Good/Bad/Ugly: Lessons of a NY Pubbed Author Gone Hybrid
Like many NY published authors, I've watched the publishing landscape change over the past years - watched friends opt to self publish. I was curious, even, at times, envious. But there were contracts, and deadlines, and edits (oh my!) so even a trial-balloon-novella was out of the question.
I've had an idea for a book for years. You know, the one that keeps tapping your consciousness, saying, 'I'm here. I'm waiting.' I finally couldn't resist any longer - see, this was my sister's book. The baby sister I lost to cancer, twenty six years ago. I wrote it in a blizzard of emotion, the story pouring out of me in ways that surprised me. The plot is not autobiographical in the least, but the underlying theme is (don't you love when that happens?). When it was done, I felt it was a fitting tribute to the most important person in my life. I loved this book.
But. I'd written it from the inside out; I hadn't thought a second about the market, or a publisher. I think readers are going to love it, but New York was not going to want this book.
I'll be releasing this book January 11 - but it's available for preorder HERE.
Here are some of the zillions of lessons I've learned. I hope they help anyone considering self publishing.
CAVEAT: I’m an experienced author, fairly tech-savvy, and a marketing loving extrovert.
Your results may vary.
It’s not as hard as I thought. There is a ton of software out there to help you. If you're not techie-inclined, there are many experts who you can contract to help you. My best tip? Vellum. Randy Ingermanson recommended it for formatting manuscripts in his November e-zine (If you're not signed up for his ezine, you should be. Great tips for every level of the journey). It only works on a Mac, but you can format a book in two hours (one, if you've done it before) for $30. And it comes out beautifully; it even breaks out chapters, has drop caps, and pretty ornaments for chapter breaks. When I was done, the only errors I found were mine. It then dumps into every format known to man.
It’s freeing. It's my title. My cover. My blurb. I have control of everything, from placement to pricing. I can't tell you how good that feels.
It's great for a one-off book. I'm not done with NY (and thankfully, they're not done with me). But it's wonderful to have this option for a book that doesn't fit the narrow confines of what NY wants.
It’s MINE.When you sell a book to NY, it's no longer yours. Yes, it's your story, and your name on the cover, but it doesn't belong to you any longer. I don't have to let go of this very important book. I can keep it forever. Ahhhhh.
Mistakes are costly. Hire the wrong editor? Formatter? Cover designer? It can be costly, not only monetarily, but legally. And that's not even considering the weight of stress. Personal recommendations help, but this is a relationship - just because someone works well with a fellow author, doesn't mean they'll be your style. Don't be afraid to interview them as you would any vendor in your day job. Be sure they're professionals (have a contract, etc).
No one else to blame. Mistakes in a NY published book? Not my bad. In this one? All my bad. I've edited it many times, it's been critted, professionally edited, and read by my agent twice. And still, when I read it to check for formatting. there were errors - and they were all mine. And anyone who finds a mistake in the finished book will know it.
This is a huge time suck. I haven't written on my WIP in weeks. I've been searching for cover photos, playing with fonts, formatting, researching info . . . I start out at daybreak, and realize I'm hungry at two. Don't get me wrong, I love doing this, but nothing else is getting done. Nothing.
It’s MINE. There's a certain stamp of approval that comes with a NY publisher's name on the copyright page. I don't have that this time. It undermines my self-confidence in ways I hadn't foreseen. Dumb, I know, but it's there.
Nail biting. Will readers judge it differently than one of my NY published books? We can talk all day about the line blurring, but has it been wiped out completely? We'll see, I guess.
Waiting isn’t over. One of the most frustrating things about NY is the waiting. Every. Step. Along. The. Way. Guess what? Anything you're not doing yourself, you're still waiting! Ugh!
It’s MINE! A critical review of my other books stung, but it didn't bite deep. After all, I'd sold the book, so it put a distance between myself and the story. It became a product to a certain extent. Not so, this book. This is close to my heart, and if readers doesn't like it, it's going to hurt.
I've enjoyed every step of the process so far. I'd do it again in a heartbeat!
How about you? have you considered self-publishing? If you've tried it, what was your Good/Bad/Ugly?
Laura Drake is a city girl who never grew out of her tomboy ways, or a serious cowboy crush. She writes both Women's Fiction and Romance.
She sold her Sweet on a Cowboy series, romances set in the world of professional bull riding, to Grand Central. The Sweet Spot won the 2014 Romance Writers of America® RITA® award in the Best First Book category.
Her 'biker-chick' novel,Her Road Home, sold to Harlequin's Superomance line (August, 2013) and has expanded to three more stories set in the same small town. The latest, Twice in a Blue Moon , released in July.
In 2014, Laura realized a lifelong dream of becoming a Texan and is currently working on her accent. She gave up the corporate CFO gig to write full time. She's a wife, grandmother, and motorcycle chick in the remaining waking hours.