Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Publishing Choices, Part II: Self-Publishing

Self-Publishing -or- IDEK WTF I’m Doing

Yeah, you read that right. I have no clue what I’m doing. And I love it. I’m the girl who likes to laminate itineraries for road trips with scheduled bathroom breaks. I’m annoyingly detail-oriented when something matters to me, and I love to research topics that I find interesting. One would think with this personality type that I’d have some clue as to what I’m doing over here.

One would be wrong.

Every time I think have a firm grasp on what I’m doing and my next step, the market, or life, throws me a curve ball  I’m becoming a pro at adapting. Being my own boss is the best thing I’ve ever done, and it’s brought about some surprising discoveries about myself. Here, I’ll touch on a few things about self-publishing from my unique perspective. Everybody is going to have a different story to tell. This is mine.

So, back in January, I made this post detailing why I was choosing to go indie. I won’t rehash that post, so I’ll tell you what it’s like actually being self-published, as opposed to the idealistic version I posted back before I hit “publish”. Because while I made great points, I barely have time to even think about that stuff anymore.
It’s hard to image that it’s only been seven months since I became a published author. It feels like a lifetime ago. And I’ve learned so much about myself and what I’m capable of. But most importantly, I’ve learned how very personal this journey is and why the only authentic choice I could have made, for myself, was to self-publish.

It all comes down to personality.
(If only he was talking about me!)

If you follow me on Twitter or you’re my friend on Facebook, you’ve likely been smacked in the face with my opinion about something. I’m a vocal person and when I believe in something, I have a hard time keeping it to myself. Publishing is a business and businesses want professionalism. I get that and don’t hold it against them. It just means I’m probably not a good fit for a publishing house. I don’t want to feel I have to stifle my voice because it might offend someone or reflect poorly on my publisher.

I’m controlling.

Case-in-point: my cover designer, Gonet Design, is also my best friend. Not only is she awesome, she KNOWS I’m incredibly critical. The other night, when reviewing a mock-up for the cover for my fourth book, I asked her to move a letter over by like one millimeter. Unfortunately, we couldn’t because it would mess the entire composition up. But she did alter the spacing on my name as I requested. And while we work super well together, I don’t envy her position. The cover for Marital Bitch took some 30+ designs before I was happy with it. Anomaly took about ten. For The Switch, she knew what I wanted. But for Anomaly’s follow-up, and my up-coming secret project, I created mock-up covers because I’m so particular. Then she went and fixed it and made my idea absolutely gorgeous and put her own spin on it. In short, putting up with me is no small feat. I can’t even imagine not getting to choose my own cover. It’s the first impression people get of my work.

I like to do things at my own pace.

Last night, I was up working until 5am. I’m behind on my current project because I was behind on my last project. The Switch was originally supposed to be to my editor at the end of June. I got it to her in August. And now because of that, I have two projects which are behind schedule and I’m scrambling to keep up. But because I have other responsibilities such as being a full-time student and working part-time in addition to the full-time schedule I put in building my author brand, it’s important to me that I’m able to take as little or long working on something as I need to without worrying over contract stuffs. I also have the freedom to write multiple series at one time, and I get to decide what gets released and when. I don’t feel cornered to have to stick with something I’m not feeling at that moment.

What I say goes.

I had no idea how to put a book on sale for free on Amazon. I was planning on a week-long sale to get the word out. But it’s not as easy as just changing the price, so when my sale didn’t go into effect as expected, I forgot about it. Then Books (another one of my besties) asked me if I intended to make my book free, and if I knew it was ranking on Amazon’s best-seller list at #28 a month after its release. Marital Bitch eventually made it in the top 15 in the free store and #2 in both contemporary romance as well as women’s fiction. And it stayed there for weeks and weeks. March saw over 100,000 downloads.

But I wasn’t making a dime off of it. Some people were SUPER critical of my choice to keep the book free until it was professionally edited (which ended up being five months after its release). But what mattered to me then, and still matters to me, is that I gained a readership by doing that. Sure, I had no idea I was doing it until it had happened, but I couldn’t have gained the readership I did without making it free, I don’t think. And a publisher wouldn’t have let me do that. They’re invested in the work financially and they want to see a financial return on it. And yeah, so do I. But as the reviews came in (positive and negative) and I saw that people were actually reading (and sometimes liking!) my book, I knew that I was making an investment in my career by getting my name out there. For me, that was priceless.

It’s SO stressful.

Seriously. Self-Publishing isn’t easy, nor is it for lazy people. Every single aspect of your career and brand rests solely on your shoulders if you’re self-published. If I get it wrong, I don’t have back-up to take to task for it. Being a self-published author can be expensive up-front. I’m spending money to make money just like a publishing house does. Only, I’m doing it on a college student’s dime. I have to pick and choose what services I hire and when. Some projects I’m lucky enough to hire a PR person and a formatter in addition to the editor and cover designer. Other projects, I AM the formatter and PR person. Also, since I set my own release dates, I am solely responsible for being mindful of when other authors release their books as well.

I got maybe five hours of sleep last night because I crammed a week’s worth of homework into one day. The rest of the week is devoted to writing because I have to have my next project off to my editor in just a few weeks. And I was up at 10 this morning working on chores so this afternoon I could write this post and then continue on the book I’m writing. I’m busy, y’all. But you know what, I love it. I’m obsessed with my own career.

Being a loner doesn’t mean I’m alone.

But the best thing I’ve learned about self-publishing is that I have this enormous support network behind me. I have friends, readers, bloggers, other authors who are all rooting for me. Indie authors stick together like crazy glue, even if we aren’t familiar with one another’s work. We all have the same goal. I have yet to run into an author who isn’t willing to help another person figure this publishing thing out. I absolutely could not do it without these people who continually show me their support. They “get it”. It’s totally organic and it shows me that I don’t need a corporate backer.

Something finally, really matters.

I’m an out-of-the-box thinker, so I’m pretty open to new ideas. I’ve tried out like six different majors throughout my duration in college. I’ve given crafting and a bunch of other hobbies a go, only to drop them weeks later. I’ve spent the larger part of my life not wanting or caring enough to give it (whatever it is) my all. I was always the person who would rather have a good night’s sleep than to earn that “A” in class (still am, I’m totally cool earning a “B”). But somewhere along my writing journey, this author thing became a serious frickin’ deal. I spend most of my time plugging away at either social media (Facebook), betaing for other authors, or writing my own books. I may be chill about earning a “B” in class, but I’m all about getting that “A” in my career. I have this passion for what I’m doing, and I wake up every day knowing that I’m on this journey that is more rewarding than I could have imagined. Every day I’m building toward my life’s ambition and that is TOTALLY worth the aneurysm I’m overdue for.

My confidence level is at an all-time high.

Dude. I wrote a book. Okay, well, I’ve written three books and I’m working on my fourth. But I’ve done it. Everything from conceptualizing the storyline to the characters to the cover, to writing the book (oh jeez, this sounds super easy NOW), branding the book, marketing the book, and eventually publishing the book—I’ve done it. I had no idea what I was doing seven months ago (and most of the time, I still don’t). But I did it. I look at life differently now. While I hope I never lose that fear that people won’t like my work, I’ve learned something invaluable these past few months. I can do it! Whatever it is, I can do it. My mother always says I’m capable of more than I realize, but it wasn’t until like a month ago that it hit me. I know who I am, I know what I’m capable of doing, that I’m a hard worker, and nobody can take that away from me. This is my story, exactly as I want to write it. And I couldn’t be more pleased with the journey.

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