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Free-range publishing

Well, the creative and technical aspects of writing and self-publishing my first novel are now nearly at an end, and I’ve now entered the marketing phase during which I alienate family members, friends, acquaintances and people I run into at restaurants. While I’m bombarding bloggers, magazine editors and the denizens of media email lists in which I’ve barely participated for years with PR material, I’ve begun assessing my experience with self-publishing. By and large, I like what I’ve seen.

I put off self-publishing for several years because of the stigma I’ve long associated with the practice. I was taught long ago that “vanity” or “subsidy” publishing was a route for self-indulgent scribblers who didn’t want to admit their work was second-rate. “Serious” writers approached agents, hats-in-hand, convinced those agents to represent their books for a share of the proceeds, signed deals (if lucky) with publishing houses who got to keep the lion’s share of cover price, and waited, often years, for royalties — if any ever materialized. Because that’s what “real” authors did.

Meanwhile, of course, musicians won high praise for bypassing the industry and starting their own music labels to put out DIY albums — and for eventually selling their music in digitized form on the Web and uploading videos to YouTube. Movie-makers got kudos for financing independent movies on credit cards or with checks from rich friends and relatives.

But serious authors were expected to continue courting the attention of publishing houses if they wanted to remain respectable.

Well … the dichotomy between the treatment of musicians and movie-makers on the one hand, and writers on the other, has become increasingly silly. And it really no longer makes any sense, if it ever did.

Honestly, publishing houses no longer have much to offer, unless you’re one of the rare authors approached with a truly mind-boggling advance. Marketing? They really only put sales effort behind anticipated blockbusters. Other authors are expected to push their own books. Distribution to bookstores? There are really only two bookstore chains left: Barnes and Noble, and Books-a-Million. There are still, thankfully, a few independent bookstores left, but with ebooks outselling paper books as of this past summer, the real action is obviously in making books available online.

And that’s now very easy.

So, what, exactly, is the remaining attraction of begging for the attention of agents and editors, so you can share the proceeds of book sales with them? Assuming they’re not tempting you with a huge advance, that is.

Forget vanity publishing. If self-made and self-marketed music is “DIY” and the equivalent films are “independent,” then I’m welcoming myself to the world of free-range publishing.

I like the ring of that.

Buy High Desert Barbecue

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  • Any idea of how many copies you’ve sold so far?

  • Yep. Let’s say that it’s selling … slowly. That’s not a surprise for a low-profile book that’s been on the market for less than a week — and with me just beginning marketing efforts. Kindle editions are selling best, followed by paperbacks and then Nook editions trailing.

    I have copies out with some fairly prominent reviewers, and I know that at least one of them likes the book, so I hope for that to change. I could really use some customer reviews on Amazon and B&N too — those have a huge impact on a book. (hint, hint)

  • You’ll have it – though it may take a few weeks to see my book.

  • I’m watching this play out with baited breath, contemplating taking the same leap you did. And you may think you’re annoying everyone you know, but I think you’re not nearly annoying enough. You have just done a post specifically about your book and there’s not a link to be found on this page to the Amazon page whereby someone – like me – might buy it. I’m a determined sort and this will not deter me, but I now have to go to Amazon, type in the name, and do the search. At the very least, you need a side widget with link that says, “Buy me here!”

    That’s my contribution to your marketing campaign. I’m rooting for you, my friend.

  • You know what … You’re right! I just added sales links to the right-hand column, at the top. Thank you!

  • Ok. I just plugged it on my blog so you should start selling THOUSANDS of copies. Well, maybe not thousands, since I only get a hundred or so hits a day, but maybe one or two.

  • Good job. 🙂

    FYI, I just got here from a link (and a tweet by) Rational Review News Digest. The word is spreading.

  • Purchased, but haven’t had time to dig into it yet. Congrats!

    If I might make a suggestion: Offer a third e-buy option that’s direct (PDF or e-pub right from your server) or semi-direct (e.g. Lulu), not tied to one of the DRM-loving big-box online retailers. You get to keep a bigger percentage of the sale price, and you’ll make some sales to people who will gladly buy direct from you but not necessarily from those other places. I’ve done this with a couple of short non-fiction e-books, each of which has sold several hundred copies over the years. Not huge money, but money.

  • Tom,
    I think that’s a great suggestion. I went with the path of least resistance to start, but I’ll look at some of the alternatives and try to do just that. Thanks!

  • I too am standing buy to Paypal you some money in return for a PDF edition.

    B&N doesn’t take credit cards from furners, and out here we’re not quite part of the eReader network yet, so it’s either instant gratification via PDF or a long wait for the dead tree off Amazon.

  • *bye. Although, “standing buy” could become a new meme… naaah.

  • …or should that be “by”? Argh, just shoot me know^H^H^H^Hnow.

  • WRM, The pdf has been sent!

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