Self-Publishing Pros and Cons with Dotti Enderle

SeveredThe changing publishing industry is offering new opportunities to writers, but is self-publishing for you? My friend and great writer Dotti Enderle (aka Dax Varley) has been published traditionally and self-published. Her most recent release, SEVERED (A TALE OF SLEEPY HOLLOW), is a young adult novel that’s gives its own version of the Icabod/Katrina story. It’s a fun story with great characters, and I recommend it.

Dotti offers us a little insight into the pros and cons of doing it yourself…

Most of you know me. I’ve been writing since the 1900s, but my first book wasn’t published till 2002. I’ve published forty more since then and have six books coming out next year. These are my traditionally published books.

It so happens, this past spring, I found myself with a YA novel that wasn’t trending. Humor for girls. Check the shelves. Seriously. I think Louise Rennison is pretty much alone. But I loved my book. I had faith in my book. And there was only one person who’d publish it. That’s when my self-publishing adventure began.

But wait…Dotti…does that mean you’re now one of those 99 cent millionaires? Hahaha. How cute. I’m not even a 99 cent thousandaire…yet. I’m not going to bore you with all the details of my journey, but I will lay out the pros and cons and what I’ve learned in my mere five months of self-publishing…or indie publishing…or my new favorite, author publishing. Whatever you call it, it’s still you uploading your work to Amazon, B&N and Kobo.

Here we go.

PRO: DIY kicks butt. I’m the master. I’m in control. Me like.

CON: DIY kicks your butt. There’s definitely a learning curve.

PRO: The indie community is a group of fabulously supportive authors who are willing to hold your hand, give advice, and help you across that troll infested bridge.

CON: Your traditionally published friends now look at you funny. It’s like I’m back in high school and they’re the A List. Not all of them, of course. But some of my lunch buddies no longer invite me to lunch. This hurts my heart a little.

PRO: You can do all your promoting from the luxury of your couch.

CON: You have to be a social media maven. I’m not. But gosh darn, I’m giving it my best.

PRO: Swelling with pride when you see your sales numbers grow.

CON: Dying a little inside when one person returns your book for a refund.

PRO: Your finished (edited, copyedited and formatted) book can be published in a matter of days.

CON: All that stuff in parenthesis costs money.

PRO: Reinventing yourself.

CON: Sometimes the patent office is closed.

Maybe I’m just hardheaded, but in my case, the pros outnumber the cons…except for that whole not being a 99 cent millionaire. But here’s one important thing I’ve learned from the indie community: Your best promotion is you next book. I’m building a readership. And I intend to keep them happy. When you get down to it, isn’t that what it’s all about?

Thank you, Dotti. I wholeheartedly agree.

Anyone have any pros and cons they’d like to share?

Find out more about Dax Varley on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.

Jonathan Poku on the Ebook of Borlosanti

As printing and digital technology gets better, it’s easier than ever for writers to get their work to readers. I applaud writers who take the leap, perfecting their work, hiring editors and designers, publishing and promoting the story to readers. It’s a tough road as the writer wears so many more hats, but it can be very rewarding.

Jonathan PokuJonathan Poku decided to go the indie route with his book Borlosanti. He’s here today with a guest post about his journey…

The rise of the ebook has definitely revolutionised the publishing industry. Never before has it been so easy for a writer to publish his book and distribute it with the main, albeit online retailers or to sell it from his own website to a worldwide audience. In the past a writer who decided to publish his book independently had to go round all the different book shops and struggle to convince the manager to take their book or they had to get a distributor to do this task for them. Often the profit that the writer could make in these circumstances was very small because of the cut the other two parties took. I experienced this problem first hand when I published my book of poetry called Welcome Back to Paradise years before the rise of the ebook.

Many independent writers reached these stumbling blocks and faltered, however I managed to manoeuvre around them with persistence, hard work and adaptation of my approach. I soon learned that having a good book was not enough. I had to be innovative, thick skinned, good at marketing and most of all, I had to find my target audience and go directly to them, i.e., do poetry readings in universities and sell my books immediately afterwards.

My experience with publishing Welcome Back to Paradise was great training for publishing ebooks, because as an independent writer, although it is now much more easier to publish and distribute your work digitally with the help of services like SmashWords and Amazon KDP, you still have to take on the humongous task of marketing your book and creating a buzz.

