Loving the Self-Publishing Life

I’m a self-published author. I chose to self-publish my first novel in 2012, and four years later, I’m still happily self-publishing my novels. I’ll admit that sometimes I feel a little isolated from writers who choose the traditional publishing path, particularly when I find myself surrounded by discussions about agents, queries, and submissions. However, this has not caused me to question my decision to self-publish. For me, self-publishing is best for a variety of reasons, first and foremost being that I am happy doing what I’m doing.

I’ll be honest — the whole of my self-publishing journey has been interspersed with the occasional foray into the world of traditional publishing. I did actively query agents for one of my earlier books. A couple of years ago, I threw my hat into the #PitMad contest ring. However, when I take a good and hard look back upon those experiences, I never felt totally comfortable doing those things. I remember worrying about how I would manage life as a traditionally-published author. I have my own professional and personal reasons why self-publishing is a more comfortable fit for me than traditional, and ultimately it all boils down my specific life-work-health balance (*cue juggling here*) and overall sense of well-being and happiness.

self

So yes, my bottom-of-the-line answer to the question of “Why self publish?” is that it makes me happy. I have learned so much and grown in leaps and bounds (and am still learning and growing) as a writer and publisher since I started this endeavor. As one of many happy self-published authors in the world, these are some of the things about self-publishing life that I’d like to share (in case you didn’t know):

  1. Let start off by being real — sometimes self-publishing gets a bad rap. This is because there is a wide range of quality of self-published stories on the market. My favorite go-to authors are a mixture of self-published and traditionally-published for similar reasons: their stories and characters are raw and real and daring. The bottom line is this: a successful self-published author must produce works that are of the highest quality and shouldn’t settle for anything less.
  2. In the world of self-publishing, there tends to be an exaggerated sense of a more-book-releases-in-a-shorter-span-of-time-is-better attitude. As a result of this, you will see more serials (sections of books published as installments) here than in the traditional-publishing industry. This used to be frustrating for me because I am a pokey-ass writer, and I simply cannot keep up with the  breakneck pace of the “suggested” two or three novels (or more!) a year. I also haven’t jumped on the trend of publishing serials, and my stories tend to be longer (around 100K). There is very little that I can do about the fact that I’m a slowpoke writer (oh, believe me, I’ve tried to fast draft or sprint, but my brain just doesn’t work this way), and I’ve decided against serials because I like to structure my stories differently. BUT I write what I write because these stories are true to my heart, and self-publishing gives me optimum freedom to keep them this way.
  3. Self-published authors may or may not have an agent, but we have the same sorts of writing support units including critique partners, beta readers, editors, copyeditors, and cover designers. Our books may go on book tours, and we may attend author events. We enjoy learning new things for our craft, networking with other authors at writers’ conferences and other events, and going on writers’ retreats. Self-published authors have to take full responsibility for financing these things or making them happen in the first place (but so do some of the traditionally-published authors that I’ve spoken to). Regardless of expense, I’ve found great fulfillment in all of these elements of the craft, and I have loved learning all aspects of my trade.
  4. Like any type of publishing, self-publishing comes with its shares of ups (e.g.,  financial success, great reviews, bestseller status, TV/movie options, unlocking other major achievements) and downs (e.g., lulls in sales, publishing works that don’t live up to our wildly high expectations, negative reviews, writer’s block). While we often beat ourselves up for the latter, we really shouldn’t; both markets and readers possess a large degree of subjectivity and unpredictability. When faced with lows, we have to do the same thing that all authors must do — keep writing.
  5. Self-publishing is not “just self-publishing.” C’mon: would you describe a dedicated worker who has set up his/her own business as “just self-employed”? Self-publishing is not at all an easy thing to do, and it is an overall happy place and very viable for many authors. It’s a creative avenue that encompasses all aspects of publishing, if you’re willing to learn and embrace all of those things. For those of us who feel at home here, we can’t imagine leaving.

