Thursday, September 16, 2010

Influences & Self-Publishing Might Just Stink For You: Part 5 of Why Self-Publishing Is Better Than You Think

I won't apologize for the length of these posts since I know several of our readers want all this information. But even if self-publishing doesn't interest you, you might find something interesting and worthwhile here.

I've been talking-up self-publishing quite a bit. It's kind of expected...since I self-published a book and I'm proud of it and I'm confident I can do it again. Two more times, actually. I'll be self-publishing two more fairy-tale themed novellas in the future.

Does my confidence and positivity mean you should self-publish a book?

That's an awfully personal question. I know many of our readers are not considering such a route, but some are, and it frightens me to think some of you are watching me like I'm a fish in a fishbowl because I'm doing this series. Some of you are trying to make the decision right now whether or not you should self-publish a book. Tara Maya, for instance, just made the huge decision to self-publish a short story anthology. I think she mentioned that I had some sort of influence on her...among others who also had an influence on me.


I think one of the hardest things I've ever had to write was my Acknowledgements page. It was easy enough to write when I actually sat down to write it, but thinking about who I was going to personally name...that was difficult. Some names were obvious. Others became shrouded under the "friends and beta readers" title. The truth is, every writer's blog I've ever read, every writer who has given me advice, supported me, urged me to follow my dreams. I owe them all my thanks. When I wrote the page, I wasn't thinking specifically about self-publishing, but of writing in general. That's when specific names popped up first.

Here is where I'd like to talk about the few people who helped steer me (directly and indirectly) into the direction of self-publishing Cinders.

Katie Salidas

Katie probably doesn't know it, but I've watched her for awhile. Katie started her own publishing company name, Rising Sign Books LLC, and published her first book, Immortalis Carpe Noctem in March of this past year. As soon as I discovered Katie had self-published her book, I bought a copy. I had read some of her writing before and enjoyed it. I was really interested to see what her self-published book looked like. I had some exposure to self-published material before through Lulu (we did Genre Wars last year through Lulu), but Katie did things a bit differently. She hired a cover artist, layout designer, and editors. She then found a commercial printer for print runs of the book.

I was pleasantly surprised when I received Katie's book. She even had a bookmark with it. I loved the bookmark because I thought it was well-done and a great promotional item we could maybe consider for The Literary Lab anthologies one day.

Katie's book, although a vampire story (which I've tended to avoid lately...) was quite fun! My husband even snatched it away from me and read it, and the cover and formatting and printing were all high quality. I started to think...hmmm...self-publishing...

F.P. Adriani

F.P. has been a reader over here for quite awhile. I became a fan of F.P.'s as soon as I started reading her comments on some of our posts. Her insights and strong opinions about specific issues in publishing and life in general got me thinking deeply about more things. She got me thinking differently about almost everything publishing-related. I don't always agree with F.P., but I have definitely changed my mind about some things because of her, and self-publishing is one of those things.

I eventually bought one of F.P.'s self-published novels, Remember & Forget, and read it with great interest. My husband read that one, too, and enjoyed it. We talked for days about it, actually, about the issues it brought up and how they related to us personally. I read Katie's book and F.P.'s book at about the same time, and I was delighted to see that F.P.'s Lulu-quality book wasn't far behind the quality of Katie's commercial print-run book (in printing quality). I started to think again...hmmmm...self-publishing.

Probably one of the most influential things of all, however, was F.P.'s intense drive to put an emphasis on the quality of her work inside the book. This shows in her beautiful writing. F.P. has been self-publishing for 11 years (I hope I got that right, F.P.), and I was impressed with how confident she is with her work and how much she supported and helped me when I made the decision to self-publish. For some reason, before I met F.P., I had always thought that self-published writers went around with their heads hung in shame. So not true.

Davin Malasarn 

This might seem a given since I blog over here with Davin and I included his name in my Acknowledgements page, but I had to mention here that when Davin self-published a middle-grade novel he wrote just for his nephew, a light turned on in my head. I realized self-publishing can be the perfect solution for specific projects. I first started Cinders as a novella to include in a combined novella-project Davin and Scott and I have been discussing for awhile, but it soon became evident to me that Cinders was something I wanted to put out there on its own. As I watched Davin write and publish his novel for his nephew, I understood the significance of knowing the aim of your novel.

Zoe Winters

Zoe influenced me a little after I had already made the decision to self-publish, but what she did was give me an extra boost of confidence in my decision. Zoe is adamantly opposed to traditionally publishing her work and is constantly out in the blogosphere talking about her experiences with self-publishing. She has even made a series of YouTube videos about self-publishing you might want to watch. You can find them here on Zoe's Channel.

