Monday, April 11, 2016

Lessons Learned - Part I

This week I did a guest post about self-publishing on Patricia Gligor’s blog at . Is it for your or not? One of the people who commented was Sunny Frazier of “The Posse” and she asked me to write a series about the steps and trials and errors of self-publishing.

Initially I wrote a long, boring post about how I started out and how I reached the point of changing my publishing strategy. I hit the Delete button after rereading it.

I honestly believe an author is better off if they try to find a traditional publisher before self-publishing. It may turn out to be right for you, but if it isn’t, it can’t hurt for your “resume” to include traditional publishers in your background.

My start was not an auspicious one. Often times we tend to jump in with both feet without knowing what we’re doing. I had no contact with other authors, authors’ groups or anyone with publishing knowledge, and I didn’t understand researching on the Internet. I was new to computers, too.

Long story short, someone told me about a self-publishing company at a time when self-publishing was frowned on. I didn’t know about The Big Frowning Face and tried it.

I submitted a manuscript and I was thrilled when I received an email telling me I was the best thing since sliced bread, even comparing me to some big name authors. I was elated, printed the email and taped it to my wall. I was in heaven. It took a while for me to realize that they probably sent this type of email to all of their writers.

Then the real work began. I tried marketing and promoting, but to no avail. There was that frowny face looking mean and nasty, and looking me straight in the eye.

There were issues with the self-publisher that made me sit back and take a long, hard look at what I was doing. After some work, I cancelled my contracts with the intent of going elsewhere. Was I naïve? Uh, yes.

It seems no one wanted to deal with a self-published author. Things have changed today, but that was then and this is now.

I started submitting a rewritten novel and found a taker, an epublisher. I was thrilled, and in all honestly I still feel that way. They were willing to take a chance on me and the Sandi Webster series. The first royalty check I received wasn’t for very much, but I began to feel like I’d made it. What a rush!

I started writing a second series, The Bogey Man Mysteries, which was a spinoff from the Sandi Webster series.

A long period of time had passed since I first self-published, but at that point I was feeling pretty full of myself. I decided to try to find a different publisher for the new series, and I did.

Over time I realized the two publishers were on one road, and I wanted to be on another. There was no common ground. I once again cancelled my contracts. That brings up another point. If you find a publisher, read your contract carefully. There are pitfalls and you don’t want those in your contract, but I’m not an attorney so I won’t go into detail.

My intent was to rerelease all of my books on my own. I’d been hearing great things about Amazon’s self-publishing program and had a feeling I was at the beginning of the road I wanted to take.

Jumping in with both feet again, I took my own road and I don’t regret it. However, I had no idea how much work was involved, and that’s what I want to pass on to you. You have to be your own publisher and it’s not a job for sissies.

Next week I’ll talk about where that road has led me, and how I did it. In the meantime, remember that if you’re writing as a career, not just for fun, you’re running a business. Treat what you’re doing as a business and look for the marketing plan that will work best for you.

Have any of you had similar experiences to those I had in the beginning? Were any of you as naïve as I was? I was an avid reader, and heck, since I read so much, how could writing my own book be so difficult? I have to laugh at myself when I think of how I perceived The Business.

Until next week, think long and hard about what you’re doing. Do you really want to be your own boss? Remember, it involves a lot of hard work.

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  1. Replies
    1. Thank you, Una! Next week I'll start getting into the process. Hope you'll come back, and thanks for stopping in today!

  2. Marja, I don't think you were half as naive as I was. LOL
    I spent (wasted?) years, seriously years, querying literary agents to represent my first novel. A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing and, from what I'd read, a writer needed an agent to sell their book to a BIG publisher. What I didn't know was that, without an online presence, no agent would ever take me or my book seriously. Sunny Frazier, bless her heart, straightened me out on that one. And, by that time, I had learned about small press publishers. So, after I'd established myself a bit online, I started to query them. My first Malone mystery found a home with Post Mortem Press and I'm still with them as I write Book 5.
    What will the future hold? I have no idea. :)

    1. One thing I forgot to mention, Pat, is that I once had an agent. As it turned out, she wasn't honest. The word shyster comes to mind. I'll leave my comment about honesty unexplained. She's not worth talking about. I'm glad you found Post Mortem Press and that they've done well for you.

  3. My journey has been pretty much the same as yours, Marja and also as Patricia's. During the 1990s, I queried both publishers and agents to no avail. Then in 2000 I started posting on AOL's writer message boards and that's where I found my first publisher. But it was a self-publisher outfit and as soon as I submitted to them, a big company bought them and they started charging more than I could afford. Then I found a small e-pub and published 3 romances with them. I'm still with them. But for my mysteries I branched out with Amazon and had one of those make the Top Ten bestseller list for satire. I will probably continue with both publishers.

    1. You've done very well, Pat, and I commend you for your tenacity. Sometimes that's what it takes.

  4. My first publication was by a small e-book publisher. After the two-year contract ran out, I took back my book. (They did a nice job editing and on the cover, but the book then cost too much to see to anyone but relatives and good friends. Plus, no promotion, and no time to do it myself (2 month turnaround). I've self-published with Amazon since then. Hey, I can sell few books on my own just as well as the e-publisher. (tee hee)

    1. I find I'm actually doing better on my own, Norma. Good for you! We do what we have to do to succeed. Thank you for commenting today.

  5. Thanks for showing all the pros and cons in your journey, and the wisdom too. It's a lot to think about before deciding on that "road" you spoke about. Good luck!!

    1. Thank you, Jackie! Next week I'll start sharing the process. Self-publishing isn't for everyone, but sometimes we have to make a choice. Thank you so much for commenting!