Some of my most memorable highlights from self-publishing have been picking out my own cover models and directing photo shoots (!), working with incredible artists, talking with TV producers, going to author events and meeting fans, forming life-long friendships with incredible people on my street team, and being part of an amazing group of critique partners. Will I ever query or pitch again? Perhaps? Maybe in a faraway future?  Sometimes I do think about it, for the one hard reason that self-published books do have much less visibility than traditionally-published books. Self-published authors have to do the legwork to get our books onto shelves of brick-and-mortar (usually indie) bookstores. We have to do more marketing in general (though now there are lots of services out there to help) and we rely much more heavily upon word-of-mouth recommendations and book reviews to get the word out about our books (read, review, and recommend!). So yes, I have thought about it in a general sense for future works. But right now, I’m content as a self-published author. I love the creative process. I love what I can do with my characters and my stories. I love my support units. I love my publishing schedule. I love learning about all aspects of publishing. I love what I’ve chosen for my writing life. And I’m not alone.

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helen

Helen Boswell loved to get lost in the pages of a story from the time she could sound out the words. She credits her dad, an avid fiction reader, with encouraging her to read ALL OF THE BOOKS on his shelves from the time she was a teenager. An author of both urban fantasy and contemporary romance, she loves to read and write characters that come to life with their beauty, flaws, and all. She is the author of the urban fantasies MYTHOLOGY, THE WICKED, THE ETERNAL, and contemporary romances LOSING ENOUGH and SCARS RUN DEEP (coming soon). You can find out more about her at www.helenboswell.com.

Setting Realistic, Attainable Goals

Okay, so it’s almost the new year, and I’m sure many of you spend some time setting goals. I think it’s a great idea to constantly be evaluating your writing journey and making decisions about how to get where you want to go.

I do think, however, that sometimes, we as writers tend to set goals that we don’t have control over. I think it’s much better to follow a few simple steps before making goals that will help set yourself up for success in the coming year.

1. Look back at what you did this year. How many words did you write? How many manuscripts? What life events kept you from writing–a move, a new job, a baby, etc. Which of those life events are you anticipating for the coming year?

2. Only choose goals you can control. For example, you might have a goal to get an agent this year. But you actually don’t have any control over that. I know, I know. I may have just dashed all your hopes! Not really, I hope. But honestly, you can submit to every agent that accepts your genre, and they might not have room for your title on their list. They may have clients that write too similar things. They might be in a bad mood when they read your submission. This is a goal you actually have no control over.

3. After evaluating your past year and looking forward as much as possible — no one can predict a job loss, an illness, etc. — then you’re ready to start setting attainable goals.

My suggestions:

  • Word count goal per month — these are great, because you can actually control them. And you feel a measure of control over your journey, as well as a sense of accomplishment when you meet the goals. Be sure to evaluate as you go. If you set a goal for January for 25,000 words, and you can only do 20,000, don’t beat yourself up about that! That’s a lot of words in a month. Reset your goal for February. Just because you made a goal doesn’t mean it can’t change.
  • Manuscripts to write — do you have deadlines this year? Which MS’s need attention first? I make a monthly schedule for four months at a time. Sometimes I stay right on track, and sometimes I have to change things up every few weeks.
  • Publishing schedule (if self-publishing) — how many titles and when will you publish them? Be sure to give time for editing, cover design, etc.
  • Craft/workshop classes — again, something you can control. Sign up for in-person or online classes, work with a critique group, anything you can do to improve your craft. How many of these can you do/afford? Be sure to plan your production and publishing schedule around these times, as you generally won’t get as much writing/editing done at a conference. 

Things to avoid:

  • Sales goals — besides buying your own books, you really have no control over this. Sure, you can do marketing and whatnot, but again, it’s about as easy to predict what marketing tactics will work as it is to find a unicorn.
  • Book deal goals — I don’t think aspiring to have a book deal is a bad thing. But I do think it’s dangerous to consider your year a success or a failure based on something you can’t control. 

Now go forth and set those goals!

What are you aspiring to do this year with your writing?

Liz Isaacson writes inspirational romance, usually set in Texas, or Wyoming, or anywhere else horses and cowboys exist. Her Western inspirational romance, SECOND CHANCE RANCH, as is THIRD TIME’S THE CHARM, the second book in the series.

She lives in Utah, where she teaches elementary school, taxis her daughter to dance several times a week, and serves on her community’s library board. Liz is represented by Marisa Corvisiero of the Corvisiero Agency. Find her on Facebook, twitter, and her blog.

Life as a Hybrid Author

We are thrilled to have Jolene Perry as our newest contributor, with the next installment in our “Life of a Writer” series!

