Taking the easy way out

One reaction that I’ve had a couple of times to my decision to self-publish rather than go down the traditional publishing route is that I’m somehow ‘taking the easy way out’. I can kind of see the point in that I’m voluntarily removing myself from the submission hell that everyone is going through, but on the flip side, I don’t think those involved necessarily understand the work involved in going down this route. I’m sure there are authors out there who finish a first draft and chuck it up on Amazon and sit back and wait for themselves to become a millionaire, but if you genuinely think this is the way forward for yourself as an author there’s an awful lot of research to be done, decisions to be made and budgets to be set.

At the end of the day if I’m taking on all the responsibility I’ve got nobody else to blame if I ship an inferior product, or if the marketing doesn’t work. I’m not going to get some in-house copy editor to make sure the text is as good as it’s going to be. I’ve got to pay for that myself. I don’t get a sample of book covers to choose from, I’ve got to commission an artist myself. And pay them.

I’ve been researching and researching all the things I need to think about in launching a career as an indie author, and it occurred to me last night that I really should start collating a list of all the things I need to consider. So I sat down and brain dumped a load of questions that I need to address in the next year before I launch Blood on the Motorway (along with hopefully two more books.) If you are considering self-publishing you might want to look at these questions, and if you can think of anything I’ve missed then maybe leave it in the comments below.

So here it is, my list of randomly thought out questions I need to answer:

  • What is my aim as an author?
  • What is my pen name?
  • Am I using the same name for fiction and non-fiction?
  • Do I start my own company?
  • What do I call my company?
  • Do I buy a website?
  • Under my own name or company name?
  • What do I want the website to look like?
  • What service do I use to build the website?
  • What resources do I need to read/review?
  • Do I continue to blog as I am?
  • Is a website the best ‘platform’?
  • How do I create a mailing list?
  • What do I want to provide to my mailing list?
  • How do I grow my mailing list?
  • How do I grow my potential audience outside of my mailing list?
  • Do I move to blogging that targets potential readers rather than writers?
  • How much of this strategy needs to be in place before I launch?
  • Do I create other promotional tools?
  • What pricing strategy do I want to follow?
  • What is my marketing approach?
  • What is my budget per project?
  • What does my budget need to cover?
  • How many projects do I launch with?
  • What do I need to do about tax status?
  • Do I register self-employed?
  • What are the financial impacts of changing my tax status?
  • What will I make per product sold?
  • What do I need to sell on each project to break even?
  • How often do I aim to self-publish?
  • Do I send agent queries until I self-publish?
  • Do I go down KDP select style exclusivity route with Amazon for promotion?
  • Do I make my books more widely available?
  • Where do I make them available?
  • Do I create print versions?
  • How do I go about doing that?
  • Do I want to create Audiobooks?
  • How would I do that?
  • Will that require additional budget?
  • What are the pricing strategies around other formats?
  • Do I create promotional materials like trailers?
  • How do I format for Mobi and Epub in Scrivener?
  • Where do I get my editing done?
  • Where do I get my covers done?
  • Can I get more illustration than simply the cover?
  • How do I work out typesetting for print on demand?
  • How do I get my books ready for launch next year?
  • What constitutes ‘ready’?
  • What is my launch strategy? All three titles? Staggered releases?

So just a few things I need to think about there. But it doesn’t stop there. I need to have a project plan for each title I need to launch, and even though I’m now at the point where I’m feeling like Blood on the Motorway is finished, there’s still a huge amount of work I need to do before I can publish it. Bear in mind this is the to-do list for a nearly complete work, my strategy (mebulous as it might be) is to go live with three titles, the other two of which are not yet written.

Blood on the Motorway project plan

  • Need to finish 3rd draft
  • Send 3rd draft out for critique
  • Carry out 4th draft based on critiques
  • Determine budget plan
  • Select copy editor and cover designer
  • Do I need any additional resource? (Advertising, illustration, typesetting)
  • Send to copy editor
  • 5th draft based on feedback
  • Commission cover
  • Create final draft
  • Create e-books
  • Review e-books
  • Create Print version
  • Check print version
  • Determine publicity plan and budget
  • Determine publishing portfolio (kindle, other ebook, print, audio)
  • Launch
  • Follow up marketing

So yes, I’m really taking the easy way out here.

 

Killed

This week has utterly killed me; a combination of a desperately unwanted deathly illness from the kids and a week of ridiculous stress at the job thing. Oh, and one of the kids being bloody inconsiderate in his own illness and waking me up every night. All of which has somewhat robbed me of the enthusiasm I’ve had for the last few weeks, where I have been bounding towards my inevitable career as a multimillion selling author with all the joys of Autumn. I’m just hoping that it’s all getting out of my system ahead of NaNoWriMo. I did manage to attend a writing group though, which was lovely as usual. It’s such a joy to sit around with fellow writers and chat writing, even if it’s only to be in a room with people who don’t roll their eyes when you start talking about the world you’re creating.

Writers love talking to other writers, we fire off each other. This is why I really love the infrequent catch ups with my writing group, the lengthy discussions on my online writing group and listening to writing podcasts like The Creative Penn and the Self-Publishing Podcast. It’s also why at the moment, this blog is pretty much me writing about writing. It helps me to stay focused, stay motivated, but most importantly it helps me order things in my head, work through my thoughts on how to approach things.