Zoe has been quite successful by way of sales, from what I understand, but in the end that doesn't matter to me as much as whether or not the writer is happy with what they've accomplished writing-wise, and Zoe is obviously happy and excited about her work as a whole. Her confidence was a real life-saver and good example at the very beginning of my Cinders release.

Self-Publishing Might Just Stink For You...or it Might Be Totally Awesome...

Yes, self-publishing might just stink for you. It might be a very bad decision for you. After speaking about influences, I hope that if I am an influence for you, I hope you also understand that I can't tell you if self-publishing would be right for you or not. I don't know. I honestly didn't know if it was a very good decision for me until I tried it. Even now, some of the cons for me are:

(1) The constant, ridiculous, and unnecessary but unavoidable worrying I do about what people think of me for self-publishing a book.

(2) The fact that if I do try and traditionally publish, the traditional publisher may look at my self-publishing numbers and factor that into their decision in a negative way.

(3) Putting more money into the project than I'm making in sales from the project. So far I haven't made back what I put into the project, but I do have confidence I'll make it back in the long run.

(4) The fear of regretting all of this later. Yeah, that's a real fear, but not one I can see happening. I'm proud of the work I've put out there, and just like anything else I have published, once it's out there it is permanent and I learn to accept it for what it is and where I was at that time as a writer.

Making the decision to self-publish is not something you should take lightly, in my opinion. I'm also of the thought that if you're going to do something, you should do it right. For me, that meant putting money and time and a lot of work into my project to get the final product I did. For you, that might mean something entirely different. In the end, I can't say if it would be awesome or stink for you, but I can at least answer these questions asked by my dear friend, Alicia:

So I am genuinely curious about something. After doing the math and seeing you can make a profit  in writing (however small or large), would you still go through it all again if you could only break even or have it cost more than you sold (a...ka take a loss)?

I remember you saying early on your only real goal was to get people reading what you wrote. Now that you are officially published and money is involved, is that still true? Would you be satisfied if you never made another penny from Cinders, or sold another copy, but people kept reading it? What about if no one read it again, would it still be a success?

There is, of course, no wrong answer. I just wonder if things have changed at all, since I haven't experienced publication as you are now.
 Yes, Yes, Yes, and Yes. 

Why Self-Publishing Is Better Than You Think Series

Do You Want to Jump the Fence? - August 26th
The Vase - September 1st
What Going Indie Will Cost You - September 8th
Whither The Author-Artiste? - September 9th
Influences & Self-Publishing Might Just Stink For You - September 16th 
The Absolute Nightmare (or not!) of Formatting a Print Book - September 22n
Cheaper Than Kinko's - September 23rd 
Don't Listen to Me - September 30th


  1. Christine: Thank you so much for stopping by and reading!

  2. While at this point in my writing career I am not looking to self-publish for reasons I've talked about before, I do think that then-Davin's experience with the book for his nephew and your experience with Cinders, as well as what Tara is doing with Conmergence have really opened my eyes about some very real possibilities, and I thank each of you for that.

    I would also add to the list Tim Stretton, who had a couple of self-published books before becoming a Macmillan New Writer now working on a second book. From Michelle, Davin, and Tara I can see the potential for targeting certain projects for self-publishing. From Tim I can see it as a step on a ladder.

    This is good because it means if I start getting beaten down by the querying process when I start that, I will have these models in the back of mind as possible hope.

  3. Thank you for all your insights. I don't think I'll ever self publish, but you are an influence. Your turning my negative thoughts that I've had for self-publishing around.

  4. Nevets: I'm glad we have been helpful for you! That's my entire intention for these posts. I want to bring a realistic option to the table - one where I don't hide anything.

    I also think self-publishing your writing can get you noticed by specific people. I've already had one offer for Cinders that I might discuss in a later post so I can show that possibility and possibly highlight some self-publishing stories where the Indie writers have gone on to attract attention from agents and publishers. My self-publishing, even after a short time, has opened some doors for me - ones I never would have even seen before, and it's very exciting.

    Mary: I'm really happy to hear that. I like trying to dispel some of the stigmas. :)

  5. Well, Michelle, you sure are getting me thinking, especially about the most fundamental question: What do I personally want out of being published?
    I think answering that makes all the other questions much easier to answer...
    Thanks again for sharing all your thoughts on the process...

