When I sat down to write my first novel, I honestly had no thoughts of publishing it. I know that it often takes authors (most of whom are seasoned writers with far more talent than me) years or even decades to secure their first book deal. I wasn’t delusional enough to believe that any publishing company would take a gamble on an unknown, newbie author.
One of my Christmas gifts last year was an audio course entitled “How to Publish Your Book” by Jane Friedman, the former editor of Writer’s Digest. For days, I drove around in my car listening to Jane’s advice for wannabe authors. I realize I’m a bit of a cynic, but after listening to the CDs, I became more depressed than ever about my already-slim chances for publication.
The thought of spending weeks crafting, revising and sending dozens of query letters to traditional publishers only to have them wind up in the waste basket was anathema to me. I simply didn’t have the stomach for that level of rejection.
So I wrote with the vague notion that, when I finished, I would bind the manuscript, put it away in a drawer, and maybe someday show my grandchildren that I had actually written a book.
It wasn’t until I ventured onto iBooks on my Mac that I realized one could actually self-publish digitally. (I know—clueless, right?) I was thrilled to learn that such a thing was possible! At that point, I was approximately three-fourths of the way through my novel. When I finished, I published it as an e-book on the Kindle Direct Publishing platform—a process that I found to be incredibly easy and user-friendly. I simply downloaded and printed a free booklet entitled “Building Your Book for Kindle for Mac.” This 21-page document takes you through the process step-by-step.
The next thing you know, my e-book was on the shelf along with millions of others—from Stephen King to J.K. Rowling to Homer. What excellent company to be in! This means that my book has the exact same opportunity to be purchased and read as the works of any of those other talented authors. I know what you’re thinking: Sure, the e-book is on Kindle, but it’s buried under millions of other titles—nobody even knows it’s there! Well, that’s where book promotion comes in, which is a blog post for another day.
When I say I self-published, I mean that in the truest sense of the word. While I did hire a professional editor to review my manuscript, I alone formatted the e-book, designed the book cover, obtained a graphic artist from the Fiverr website to render it, obtained ISBNs and copyrighted the book. Prior to this, I knew nothing about publishing, so the experience has been quite an education.
Sadly, I’ve sensed a whiff of attitude surrounding self-publication from folks in the traditional publishing world and in online writing forums. In her audio course, Jane Friedman cautions: “there is still a stigma attached to self-publishing. Most traditional media outlets will not review or consider self-published books for editorial coverage . . . you will battle against a number of preconceived notions about the quality of your work.” Uh oh.
However, when I reflected on my true goals, I realized that I wasn’t writing to make money, or for fame, or to gain anyone’s approval, or even as a new career path. At the end of the day, all I’d really like is for at least a few people to read my stories and enjoy them. That’s all.
So far, it appears to be working. I haven’t earned much in royalties from my first e-book, but I did get over 100 downloads and 63 of those people signed up for my newsletter. That tells me they’re interested in reading more of my work. Onward!