Marketing a book can consist of blogging, liaising with bloggers to organise giveaways and reviews, tweeting, engaging with your possible audience on sites like Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter and taking part in Amazon Select.

As an independent author, you need to be able to wear many hats because you are responsible for doing the different jobs that a publisher usually has a team of people doing, i.e., commissioning art work, editing, marketing, finance, PR and so on. You do not have the luxury of focusing solely on your writing while others worry about the business side of things.

Borlosanti bookcover

After spending a year writing and rewriting Borlosanti many times, I finally sent it to a few editors and got a couple of people to read it. Once I received everyone’s feedback, I carefully assessed which criticisms were valid and which were not before I did a final rewrite taking the valid criticism into account. This was a very hard task because I couldn’t allow my emotional ties to my book to influence my decisions. I had to be objective for the good of the book. At this point, I gave a friend who was good at art my design for the cover and asked them to do it more professionally. Once I had a book and a cover that I was happy with, I sent my book to one of the people on the SmashWords formatting list. After it was formatted, I uploaded it to SmashWords so that they could distribute it to all of the major online retailers and then I uploaded it to Amazon’s KDP.


Borlosanti
was inspired by a role playing game I used to play with my friends in primary school. Writing and publishing it has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. However my journey with Borlosanti is not over because I have to continue to market it whilst working on its sequel.

Personally although self-publishing is far from easy, I absolutely love it because there are so many challenges and there is so much to learn. My advice for anybody who wants to embark on this journey is to:

  • Stay committed
  • Allocate an adequate amount of time for writing and marketing on a daily basis
  • Apply the same level if not more energy than the amount you put into writing your book into the marketing and promotion of it
  • Start marketing before you even finish writing the book
  • Base your marketing activities on tangible facts (do more of what works) and
  • Learn from others like Amanda Hocking, J.A Konrath, John Locke and so on.

At the moment, for a limited time only, the readers of this blog can receive a free ebook copy of Borlosanti all you need to do is email me at jonathanpoku@yahoo.co.uk with the subject “Free giveaway.” Please remember to inform me what format you would like it in.

Thanks, Jonathan. Great advice about staying committed. Good luck on your continued journey.

Read more from Jonathan on his blog.

When to quit querying and self-publish

Books and fingersRejections are tough, and when they stand between a writer and his dream of getting published, the call of  the world of digitally self-publishing can start to echo louder and louder. But when is the right time to quit querying and self-publish?

We’ve all heard those stories of great books getting turned down by agent/editor after agent/editor then going onto success as a self-published title. There’s Lisa Genova, who spent a year getting rejections from agents for her novel Still Alice, then finally self-published (ignoring advice from an agent who said it would kill her career) and building the novel’s sales into such a success, the book was picked up and published traditionally by Simon & Schuster.

Then there’s Amanda Hocking, who sold $2 million worth of her self-published her YA novels, attracted the attention of an agent, signed a four-book deal with St. Martin’s Press and has gone on to sell movie rights.

And J.A. Konrath, who was a traditionally published author before ebooks became viable, but has found much more success self-publishing his previously rejected novels than he ever did through traditional publishing.

Of course, these don’t represent the results for the typical self-published writer. Just like in the traditional publishing world, there are J.K. Rowlings as well as mid-list authors you’ve never heard of.

So, the question is, is self-publishing right for you? In an interview with WritingRaw.com, agent Eddie Schneider said he’s wary of writers who self-publish because it “implies that the author has poor impulse control.” But he goes on to say, “That being said, there are books that people (publishers and agents alike) just don’t get and have to be shown, by sales success, that they ought to get.”

In his keynote speech at the 2010 SCBWI summer conference, former publisher and now agent Rubin Pfeffer outlined the economic benefits for authors putting out their own ebooks.

Does this translate to: Getting rejections — just do it yourself? No. Absolutely not. Or maybe.

Rejections to query letters could mean a number of things: the query isn’t strong enough, the writing isn’t good enough, the story isn’t interesting enough, the characters aren’t developed enough. Let’s face it, plenty of us have sent out queries for a book we thought was ready only to look at it later and think it wasn’t.

Or the rejections could simply mean the agents/editors just think the book won’t sell, as in the case of Still Alice. With form-letter rejections and no-response policies, it’s hard to say what your specific rejections mean. So, this is where the hard work and gut come in.