First, let me say what “hybrid” means since the first picture I get in my head is of a Liger (I’m totally kidding) (mostly). Any-way…

A hybrid author is someone who publishes both with traditional publishers and self-publishes.


HOW I TURNED HYBRID:

When I first set out to be published (2010), self-publishing wasn’t even a thing. I mean, you could hire a vanity press to publish your books, and spend a small fortune doing it, but that was not at all what I wanted.

I got my first contract with CFI and my first agent within a few months of each other. My agent very quickly sold two of my YA novels to an ebook only publisher, and then over the next year, two more to traditional publishers (Entangled/Macmillan and AW Teen, who I love and am still with). But we were not a good fit for a ton of reasons, which could be a blog post all by itself.

So. I’d written a book called My Heart for Yours with my friend, Steph Campbell. She’d had a lot of success with her self-published novels, and since I was between agents, we published that book together. After the pressure and stress of cover arguments, and edits I was disappointed with and/or didn’t agree on, it was a welcome relief to control all of those things myself. Consequently, that book got me my current agent WHOM I LOVE.

My Heart for Yours did so well that when CFI offered on the next two books in The Next Door Boys series, I turned them down in favor of self-publishing.

For a while, self-publishing was very good to me. I had the benefit of professional edits, and friends who were cover designers to keep me on track.

And then everyone started self-publishing. I started to feel like I was getting lost in the shuffle, and I just wasn’t willing to play all the games to keep my books ahead.

I re-focused on traditional publishing, which has its own set of problems.

And then I realized something very important. Something that took me an embarrassingly long time to understand, when it should have been obvious from the beginning: Not all projects are meant for traditional publishing and not all projects are meant for self-publishing. (at least for me)

So, now I decide at some point in the writing process if I’m going to self pub, or trad pub. I’m very fortunate to have an agent who has no problems with me doing both. I just have to watch the language in my contracts with traditional publishers to make sure I’m not in breach or stepping on toes.

I’ve done this by keeping my full length YA in traditional houses, and self-publishing my adult romances under pen names.

This is what works for me. For sure it wouldn’t work for everyone.

THE PROBLEMS?

Well, aside from what I just mentioned, I sometimes feel like I don’t fit in anywhere. I know that hybrids are more and more common, but very often I feel like I’m standing on this bright line between two publishing avenues. The self-pubbers don’t take much notice because my numbers aren’t high enough for them to bother hanging with me. The traditional only pubbers don’t take much notice because I’m one of those “self pubbers.”

I know that the bias is changing and shifting, and I’m grateful for it, but it doesn’t change the fact that I sometimes feel like the last kid picked for the dodgeball team. (And I really love dodgeball)

THE BEST PART ABOUT BEING HYBRID?

For the first time in a long time, authors have a lot of avenues for their work. If a book doesn’t sell, or if a contract isn’t what an author wants, they still have a way to get that work into the world.

I love self-publishing for the freedom, and I love traditional publishing for the audience. And because, as petty and vain as it is, I love to see my books on bookshelves 😉

In the end, the best we can do is learn what we can, make decisions and plans, and then have a back-up for when nothing turns out the way we expect. And this goes for a lot more than publishing books.

Thanks SO VERY MUCH FOR HAVING ME!!

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Jolene Perry wears worn out Chucks, juvenile t-shirts, and eats too much chocolate. She loves to go fast, love french fries dipped in Frosties, and stories that keep her guessing. She writes for Entangled, Albert Whitman Teen, and Simon Pulse. Author of lots of books.

She is represented by Jane Dystel of Dystel and Goderich Literary Management and Rachel Stout, also of Dystel and Goderich Literary Management.

She write speculative fiction under the name AJ Brooks and new adult fiction under the name Mia Josephs

The Life of a Self-Published Writer

Happy Friday! If you’ve been following along, some of the contributors to this blog have been posting as part of our special “Life as a Writer” series. Here are the previous posts in the series if you want to check them out:
And today it’s my turn with: The Life of a Self-Published Writer
I’ve been a self-published author since 2012. Since that time, I have been asked these three questions (or variations thereof) approximately 1,403 times: “Are you ever going to query?” or “Why don’t you want an agent?” or “Will you ever consider going traditional?” I know that some people view self-publishing as a stepping stone to publishing via the “traditional” route with an agent. Or let’s be real — some even view it as being inferior to going the agent route. However, self-publishing is a viable option for me and for a lot of writers that I personally know, and I am quite happy with my self-publishing life.

