Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Down the Self-Publishing Rabbit Hole: The Decision

A few weeks ago, I presented my beta readers with an early Christmas present - to myself.  The gift was a heavily edited, written, re-written, and re-heavily-edited draft of The Vesuvius Isotope.  As far as my own eyes and brain are concerned, I'm done.  I can do no more to better this novel.  So I gave the manuscript to a handful of readers whose opinions I trust and began thinking about the next step.

And just like that, in about ten minutes, I made a monumental decision...

I'm going to self-publish.

We have all heard stories upon stories of authors "choosing" to self-publish because they became frustrated to oblivion following years of rejection letters.  Not the case here.  I have never submitted anything, anywhere.  Indeed, I think I'm at a worse starting point than the reluctant self-publishers, because I not only lack the alligator skin they have grown from those rejection letters, but also the constructive criticism they have read through the tears.  But I do have the following personality traits, and these traits are the reason why I think self-publishing is for me:

1) I'm a control freak

I want to decide what to outsource and to whom.  I don't want to operate on someone else's timelines.  I don't want to remove the forbidden "-ly" words that I included on purpose.  Sorry, but it's my book.

2) I'm an excellent researcher

Research is what I do for a living, and it's also one of my favorite parts of the writing process itself.  The abundance of resources available to today's self-publisher, combined with my personal appetite for self-education, have me convinced that I can learn how to do this.  And as for the parts that I can't...

3) I'm self-aware

I know my own strengths, weaknesses, schedule and budget.  So I think I can make wise decisions regarding what to take on myself and what to outsource.  At least, that's my hypothesis.  We shall see.

So here I go down the rabbit hole.  Even if I fall flat on my face, I will invite my readers along and share my self-publishing journey as it unfolds, so that other members of the Murder Lab network may gain some insight.  I hope you will learn a thing or two from my mistakes, so as to not have to make them all yourselves.  I also hope that if I'm really lucky, some of you might divert me away from the edge of a cliff or two.

Please stay tuned for part 2 of this series, The Checklist.

I'd love to hear feedback from those of you who have self-published and from those who published traditionally.  Am I crazy?


  1. In December I self-published my first novel (Soul Walker) on Amazon. At the beginning of 2012 I had a dreamy plan to find an agent/publisher. I entered contests to get feedback. I studied the query process. Finally, I submitted five hundred words meant to sum up and sell my 90,000 word baby. The first rejection was kind of cool. The next dozen felt like being broken up with via Twitter. Part of me wished I hadn't wasted so much time trying to go the traditional route. By no means is it easy or simple, but as you stated in your pros list, you're more than equipped to handle the details. As for alligator skin, a newbie is a newbie, fancy agent or not. I wish you great success with The Vesuvius Isotope.

  2. I never even got far enough to see criticism. All the agents I queried either didn't respond or sent form rejections. Criticism comes from readers.

  3. It's a lot of work. Having just done it myself, I'm amazed at all the moving pieces, even though I'd spent over a year reading about the process. It's also something like building an airplane in mid-flight since self-pub is changing constantly. Good luck!

  4. Best wishes. I think I am about six months behind you and like you I can totally understand your reasons for making your decision. Cant wait until you find your success!

  5. Nice to meet you! I dropped by after Rob said so many wonderful things. You are not crazy. I did the same. I believe if you have the ability to do it yourself, why not? The publishing industry has changed dramatically, and it doesn't quite make sense attaching to an outdated business model. The traditional publishers are battling for survival and searching for a new market niche. But the bottom line is, unless you are famous your brilliant book would be years out before we ever saw it printed. Your hard work deserves to be read sooner than later. Keep me posted!

  6. You guys rock! I really appreciate the support- it's a bit daunting. Thanks and welcome to the new members who have joined us. I'll reach out individually shortly. And a huge thanks to Lance for the monster business plan and pile of tips from his own recent experience. I already have his permission to share, so I will do so!

  7. Those interested in this subject can find a terrific success story here:

  8. I think this is a fine idea, Kris. The only positive I can see about traditional publishing these days is that publishing companies have a marketing budget, and you may not. But by self-publishing, you also avoid all the whims of those companies and their employees. Should the fate of your book really rest in the hands of some mailroom person who is in a bad mood because they spilled coffee on themselves on their way into the office? No! You're going to create an e-book version as well, I hope? I've become totally hooked on reading via Kindle.

    1. Gray, I totally agree. And not only that: publishing companies may have a marketing budget, but it seems to me that they are only willing to spend it on those who don't need their marketing anyway...

  9. As acquisitions editor for a mid-size publishing house, I feel I have to defend, or at least, provide an explanation for things some of you complain about here. I applaud self-publishing, encourage it for many writers. What many don't seem to understand is that it's not about what you publish but about what you can market. Unless your goal is not to turn a profit but just to see your name in print.

