Self-Publishing; Instant Gratification or a Whole Lot of Work?

On my lunch hour today I invested some time in researching publishers, agents, and all the intricacies of self-publishing.  It was dang exhausting and I’m nowhere near done.  The whole process of landing an agent and then making it to one of the Big Five publishers seems a bit like winning the lottery.  The small press seems to have the same process, but better odds.  Either way it means possibly years between writing the thing and getting it to your readers.

From a bird’s eye-view self publishing looks to be the most immediate way to reach readers, but consequently the most work since you are doing it all yourself.  There’s no company, large or small supporting your effort.  For me, the most challenging aspect of being an indie author is self-promotion, i.e. marketing your book.

Marketing oneself or one’s work requires a degree of chutzpa that I just don’t have.  I was raised to be modest, humble, quiet… well quiet never took, but the rest did.  It’s in the very fiber of my being.  I wonder if I will need to rewrite my DNA to make this book series a success.

One article I came across today was a big help.  It’s an interview the Book Doctors did with Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords, the world’s largest distributor of indie books.  Although over a year old, there’s some remarkably practical and pertinent advice here.  Many of the other articles I’ve read advised things like ‘work hard’ ‘believe in yourself’ and ‘you are your own worst critic’.  Not only are these platitudes worthy of appearing on a picture of a kitten hanging from a branch, but that last one is dead wrong.  My husband is my toughest critic.  He’s mean with the red pen and not afraid to tell me when some scene I’ve written bites (and not in the good way).

There’s also this validation-seeking beastie lurking in my psyche –  a ghost of me as a young adult – who desperately wants to be told she’s worthy, special, talented.  That ghost likes the idea of being published at one of the Big Five very much.  I’m not sure she’s going to let me go indie.  Although calling it indie soothes the beast of self-importance a wee bit.  It sounds better than self-published.  In college we laughed at self-published authors and assumed they were nut-jobs.  Then a friend of mine graduated and started a tiny, local, literary magazine that I helped him edit and we were dang proud of our indie status.  Perspective, I suppose.

So did I come to any conclusions today?  Yes and no.  My book is out to several readers and I now realize that I’ve edited it as much as I can.  A pro (the husband) needs to do the hopefully final edit.  if I do go the self-publish route I am going to hire a pro to do the cover.  This piece of advice was probably one of the best. I know as a reader  the cover is a big part of the reason I choose a book.

Definitely check out the interview if you are considering self-publishing.  Here’s the link again.

The Book Doctors with Smashwords Mark Coker on e-Books, Good Writing & Bad Mistakes

Sound off in the comments if you have gone the indie route or if you’re considering it.  What is your advice?  What’s your biggest fear?


Third Acts

A month or so ago I sat down with a student from my Alma mater to answer a series of questions about my life now and how it was shaped by the college as part of an alumni project. One question she asked sort of rankled. I had just gone into what I did for a living and how it sucked more than forty hours out of every week and how my kids, husband, church, and extended family take most of what’s left. We had even talked about my current focus on writing and trying to publish a novel.

“So do you do any volunteer work in the community?”

I tried to drag my brain away from my first, instinctual reply which was ‘are you sh*&ing me?’ to a more nuanced answer.

I have to carve time (brutally) out of something else that should have it whenever I want to do anything that’s not my core focus. If I want to write, the house does not get cleaned. If I want to meet up with friends after work it means I miss out on time with my kids. No big deal? Every once in a while it’s not only fine, it’s good, it’s necessary. You need socialization, you can’t be a slave to your routine and the kids will survive one night of dad’s cooking.

But as for adding more on top of that. Uh, nope. I learned the very hard lesson that if you don’t say no to something, you’ll give less to everything.

I’d like to save the world. I’d like to take in refugee children. I’d like to advocate for the homeless. I’d like to do something worthwhile, some good in the world. I just don’t have the time.