And so my answer to these questions goes something like this:

Self-publishing WORKS for me. 
Self-publishing is FUN for me. 
(And I’ll keep self-publishing it until it doesn’t work or until it stops being fun.)
Maybe some day I’ll post about why I decided to opt for this route in my writing career, but as the point of this post is to focus on “The Life of a Self-Published Writer,” here are some things that you should know about this particular way of life:
1. YOU are the publisher. But that doesn’t mean you need to be alone in this business.
As the publisher, you are responsible for all of the stages of publishing. Among other things, this includes proofing, editing, print/ebook formatting, cover design, submission, and marketing. There’s a steep learning curve, and yes, it can be overwhelming if you are truly doing everything yourself. However, lots of successful self-published authors hire editors and proofers, hire cover designers, and have street teams to help with promotion. And lots of them opt to do some or all of these things by themselves.

For instance, I’ve hired cover designers to do covers for most of my books but have also designed one (and redesigned another) by myself. I hired an ebook formatter for my first book but then I learned how to do formatting by myself and have enjoyed doing it since. I have a wonderful street team called The Demon Horde that helps spread the word about new releases, but I also do my own promotion and marketing on social media. I do some of my own editing and proofing because I used to do freelance copyediting, but as humans are notorious for missing our own typos (see my post about TYPO, the 4-letter word here), I do rely upon the assistance of other editors. 

2. YOU have creative control. Over everything. 
As the publisher, you have control over your own writing timeline and over other aspects of the writing and publishing process. You have control over what your cover is going to look like and other creative elements of publishing. You have control over what types of marketing and promotion you do, and you’re responsible for making important networking connections. You have control over pretty much everything.

Timeline: I’ve heard people say that they don’t want control over everything, but this is the aspect that I may love most about self-publishing. I love having control over my own timelines because writing is not my full-time job. I’m also an associate professor of biology, and I have a family (with two small children) that deserves my love and time. I publish a book about once every 6-10 months, and I’m good with that.


Creative elements: I absolutely love having creative control over my book covers. I love making book teasers and bookmarks and banners. I just barely hired the model who serves as my character inspiration to pose for the cover of my next book *cue flailing* and I get to direct the photo shoot with an awesome photographer *cue more flailing.* In my opinion, it doesn’t get any better than that!

Marketing: Okay, hard reality. This is admittedly my least favorite part about self-publishing. I don’t like bothering my friends, but I do enjoy reaching out to readers, going to author events, and using social media to share news with my fans. There’s a fine line between effective self-promotion and obnoxious spamming, and I highly recommend you read Rachel Thompson’s award-winning blog post on Huffington Post, Authors are A**Holes, to see if what you’re doing falls on the effective side of the spectrum. Bottom line is that authors must build meaningful relationships to be successful. All authors.

3. You shouldn’t feel limited in what you can achieve. 
Self-publishing has boomed in the past several years, and it is an extremely viable option for many authors. Self-published authors go to book events and engage with their fans. Self-published authors hit NYT and USA Today bestseller lists. Self-published authors get optioned out (my YA urban fantasy series was optioned out by Off the Grid Entertainment for potential TV/movie production last year!) But I’m a firm believer that while these achievements should be celebrated, no author (trad or self-pub) should treat the “bestseller lists” as goals. If it happens, it happens. If not, you should still celebrate your achievements.

Writing is challenging. Self-publishing isn’t for everyone, but neither is traditional publishing. It’s challenging no matter what route you take. But in my opinion, the most important thing is to have FUN in taking on that challenge.

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Helen Boswell loved to get lost in the pages of a story from the time she could sound out the words. She credits her dad, an avid fiction reader, with encouraging her to read ALL OF THE BOOKS on his shelves from the time she was a teenager. An author of both urban fantasy and contemporary romance, she loves to read and write characters that come to life with their beauty, flaws, and all. She is the author of YA urban fantasies MYTHOLOGY, THE WICKED, THE ETERNAL (coming 2015) and NA contemporary romance LOSING ENOUGH. She is also one of the authors on the YA/NA crossover anthology LOSING IT (now available for preorder at all ebook retailers).