    In the above conversations, I see many of you went "the traditional route." Well, that pretty much set you up for failure. Traditional publishing is handled by the "Big Six;" all but one are owned overseas. In our field, they eliminated several imprints, took all the best authors and left the mid-level authors who had contracts to drown. That's when small publishing houses started popping up.

    Agents? Please. They are becoming extinct. Most small presses don't want to deal with them anyway. And, contracts are standard, so you don't need a negotiator.

    I'll bet you never contacted me. Oak Tree Press has a strong mystery line. We grew from 12 titles a year to 50 in under four years. We have a two-person promo dept. We're POD and we also do Kindle. We don't charge authors for anything. And no, I don't reject manuscripts because I've had a bad day. I will even tell you WHY you got rejected and suggest things you can do to get through the door next time.

    I write on this topic all the time. Here's two. One came online two days ago, the other, titled "Why You Got That Rejection Letter" has had over 500 hits.

    I think you all need to hear the other side of things before you go bashing.

  10. Hi all,

    For the record, the purpose of this post, and subsequent posts in the series, is not to "bash" but rather to share my self-publishing adventure as it unfolds, and to solicit discussion based upon the experiences of others (positive or negative) with BOTH self-publishing and traditional publishing. Along those lines, when I say "traditional" publishing, I am *not* strictly referring to the "big six". I'm referring to soliciting someone else to publish a book, no matter how large or small the publishing house, mansion, or condo.

    Along those lines, thank you Sunny for your comments in support of and defending the "other side". To go a step further, I am shortly going to be creating a "Find an Editor" tab in my navigation bar as well as a "Find a Publisher" tab, featuring publishing houses (again, any size) who accept mysteries and thrillers. This has always been part of my agenda with this website. We would love to have you as a permanent advocate of and educator about the "traditional" route.

    Last, I *loved* Sunny's "Why You Got That Rejection Letter" post, and would encourage any and all to check it out. It does, however, explicitly emphasize the point I was making in my comment above, which is that publishers are only interested in marketing people who market themselves first.

    Cheers all, and thanks for the great discussion.


  11. Sorry, Kris. It wasn't YOUR post I was knocking, but boy, some of the comments just reinforced the misinformation about the publishing industry I find floating around. Look, we aren't all the "bad guys" out here. Did I mention I get no pay for all the work I do because I plow it back into the publishing house? Oh yeah, and I'm trying to get a kidney transplant, but I spend 6 hours a day sitting at the computer to help writers get their career started. Yes, I am a real human person, it kills me and my publisher that we can't get more people into print. And yes, it is less time consuming to just send that rejection letter with no explanation. It also is a protective barrier to having to say no in the first place.

    I have a lot to offer, but I'm blunt and to the point. If that's what your readers want, the real deal on the industry from the point of view of a compassionate publishing house trying its best to stay afloat in a tough economy, then I would LOVE the opportunity to educate those writers who are willing to listen.

    If I hadn't loved your words, Kris, I wouldn't have bothered to respond. It was just the knee-jerk reaction of some of your readers that had me riled.

  12. Hi Sunny & Kris,

    I'm an unpublished author, soon to try the small press route. I've been learning both sides of the fence regarding self-publishing vs. traditional. Here's my question:

    1. Self-publishing route: If I have $5000 to put into marketing my book, where should I focus my efforts?

    2. Traditional (Being a small to medium press, not a "big six."): What kind of budget does Oak Tree Press or other medium indy presses devote to marketing and where does a press focus their efforts?

    Thanks to both of you for helping out writers like me!

  13. I'm curious - of those of you who have self-published - What kind of monetary returns have you earned from your books. If this is not something you'd like to share on a Blog I totally understand, and if you'd like you could e-mail me. Just wondering what the possibilities are. I'm still polishing my second novel and am I imagine 6 months to a year away from either querying or ?.


    1. Bryan, this is a great question and one I would like some answers to as well. I imagine it varies wildly. That said, as a scientist I have to point out that the experiment needs to be properly controlled. So we need numbers from the traditionally published lot for comparison!

  14. As an author events coordinator who used to work at a bookstore and set up all their author events, and who now has my own author events company, it is interesting for me to see the conversations and concerns of authors in this very challenging new publishing world. I see the frustration from authors, and the need for changes in the industry, which is one of the reasons I created my new SoCal Author Academy. I was receiving so many requests from self-published authors to "represent" them, but what they were actually asking for is merely a little hand-holding to guide them thru the process of marketing and setting up events themselves because they do not have the benefit of in-house publicists. I wish you all much success and applaud your efforts!