Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Great Experiment

Oh my, look at the time. Sorry, I nipped out for a pint and before I knew it, well,… I’m back now. Are you upset? Did you miss me? Oh, I see. You think I suddenly came back because I want something, right? Okay, I do; sorry if that impinges on your self-esteem.

I have been busy while I was away, honest. I wrote two books, and one is due out in a few weeks, and I am conducting an experiment with it that I want to record here as it unfolds (or falls flat, whatever the case may be): I’m going to publish it myself.

Yes, I know I have advised against this, even though I did it myself (actually, it was because I had done it myself), and my reasons were valid. At the time. Things have changed since then and I am keen to see how much, or how little, difference the new paradigm will make.

After my first foray into self-publishing, followed by my acceptance into the world of professional publishers, I swore I would never even consider a DIY book again, but times and technologies changed, and with the coming of the eBook and POD revolution, self publishing is starting to become a viable option. It is still a difficult and hazardous option, however, and not for the faint of heart, so I stood on the sidelines watching others play for a while, thinking I would never have the gumption to join in. This is the argument that swayed me:

Traditional publishers offer 3 things:
1. Editing
2. Artwork
3. Marketing
4. Validation (okay, four)

The first two are services that can be contracted out if you cannot do them yourself. A couple hundred quid should do it, as opposed to 85% of the net profits from your book from now until the end of time. Granted, the profits from you book may not equal a couple hundred quid, but that’s a different issue.

Marketing: small publishers routinely expect their authors to handle their own marketing, and now the big boys are pushing marketing off on their authors as well. So what are they doing to earn their 85%? And, if you are desperately bad at marketing (which I am) and have a few hundred additional quid lying around (which I don’t) you can also contract this out.

Validation: this is the biggie, because a lot of writer’s look to the publishing industry to tell us if we are good enough. When a real publisher takes our work and produces a book, it’s like a great weight has lifted; we have arrived. But that book can--as many do--just lay there, unsold and unread. If, on the other hand, you self-publish and have people buying and enjoying the book and exchanging glowing reviews on Amazon, isn’t that better validation than having a “proper” book published but ignored? The big publishers want us to believe they put the stamp of validity on our writing, but in truth, it is the reads who do that.

Of course, in truth, what is most likely to happen--self-published or traditionally produced--is that you will sell a few copies to family and friends and then your book will sink into the morass of words spewed daily, like an open sewer pipe, into the river of an increasingly word-weary public. So here’s what I’m going to do:

I am going to self-publish the sequel to my runaway (not quite so) best seller, Postcards from across the Pond, to see if, by using the new technologies and a different business strategy, I can outsell it. I realize this is setting the bar pretty low, but one thing my limited experience with professional publishing has taught me is that it is impossible to underestimate sales.

Accordingly, my new book, imaginatively titled, More Postcards from across the Pond, is coming out as an eBook soon, with the paper version to follow a few weeks later. I’m going to do this right here, out in the open, so everyone (well, the three of us) can see the results.

Should be fun.

Then I’ll likely disappear again.