My very first career was in the non-profit sector and I was all-in. I gave myself to that effort working crazy hours, going to seminars, reading industry publications in my own time. And I burned right out at twenty-six. I’m currently in my second act as a working mom in the very for-profit sector.

My day job is about making things run smoothly for a public company. I ensure that my corner of the company runs as efficiently as possible so we can make as much money as possible. Being profitable is not enough. Even when we beat expectations the assumption is that I will find someway for us to be even more profitable.

Honestly this drive for cash, (none of which is going into my pocket) makes me yearn for a third act. One where I can take everything I’ve learned in the corporate world and rock some non-profit cause. I’ve found myself dreaming up companies I’d like to run; a housing and vocational program for autistic adults aging out at twenty-two, a residential program for moms of young children struggling with mental illness, a work at home program for low-income moms and the list goes on.

Can my third act be social entrepreneur and author or am I asking too much? This publishing gig is full time if you want to be serious about it. How am I supposed to carve out time for it? What goes? I would dearly love to quit my day job and just write. I fantasize about it on the tough days that could pretty much be Dilbert cartoons, but I have to pay the bills.

Getting back to my interviewer and the question that hacked me off, it bugged me because it hit a soft spot. I never intended to spend my life making shareholders rich. Never. It just ended up that way. To this very nice student I explained that I have to honor the responsibilities that God has given me now.

But days later the question still nagged at me. Is it time for a third act? Time to take my 40-60 hours of labor a week and devote it to something that’s not about making a pile of cash for some old white guys? Maybe it is. And maybe I can publish a novel or two while I’m at it. Heck, I’ve given birth to three children, two of those after working all day. I think I can handle this.

And I want it. I want to do something that means something again. I’m all for the nobility of paying the bills, but I’m feeling the call these days and I can’t help but think  it’s time to respond.

In any moment of decision…

In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing. – Theodore Roosevelt

What I would love to do today is to quit my job and throw my full efforts into writing and attempting to publish.  But, I’m the breadwinner in my family so no drastic, grand gestures allowed.  Trouble is, I’m good at those.  I like change.  I don’t like poverty though so I’m sticking with gainful employment.  So what’s the next best decision  Discipline.  Sitting down every day and writing, editing, researching, networking, and the rest of it.  This would be what I am not good at.

I’m not patient.  I procrastinate.  When I should be researching publishers suddenly I must, just absolutely must, run a load of laundry, answer work emails, take a call, feed the dog, mop the floor, hoover up that cobweb in the corner of my office and kill the spider that launches itself alien-style at my face.

I work from home which ups the challenge factor.  Why?  Because I’m never off-duty.  My laptop and phone are right there, 24/7 and I can let myself get sucked into work at any time.  My industry is 24/7 as well and if you want to do it, you can work right around the clock.  Life itself is full of distractions and they are sweet temptation when the alternative is the hard and rejection-filled work of getting published.

I did little today towards that effort other than finally writing an entry on this blog.  Well, today that will have to be enough.  As Teddy says, at least I didn’t do nothing.

😉 Christa


November, three years ago I decided on a whim to try to write a novel in thirty days.  I joined and after about ten false starts, I stopped hating everything I wrote.  Instead of deleting a thousand words at a time, I was writing two thousand per sitting.  Miraculously I finished on time and just a few words over the goal.  I haven’t stopped writing since.  Well,  I work full-time and have three kids so in my spare time I haven’t stopped.  But now I’ve got to actually publish these beasties.  I have to risk rejection and ridicule by taking my figurative little children out of the playroom and into the world  all scrubbed up in their Sunday best.

I created this blog to both document my attempt to become a published author and to hold me accountable to putting my all into the effort.  Writing seems like the easy part.  Publishing scares the bejabbers out of me.  I assume if I force myself to do this publicly I’ll try harder.  Failure is absolutely an option, but failing to attempt it is not.

With that I officially launch this blog.  May I not ignore it for months on end and fritter away my time on Facebook reading boring status updates or on Pinterest staring at recipes for food I will never make.

🙂 Christa