizations, including leadership roles. Will this translate into book sales? I don’t know. It’s a chance I’m willing to take.
  • If this whole self-publishing thing doesn’t work out, I can write more books and try the traditional route. There aren’t traditional and self-published authors, only traditional and self-published books. It’s been repeated so often, it’s become a truism in the industry: hybrid authors do the best financially. Even indie-publishing guru Bob Mayer says he tends to think that new authors are better off going the traditional publishing route (at least to start). This isn’t a choice I’ll make once, but for each book or series I write. Indie publishing will be an adventure, a challenge, and a learning experience, which sounds like great fun to me regardless of how it turns out.

In preparation for my first release this year, I’ve started my own publishing company, Artesian Well Publishing, which also offers editing and cover design services to indie authors. I know it’ll be a lot of hard work, but it’ll be work I love. I feel blessed to have this opportunity.

Authors, if you’re unpublished, are you leaning toward traditional or indie publishing? If you’ve been published, why did you choose the route you did? 

My First Book Signing!

As an indie author and a debut one at that, the first book signing is a MAJOR event.  By my standards, anyway.  Not knowing what to expect, I went in full board prepared for everything and anything.  I mean, I had a drawing for a free copy of my next novel LUST ON THE ROCKS, a drawing for a child’s garden bag stocked full with garden tools, gloves, seed saving packets and recipe card (rosemary lemonade), plus business cards, stock piles of my current novel…

You name it, I had it.  Everything.  And I had a great support staff behind me who created a wonderful ambiance within the small gift store, served raspberry lemonade and pastries—generally sold my book for me!  Especially one very special lady by the name of Susan.  Without her, none of this would have come to pass and for that, I am forever grateful.  It was a fantastic turnout!

While I didn’t break any sales records I did experience the incredible joy of meeting readers who came specifically to see me.  Do not underestimate the joy factor here because as an author, I don’t exist without readers.  Sure I can write to my heart’s content but with no one to read my books, how far will I go?

About as far as the kitchen counter.  My daughter will read my books, I’m sure of it.  After all, they were written with her mind!  And if she doesn’t?  Well, I’ve enjoyed the process, each and every minute.  Remember:  this is the job where I can say “I can’t believe I get paid to do this!”

It’s that pleasant.  That rewarding.  That fulfilling.  So my book signing went well and I’m extremely appreciative to all who stopped by.  Loretta won the copy of my next novel and Manya won the kids’ garden bag — congratulations to them both!  And wanna know something really cool?

Miss America’s Teen stopped by to say hello.  Yep!  This beauty was gracious and sweet and stood by my side for pictures.  🙂  Helps that she’s the daughter of a friend of mine, good friends with my younger sister and of course one of my children’s favorite babysitters — she and her gorgeous sister.  Thank you, Elizabeth and Mary Katharine Fechtel!

It’s funny how life catches us by the shoulders, stops us in place and says, “Pssst… I want you to meet someone.” 

Prior to these young ladies, I must confess, I was no fan of beauty pageants.  Thought they sent the wrong message to our young girls.  But after meeting these two and their parents–particularly their mother—I learned a lesson.  While I cannot speak for the adult pageants, the training and preparation these girls go through is tough, from learning how to interview, ask questions, present and conduct themselves to demonstrate talent in their chosen field, ie. dance, music, etc. Plus they receive scholarships and once-in-a-lifetime experiences!

Now I don’t know about you, but I get nervous when it’s interview time!  Not these girls.  Their self-composure is incredible, not to mention they’re just plain good and decent people.  And while they’re too young for me to hand them my novels (adults only, please), their support is appreciated! 🙂  As is Peggy’s, the owner of the store hosting my book signing (shown above).

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