I’m not sure how helpful it is to anyone else (my guess is not a lot), but until I start to really try to build my ‘brand’ for readers, I guess it’s what I’m going to be doing. All the literature I’ve read says that the worst way to market yourself as an writer is to talk to other writers, but this blog has existed for over a decade now in one form or another as a way of getting my thoughts out without any grand scheme or over-arching theme, and what I’m largely thinking about right now is writing.

I’m no authority, I’m an unpublished wannabe, and if you are following this blog trying to gain knowledge on how to become a millionaire author, then sorry, I’ve got nothing for you. But perhaps what I can give an insight to is the process of trying to write, of trying to follow my dreams. You’ll be able to follow along as I creep closer and closer to the realisation in my fifties that I’ve wasted my life chasing unicorns. I jest.

Hopefully.

There are three books on Self-Publishing that I’ve had on my Amazon wish list for a while now, cued to sit there eternally while I wait for that mythical day when I might have enough money to actually procure them. The books are Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran, How To Market a Book by Joanna Penn and Write, Publish, Repeat by Johnny B. Truant and Sean Platt with David Wright (the Self-Publishing Podcast guys). All of them are considered experts in the field of self-publishing, all of them having worked in this area for years, getting increasingly successful through sheer hard work (and a fair bit of talent, of course.) I figured that between the three books it’d cover pretty much everything I’d need to know about the market I’m getting into.

Imagine my delight, then, to find a post on Joanna’s blog this morning that the authors have teamed up to bundle all three books together, and at the ridiculous price of 79p for all three books. I may have actually done a merry little dance. So if that’s your kind of thing, head here to find out more about it.

To self-publish or not self-publish?

As I creep ever closer to the finish line of what has been a half-decade slog to finish Blood on the Motorway, I’ve been thinking and more and more about next steps. Well, thinking about them, hiding from them, being terrified of them. There’s still a good chunk of work to be done on the book, but I’m definitely in the end game now, so now it’s time to try and address some of those questions. Those terrifying, daunting questions. What do I want to do with it? Am I going down the self-published road, or trying for traditional publishers? Do I start a different novel straight away? Is that going to be a sequel, or a whole new thing? What can I learn from writing this book that I can do better the next time around? Jesus I feel dizzy just thinking about it.

I’d always thought of myself as going down the traditional route of publishing. I’ve always been slightly sniffy about going down the self-published route because quite frankly I’m a bit of a snob and I’ve never actually bought a self-published book in my life, despite having had a kindle for the best part of two years. Why would I use an avenue I don’t actually use myself? I’ve always had an image of the self-published author as the self-important know it all who either isn’t good enough to get a proper publisher, or too lazy to bother. I’ve always assumed that people who go down that route are the kind of people you run into at parties who will wax lyrical about their 400,000 word tome about wizards and goblins that’s going to completely revolutionise the way we look at fantasy literature, while you stare off at the distance trying to work out how you can get the hell away from them. See, told you I was a snob.

But increasingly I’m becoming aware that this isn’t reflective of the reality of modern publishing. Sure, there’s an awful lot of shit out there, but there’s probably some really great authors out there steadily building a readership and making decent money, on their own terms, without having to get past any of the traditional ‘gatekeepers’ of the literary world. Certainly there seems to be an audience out there. The bestseller charts are all full of self-published works (certainly on the likes of Amazon etc) while at the same time you hear endless stories of traditionally published works getting only a £1k advance and going on to sell only a handful of copies, even with the might of big publishers behind them.

On the flip side of the coin, as a writer, there’s still a kudos there in the traditional route. To be able to say you’ve got past the gatekeepers; that they’ve looked at your book and declared it to be worthy; have sunk their money into it as a matter of faith; and that they’ve worked with you to get your book to be the best it can be. There’s something hugely enticing about that. That doesn’t change the fact, however, that it’s colossally unlikely that it’ll happen to me, even if my book is a masterpiece. I don’t think it’s bad, but I don’t think it’s that, either, so the odds are not in my favour. I’m a lot like Katniss in that regard.

The other day I was reading a post by one of my favourite writing blogs, Do Some Damage, which was singing the praises of a podcast called The Self-Publishing Podcast. Now I love me a podcast, and I love me some free writing advice, so I had an investigate, and ended up consuming the first three hour-long episodes over the course of a single day (it helped that I was making a stew), kick-starting in the process a thousand ideas in my tiny writers brain. It's a good podcast too, funny, informative, and easy to follow.

I could completely bypass all the grief of being rejected, then use means at my disposal to make something I could be completely proud of. I know a proper copy editor, who I could get to really have a look at my book for not a huge amount of money. I could build myself a website to sell the damn thing. Additionally, I know an artist who I could commission to do a cover that would be astounding and different. I could do this, and be completely in control of the whole process, and live and die by my own efforts. It would be hard work, certainly, and require some investment at my end. But it’s do-able.

So now I have some decisions to make, not to mention 130+ episodes of a podcast to make my way through, which is almost as daunting as anything else.