by Matthew Plourde
If you’ve heard anything about the “indie” book revolution, you’ve probably suffered the loud voices on either side:
“Traditional publishing is dead!”
“The only way you’ll earn respect as a writer is to be published by a bonafide house.”
“Look at author X, Y and Z – they self-published and are selling a thousand copies a day.”
“People don’t buy books from non-published authors.”
I’ve heard and read quite a few arguments from every angle and all I can do is offer some insight from my own experiences as a self-published author. Like so many things in life, I don’t buy the argument that there is a “right” or “wrong” way to achieve your goals. Every decision has its own unique shape.
When I finished my first novel, Eden, I dutifully sought a literary agent. After all, that is how things work. Or so I thought. While I collected rejection letters, I kept researching the publishing industry and every new bit of information I found deepened my disappointment. I knew for a fact that my work was at least as good as many of the published novels out there, but I also realized that I wouldn’t likely see my words in print.
Despite negative reactions from some of my colleagues in the fiction community, I decided to self-publish. In no way do I view that decision as a “give up.” Quite the opposite! I have been empowered by my choice. With all the services to help self publishers create content (Amazon’s Createspace, Lulu, Smashwords, Pub-it, etc), some of the major advantages of signing with a traditional publisher can be handled by the author. Add marketing/publicity into that bucket as well as I’ve heard that this task, more often than not, falls upon our weary shoulders.
[amazonify]1456514431[/amazonify]Of course, a traditional publisher is still the only realistic avenue to seeing your books on the shelves at a brick-and-mortar store. I won’t lie to you and tell you that’s likely as a self-published author. I guess if you play the lottery you may be delusional about math, so maybe you think you can get there on your own. But the truth remains the large booksellers have distribution channels setup with the major houses and they are not too interested in your little self-published book.
Once I was elbow-deep in the self-publishing process a funny thing happened: I didn’t care about the shelves at Barnes & Noble. I no longer required the validation of some ethereal authority to judge my fiction worthy of a reader’s delicate eyes. I didn’t trust that an agent/publisher could handle my fiction as well as I could.
I began to believe in myself.
Maybe Vera will invite me back to gush about all the wonderful effects of this self-empowerment, but for now I’ll leave you with some practical tips:
1. Get an editor. Though you’re not printing and storing books in your basement, you still have two expenses that you must not skimp on! This is one of them. After your editor reviews your final manuscript, have them review your first proof copy. It’s bound to have some sneaky formatting errors!
2. Remember thirty-five words ago when I told you there were two expenses? Welcome to #2: your cover art. A digitally created splotch on your cover with some text over the top is quite noticeable (so is a picture of your girlfriend/boyfriend holding a twig or some shit). Head over to deviantart.com or conceptart.org. I guarantee you will be amazed at the talented artists looking to build their portfolio.
3. Be professional. If you put a call out for cover art, respond to each and every artist even if you don’t like their work. Communicate with speed and efficiency. Polish your work so it can stand side-by-side with the traditional published stuff. Polish yourself so you are respected as a professional in the writing community.
4. Write for story, write for yourself. Forget this “ideal reader” junk. I also strongly discourage writing a novel because you think it will sell. If you’re doing this, then do it because you want to. Hell, I hope you are doing it because you need to.
About Matthew Plourde
After attending college and planning to begin a career in criminology, Matthew Plourde experienced a life changing event. At 23 years old he was diagnosed with cancer – a tragedy which nearly ended his life.
After surviving, and with this second chance at life, Plourde learned a valuable lesson. He offers these inspirational words to people, “don’t allow life to just happen around you; make changes, take risks and be true to your own heart.”
To find out more about Plourde’s upcoming books, check out his blog. And make sure to read his great response to my “Who Is Unprofessional Here?” post!