Before you quit querying and consider self-publishing, think about these:

  • Have you worked your novel over and over until the plot is brilliant, the characters come alive and the writing is spectacular?
  • Have you gotten feedback from critique groups?
  • Have you gotten feedback from a professional editor?
  • Have you given yourself time away from your novel and then come back to it with a fresh eye?
  • And, do you believe in this story? Truly, deeply, you’ve said yes to all the above and you really believe in this story.

If your answers to all the above are yes and you’re thinking about quitting the querying and self-publishing, consider this:

All the success story writers I’ve mentioned here worked hard not just writing their book, but also marketing it. As a self-publisher, you’re not only the author — you’re responsible for sales too. So, you’ll have to drum up attention in the online bookstores, get reviews, get interviews, build a buzz. And sure, nowadays, even traditionally published writers have to do the same, but they have an easier time getting reviews and notice just for having that publisher’s name behind them. And after all that marketing and building a following, you’ll have to write more books and market them, etc. It takes hard work, discipline and lots of passion. And success won’t happen overnight.

If you choose to go the self-publishing route, to be successful, you must treat it as any traditional publisher would. That means, get a good book cover, write great promotional copy and — most important — hire an editor. I suggest hiring a good content editor as well as a good copy editor.

Content editors will help with plot, character, tension, show you where you need to build up the action and when to add more description. Copy editors will make sure you have your commas in the right place, that sentences aren’t awkward, spelling and grammar is correct (your word-processor spell-check won’t catch the difference between “they’re” and “their”). Traditional publishers have a main editor for a book and a team of copy editors who go through the manuscript word by word. Even they miss mistakes occassionally, but you want your self-published novel to be at least as professionally produced as theirs. So hire good editors. That could be the best money you spend.

Is it time to quit querying and self-publish? That depends on the writer. Agents sign new clients every day, and Publishers Marketplace lists lots of book deals for debuting authors. It just takes one Yes, and the next query you send out could be the one. But if you think you have what it takes to produce a quality book and market it yourself, today’s technology has made it more accessible than ever.

Whatever you choose, don’t stop writing.

What are your thoughts on self-publishing?

Image source

Self-publishing and ebooks

Going into the Austin SCBWI chapter’s annual conference this weekend — it was great, by the way — I was curious to find out how middle-grade novels are selling in ebooks, as that’s what I write. I’ve seen lots of articles in the Publishers Lunch enewsletter saying that ebook sales are rocketing in adult books and even taking off in young adult, but I suspected that middle-grade was behind. According to Egmont‘s Elizabeth Law, I was right. She said they’re not seeing noticeable ebook sales in middle grade.

Anathema book cover

Megg Jensen's self-published YA novel Anathema

Even though MG is slower to this technology, it’s great to see ebooks being embraced so quickly. As I wrote in January, sales of ereaders were stellar for the Christmas season, with many places selling out. Although I still love — LOVE — physical books, whether a book is printed on paper or eink, it’s still a story. And if this new technology is enticing more readers to stories, that can only be good.

The new technology also is changing the publishing landscape. With ebooks, it’s easier than ever — and less expensive — to self-publish books. Author J.A. Konrath has written about this extensively on his A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing blog. He had gone the traditional route before he started publishing his books on his own as ebooks, but he gives good arguments of why that doesn’t matter. YA author Amanda Hocking is an example, selling more than 185,000 ebook copies of her self-published novels.

Now, I’m not saying all writers should stop submitting to agents and editors of traditional publishing houses and go it alone. There are definite advantages to being signed by an agent and getting your work published by someone else. Let’s face it, most writers are not so great at the business end. And throwing an ebook on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or wherever doesn’t automatically mean it will sell; there’s marketing, publicity … oh, and the book should be good (editors are invaluable) or repeat sales won’t be much.

But the advent of ebooks has made it easier for writers to take the publishing of their work into their own hands, and blogs and social networking make it easier to build publicity.

YA author Megg Jensen is trying just that with her novel Anathema. And so far, it looks like she’s off to a great start. The book launched on Tuesday, and as of Wednesday, she had already sold 50 copies. She’s hosting a contest right now where people can guess how many books she will have sold by March 11, and the main prize? An ereader. Now that’s what I call promoting future business.

What do you think? Would you be willing to read a book if it’s self-published, either in print or as an ebook?

Write On!