Thursday, January 19, 2012

Why I am...am not...am Self Publishing


Life is not a static thing.   The only people who do not change their minds are incompetents in asylums, and those in cemeteries.   - Everett McKinley Dirksen
As you may know, I am no fan of self-publishing.  A lot of that has to do with the prejudices and the aspirations I have been holding on to since childhood.  Self-publishing, to me, means you have given up.  You can’t cut the mustard so you are going to foist a steaming pile of prose on the public; real writers find real publishers, at least in my world they do (that would be the world where the family all gathers ‘round the dining room table for dinner and then retires to the sitting room for a rousing game of Parcheesi and hot cocoa with marshmallows).
And yet I fell for it.  The businessman in me knew it was a mistake, my publisher urged me not to, but the geek in me was keen to try out all those whizzy new gadgets available on Createspace and Kindle Direct Publishing.  And you know what?  It was a hoot!  I put in the hours to create a good cover, had the good fortune to have the manuscript read and corrected by some very talented people and I enjoyed the technical jobs of formatting and uploading immensely.  I was (and remain) proud of the final product.
But it was a self-published book.  And despite the respectability self-publication is supposedly earning, all I got was a rolling of the eyes and a “Oh, so it’s SELF-published…I see” from the people I admitted it to, and a literal “Don’t call us, we’ll call you” from the proprietor of my local bookstore, the same woman who had been very receptive of my first, properly published book.
And then, of course, there was the marketing.  Big FAIL.
So when it came time to publish the final Postcards book, I decided I wanted to go with my publisher.  The big reason for that is, they had my original one and I wanted all the books under one banner.  I figured if got book number 3 published there, they might take book number 2, as well.  I would lose control of the manuscripts, have no say about the covers or the lay out or the pricing and have to settle for a percentage of whatever the publisher’s take was, but I was willing to go with that in exchange for the marketing assistance they could provide.
Long story short, my publisher and I could not reach an equitable agreement, and at least a portion of the blame lay in the fact that I had self-published my previous book and I knew I didn’t have to settle for a bad deal.  The downside to self-publishing might have been the eye-rolling, the “So it’s a piece of shit” looks from people who would never know and being treated like a red-headed step-child by the proprietor of the local bookstore, but the downside of being “published” would be the loss of control over the manuscript and a paltry return.
So I’m back in the Indie business.  You’ll be hearing more about this adventure in self-publishing in the weeks to come, and hopefully I’ll get to grips with marketing a little better this time around.
STOP THE PRESS!!!
I wrote the above on the bus coming home.  When I got home I had a message from my original publisher* waiting: they were discontinuing the expat book line and had returned all rights to the manuscript to me.  So now all three books can be put under my own banner.  If I had accepted the publisher’s offer, I would be banging my head on the table right now.
The self-publishing gods must be smiling.
*My publisher and the original publisher are essentially the same outfit, but with mergers and acquisitions it all got a bit confusing.

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