Monday, August 29, 2011

Experiment "self-publish"

I've been writing for the last ten years or so, and though I've been working on improving my writing, reading books and tutorials on the subject, participating in workshops, giving and receiving critiques, even participating in NaNoWriMo the last two years (and will again this year - NaNo is so much fun!) I've never been much too keen on getting published (although I did send one short story to a contest where it won first place and got published in their collection with the rest of the stories - even got some money for it - but one swallow does not make a spring).

There are those who write for fun, and there are those who dream of becoming professional writers - people who write since they learned their first letter, who study it and write eight hours a day and send their manuscripts out into the world. I never dreamed of becoming a writer as a child, nor was I much fond of writing in school (for school), but then again, essays are not included so much in my country's educational system, the only thing required of you was to, once a semester, write, on spot, during those 45minutes of class, a thing approximately a page long that had something resembling a beginning, middle and an end and was grammatically correct, so I didn't really have a chance to learn how to write or to fall in love with it. My love was drawing. Still is. I was seven or eight when I first realized I had a knack for it, and I had a good teacher that brought it out in me. Still, when the time came to choose my path in life, I chose a different path for myself, I chose science. Math, then chemistry, then finally computer science, and in the end I became a programmer. I'm not sorry about the path I chose, I love programming and I love working as a programmer. I still love drawing and I draw whenever the inspiration takes me, but somewhere along the way, I'm still not quite sure how, came a love for writing. Maybe not actually for writing as much as for storytelling, writing for me is just a means to an end. My mind was always full of stories, ever since I was a kid - I could spend hours and hours just sitting in one place, making up plot twists for my favorite characters. I guess one day I just asked myself 'Why not write it down?' If I had enough persistence I would have learned how to draw properly and told my stories through comics, but since writing is an easier option, I write. Even though I still believe I would have been better at drawing than writing.

Also, the whole process of finding an agent, then a publisher, then dealing with edits and deadlines and what not sounds really exhausting, and I doubt it would go well with my day job. Not to mention that I would still have to do my own marketing if I wanted to actually sell anything.

Some years ago a few people I know tried self-publishing. Back then, self-publishing involved a Print-On-Demand service such as, with their site being the only place someone could buy the book. There was no distribution, no book store would even touch your book, and you had to bend over backwards to sell a single copy. I said 'nah' to the whole idea. Then, few months ago, I ran across a blog called A Newbie's Guide to Publishing. I was intrigued. I was also surprised to read that the market has changed pretty much since those times. Back then, an e-book was a version of your printed book in PDF format. Today, thanks to the popularity of e-book readers such as Kindle and smartphones such as iPhone and, well, almost anything that runs on Android, an e-book can be a .moby, .ePub, .PDB, .LRF and more. The wonderful thing about the e-books today is that people read it. What I've found out on A Newbie's Guide to Publishing blog is that there are people that have sold thousands of copies of their e-books. True, those people are a few out of thousands that have made it, but nevertheless, it got me intrigued.

I begun reading on the subject. Joe Konrath from the abovementioned blog publishes directly on Amazon Kindle, to bypass any middleman and get the best royalties percentage, but I though, what about the rest of the market, the iThingies and the smartphones? I read some more on the subject, and discovered Smashwords.

Smashwords is an e-book distributor. You provide them the manuscript, they convert it to almost any format on the market and distribute it to all the major players: Amazon, Apple iBookstore, Sony, Barnes & Nobles, everywhere. They take a percentage, of course, one you could avoid if you go directly to Amazon and the rest, but for all the service they provide, I think it's worth it. I though, this sounds like something for me, why not give it a try?

So I choose one of my short stories to serve as a guinea pig, this lucky thing right here. It's not much, but it will have to do for now. I got my sister to draw me a cover image:

The Enchantress by ~chibi-neko on deviantART

Do I have the coolest sister in the world or what? I still need to stick a title and the author name on it. I have some vague idea about where I want to go with that.

So far, another thing I've done is to read the Smashwords style guide. With my limited free time and reading on the go on my smartphone, it took me about a week to read it. It was useful and informative because the document needs to be formatted just right for the conversion into various formats to work, but it would read much faster if the first half wasn't so repetitive. Their guide to marketing was lot faster to read, though.

Another thing to be done is ISBN. Haven't gotten to that part yet, still need to see what's the procedure of getting one. It shouldn't be too complicated, though.

Getting the book up on Smashwords will be easy. Getting anyone to read it will be the tricky part. It will take endless hours on various forums, blogs and social networks, and making this place into a real blog. To build what they call a writer's platform. I don't expect to sell many copies (I won't actually be selling anything, since I'll be putting it up for free ;) ), I'm mostly curious to see how it will all work out and if I have what it takes to make it work. I like a challenge. If you're curious to see how this experiment turns out, stay tuned to this blog, I'll be posting my progress as I go. Also, if you have any thoughts and advises, feel free to share it, I'd love to hear them.

1 comment:

  1. Very cool! I've considered doing this myself with one of my stories that I like, think there might be some market for in terms of readers, but also know that there's a limited magazine market for because: 1) it's a mystery and there just aren't as many small-press mystery publications as there are SF/F and 2) it's currently just under 10k words which is really long for (particularly a print) magazine to take from an unknown.

    I'll be very curious to see how this goes! Looking forward to your future posts on this topic.