  6. Having just self-published my middle-grade novel because my small press defaulted on it, I can tell you I agree with all four of your concerns. But for me, number One is the one worst. I just sat at a signing table last weekend next to a bunch of traditionally published authors...and I felt so 'less' than them. Even though my book has gotten great reviews and I know it's absolutely top-notch, everytime someone asked 'Who's your publisher', I sort of wilted.

  7. I'm not sure whether self-publishing is right for me at the moment, but I do think that, as e-books are rapidly changing the publishing world, self-publishing will become a more and more viable option. Finding this series highly informative!

  8. Thank you for sharing your experiences in such great detail. I feel like we've been along on this journey with you, learning as you learn.

    I love showing people my copy of Cinders and saying, "Look, Michelle and her friends MADE this book. All of it! The cover and interior design, the costume for the cover and promo art, everything." It makes the book as a whole feel more like a work of art than a commercial product, if that makes sense. Not that some commercially produced books aren't artful and lovely, but doing so much of it yourself makes it extra personal. :)

  9. Thanks for the shout out! I'm glad I was helpful in some small way... though of course I wish that I had been one of the people who helped you "decide" to self-pub because I hear Cinders is awesome, and I would love to think it existed in part because of something I'd said (cause I'm a big meglomaniac that way! :P )

  10. Bridget: I'm really happy to hear that! I know you've expressed some extreme frustration over the agent process, and I agree with your frustration. They are looking for very specific things, and well, we writers who write what we want to write - we're not always writing those specific things. Makes it like trying to fit a circle in a square-space. I think that question you're asking yourself about what you want out of being published is very important.

    Amy: Oh my goodness, that breaks my heart, but I know why you'd wilt that way. I think it's important, though, that you keep your confidence and proudly tell them you independently published your novel. Maybe you could tack on there that it was, at one point, accepted by a publisher if you think that might help people understand. That's frustrating that your small press defaulted on your book. I'd love to know more about that...

    Judy: It's a really hard thing to know if self-publishing is right for anyone, yes. I do hope you find success no matter what route you take!

    Genie: I'm REALLY happy you understand that aspect of all of this. It IS a work of art to me, moreso than any other book I've done. It also makes me really happy that you're showing it off to people. My ego just inflated. *looks around for a pin...*

  11. Zoe: Thank you for stopping by! I really wish I had known about you before I published Cinders, but it is because of Cinders that I met you, and that is one of the lovely side effects of my decision - meeting SO many other self-published authors I wouldn't have run across otherwise. I also can't wait to get your book! As you can see from me talking about Katie, I do read vampire books despite my classic literary snobishness I keep trying to get rid of. Vampires: Guilty pleasure. :)

  12. Great post! I'm glad to see that there were so many great examples to help nudge you in the direction to self publish. Your book Cinders came out so beautiful and it was such a good story.

    I hope you have a lot of success with your books!!

  13. Katie: Thanks for coming by! You are an inspiration to me on a lot of levels. I hope your books do well, too!

  14. Excellent post, as usual. I agree, #1 is the top concern for most of us...and one that is insanely hard to combat in my own mind. I sort of cringe every time I say "I published a book," just waiting for that one person who will at some point counter with "no, that's not real publishing". Which is completely untrue, of course.

    I still don't regret it though even for all the extra peer-stress, and I'm glad you don't either. :-)

  15. Although self-publishing for me isn't something I want to do AT THIS TIME, your series has really made me sit back and think about the future.

    I appreciate your truthfulness and honesty regarding all you have done for CINDERS and taken the time to explain it all here for us. Thanks Michelle.

  16. Michelle, great post. I'm surprised to see my name on this list--thank you. FP has been a big influence on me too, as regular readers here probably know. And I'm excited about Tara Maya's publication!

    I do agree with you that influences are very hard to keep track of. If I were to thank everyone who influenced me in my stories the list would be at least 50-100 people. I think most people's would. But I do try hard to remember everyone who helped me.

  17. Anne: I know going Indie isn't even on your radar, and I hope you never think I'm trying to push you there. I just get really passionate about things and it can come off as bragging or pushing or both. I'm glad you're sitting back to contemplate things. I did that for quite awhile before deciding what I wanted to do.

    Domey: I hope it makes sense to you why I put you on this list! I really could go on and on about all of my writing influences, but then my acknowledgements page would be 10 pages long and nobody would read through it, anyway. I think what we can do as writers to thank everyone is turn out good writing again and again. :)

  18. Thanks for a great series. Your willingness to be open about your investments as well as your feelings makes it even more valuable.

    Just purchased CINDERS for my iPhone -- I love how mobile devices allow even more time for reading fiction!

