Wooo, it's Wednesday! I've got a big day ahead: lunch in Covent Garden, afternoon tea at the Oxo Tower on the South Bank, and then a book launch at the Tower of London. Please send my be-sandalled feet your most positive vibes to make it through relatively unscathed.
Since I'm about and about, I'm delighted to welcome Catherine Ryan Howard to the blog. If you're contemplating self-publishing and you haven't been over to her blog, you need to get there right now!
Just a small announcement before I go: from now until Monday, my publisher has reduced The Hating Game on Kindle to 98p ($1.59 US). Yay for summer sales! If you need something for the beach, well... you know what I'm sayin'.
Right, over to Catherine!Five years ago this summer, I moved from Ireland to Orlando, Florida, to start an eighteen-month training program in a Walt Disney World hotel.
Four years ago I started writing a book about it, and three years ago I finished it.
Two years ago I realised that thanks to the spectacularly niche audience for a book about an Irish girl working in Disney World, Space Shuttle launches and the challenges of long, thick hair in near 100% humidity, it was never going to get published, so eighteen months ago, I decided to do it myself.
It sounds a whole lot simpler than it actually was. Because truth be told, I was a certifiable self-publishing snob who thought that publishing your own book was nothing but a pointless and shameful pastime indulged in only by deluded losers...
I had never been traditionally published, but I was a self-proclaimed expert on the publishing world. For nearly ten years or ever since I turned 18, I’d been daydreaming non-stop about a six-figure deal and a well paid job you could do in your pyjamas, faithfully buying a new edition of The Writers and Artists Yearbook every year. This took pride of place in my (frighteningly) extensive collection of How To Write Books books: despite having never actually written a book, I knew exactly how to write a good query letter, create an elevator pitch and decipher a publishing contract. And as for formatting a manuscript – well, that would be my specialist subject should I ever end up on Mastermind. I signed myself up for workshops, sidled up to - gasp! - Real Life Writers at signings and other events and practised perfecting my pseudonym signature, just in case. I drew up a wish list of five literary agents and jotted down some notes about what questions I’d ask them when they called to offer me representation. (Because that’s what the books said: Don’t forget to ask them questions too. Makes you look professional.)
Clearly it was only a matter of time before I got published. All I had to do was write a book.
My expert and utterly unnecessary knowledge of the publishing world meant that whenever I heard of people self-publishing, I rolled my eyes so much that my pupils threatened to disappear forever into my head. I’d sneer at pictures in the local newspaper of what I assumed to be dangerously bored housewives proudly clutching their debut short story collections. How pathetic! There was extra sneering for those who hadn’t even tried to get properly published, and were presumably blissfully unaware that there was, in fact, an established path to publication and they had foolishly wandered off in the opposite direction. Because at the end of the day, if your book was good enough for other people to read, it would eventually get published. Right?
Well, no – as I discovered when I started submitting Mousetrapped to publishers. I got pretty much the same answer wherever I went: we enjoyed reading it and we think it’s a good book, but there isn’t a market for it. What they meant by this was if they – and “they” are Irish and/or UK publishing houses – edited, designed, printed and distributed a couple of thousand copies of the book, paying for all costs including the salaries of the staff who’d have to do it and royalties to me, chances are they wouldn’t sell enough copies of it to recoup their investment. And publishing is a business after all.
But if I self-published it using a Print On Demand service – who allow you to upload your book for a very small fee and only print a copy of it when an order is placed – and e-book websites where no cost at all is involved, and I used these to pitch Mousetrapped to a global market and did everything I could to promote and sell it... well, maybe I would recoup my investment or even, dare I dream, make some money.
So that’s what I did. I self-published a paperback using CreateSpace, and e-books using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Platform and Smashwords.com.
But my years of sneering at self-publishers had – thankfully – left a mark. I knew that what I was doing was not making a book that looked like the ones I bought and read, that my book wouldn’t be available in stores and that this story was not going to end with me wallpapering my office in real gold leaf. (Or even in Laura Ashley.) I didn’t have a literary agent-shaped voodoo doll, didn’t whine about editors not even “giving my book a chance!” and I refused to use the word gatekeepers. Nor did I moan about low e-book prices “devaluing my artistry”, insist that everyone call me an “indie author” [very loud groan] or claim that by the end of next year, no one will even remember what – and it pains me to use this term, even like this – “dead tree books” looked like.
I was realistic. I was modest. And I did everything I could to make my book look right.
And I did okay. I released Mousetrapped in March 2010 and sometime this month I’ll sell my 6,000th copy. I’m self-publishing another travel memoir, Backpacked, in September, and even self-publishing a novel the month after that.
But I’m not on the self-publishing cheer-leading squad, or giving up my dreams of traditional publication. All I’m saying is this: you too can self-publish without sounding like a bureau chief at the Self-Publishing Ministry of Truth, and sell enough copies to afford a few ink cartridges or even – if you’re lucky – to write full-time.
All you need is are realistic expectations and some common sense.
Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing is available now in paperback and e-book. Find out more on www.catherineryanhoward.com.
The lovely Catherine is offering one paperback copy of Self-Printed, sent anywhere in the world and three Self-Printed e-book from Smashwords.com (multiple formats available)! To be in with a chance, just leave a comment below.