  19. Cathryn: Thanks for your purchase! I hope you enjoy the book, and I appreciate you stopping by here, too. I need to get an iPhone. Or at least a Kindle. :)

  20. Thanks for the shout out. You did influence me quite a bit, Michelle, not just in showing it could be done (I knew that) but that it could be done WELL. That makes a huge difference. (Another book I'd like to mention is Sometimes That Happens With Chicken, by Wanda Shapiro.)

    Number (1) and number (4) on your list are probably the biggest fears I have. And also, like Amy, I dread standing in the presence of traditionally published authors and feeling inferior. I do thank Zoe Winters and her hilarious Zoe Who videos for poking fun at this fear, and helping me overcome it.

    I plan to blog about one more fear, which maybe not all writers have. Mabye it's related to (4) but its slightly different.

    I know if I self-publish, some people are going to say, "She had to self-publish because her work sucked."

    My biggest fear is not that people will say that, but that they might be right. Without the traditional gatekeepers to tell me, "No," -- which I always interpret as, "It's not good enough," --how will I know if it's good enough?

    I'm trying to let go of this fear, but it's very real.

  21. Tara Maya,
    I used to have more respect for the traditional gatekeepers, but lately I'm holding the idea of defining my own gatekeepers. For instance, knowing your intelligence, education and a little bit of your past writing, I wouldn't need a gatekeeper's approval before I decided to buy and read your work. With an unknown writer, the "new" gatekeeper might be my respected friends, but not necessarily an agent.

    In the publication of my own work, my gatekeepers are my trusted writer and reader friends.

  22. Tara: I'd like to do a post about that fear because I think it's a fear every writer has, and probably one of the huge reasons most of us want to be traditionally published. Validation. However, after publishing Cinders on my own and receiving so many great reviews, even from complete strangers, I'm starting to see that trusting in my gut was a good thing. I had never felt that ready about a work before, and if I hadn't felt that way I never would have put the book out there.

    I kind of talked about this in another one of the posts, I think, about being certain your work is ready and how that usually cannot come from only yourself. I've had short stories published, got a degree in English, and wrote 3 novels before I got to this point. Those are just the steps I took. Other people will have different steps, but I do think it's important to look at your past credentials and how people are reacting to your writing before it's published. That's a good indicator of where you stand. If your getting partial and full requests from agents, but they all say the book just isn't a good fit for them, then it might be a good sign that your writing is all fine and dandy, but the subject just isn't a great seller for the traditional publishing market.

    I'm really rambling, sorry. Anyway, those are just a few thoughts for now.

  23. I think Domey has hit something there. I think most of us need some form of gatekeeper. I think most of us want some form of gatekeeper. Thinking back to my masters thesis, there was something very satisfying about the moment scholars whom I respected stamped that and said, "Yes, this is scholarship up that we like." It's the same for writing; most of us want that sort of approval. It's good for writers, it's good for readers, and it's good for the "product."

    But the gatekeepers don't need to be traditional publishers. Your gatekeepers are representatives of the people you hope will respect and appreciate your book, and they are people whose endorsement may matter to the readers you hope to attract.

    That can be anyone.

  24. Thanks, Davin. And you're right, there are new gatekeepers. Just reading a writer's blog can make me feel I know enough to trust that writer. Or, of course, the first chapter.

    And yeah, when I hear a writer has been asked for partials or fulls from trad publishing gatekeepers, my feeling is that probably the writing quality is fine -- the rest is a matter of personal taste, and why should I assume my taste is the same as an agent or editor? There's also the matter that as a reader, I am only investing $10 and a few hours in a book. If it gets me through the line at the DMV, I'll consider it time and money well spent. If, like an agent or editor, I had to invest a year or more of my life and potentially thousands of dollars, I wouldn't necessarily want to, or dare to, do that.

    But this is all easier to say about other people's work. It' plain as day that Davin and Michelle are excellent writers. :)

  25. I understand the gatekeeper thing, absolutely. I've had several different gatekeepers in my lifetime. In college they were professors. Later they were friends. Now they are colleagues and professionals, like other published authors and people like Scott and Davin whom I admire greatly. Some are agents and publishers, as well, as I look into other publishing options for other projects. I think the key is to not get locked into thinking there is only one kind of gatekeeper.

  26. Not looking to do it, but I admire (Davin, Michelle)those who do. It's got to be a lot of hard work. I'd be so concerned about the copy-editing. But never say never? :)

  27. Robyn: Never say never, yep. I've learned that the hard way.


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