vanishing time book coverPlease welcome Katharine Britton, author of Vanishing Time, who’s virtually visiting Luxury Reading to talk about her decision to self-publish her latest novel. 

Katharine is giving away 5 copies of Vanishing Time–don’t forget to enter to win a copy below!

The Tale of a Digital Immigrant on the Road to Self-publication

I’m a digital immigrant. There I’ve said it. I did not grow up with computers, cell phones, apps, or the Internet. I was not even in the first wave of adopters during the digital diaspora. I resisted emigrating as long as I could, and still sometimes think longingly of “the old country,” those simpler times when cultural norms were familiar and I understood the language.

That said I do wonder how anyone wrote novels before computers, or located friends in museums and shopping malls before cell phones. I could not successfully arrive anywhere without Google Maps.

Given my phobia of on-line forms, passwords, and hitting the “submit” button, it was brazen of me to decide to independently publish a novel. Naïvely I thought, what better way to become familiar with the process so I could, in turn, help my writing clients who want to venture down this road?

It was a bumpy road, and I was, at times, so lost that not even Google Maps could have helped. But I plodded along, printing out on-line tutorials, calling on friends for help, signing up for webinars, and eating lots of chocolate. I’m near the end of my journey with an e-book that released on June 7, the physical book following in late June, and most of my wits intact.

For those considering self-publishing, here’s what I learned along the way: The benefits of independent publishing have mostly to do with increased control over the process and the outcome. You will own the rights to your book. (Do NOT sell these to anyone who offers to help you with the process. And there are many, many entities out there offering assistance on: writing, editing, copy editing, formatting, converting, uploading, cover design, marketing, and publicity. You might want to hire folks for some or even all of these components, just be sure you maintain ownership of the rights.)

Whether you perform all these functions yourself or hire someone to help, you will make all the decisions. On everything. If this notion thrills you, you’re a good candidate for independent publishing. If this notion makes you want to run to the pantry for chocolate, you might want to reconsider.

When you self-publish, you’ll get higher royalties than with a traditional publisher. (No advance; all the money will be flowing out.) You generate royalties, of course, only when your book sells. If your book sells. Since you are in charge of marketing and publicity, the ball is, once again, in your court. You can hire someone to help, but publicists earn way more than most authors, so calculate your return on investment before you do. (If you figure out how to do that, please let me know.)

A traditional publisher provides an author with an editor, a designer, a managing editor, a marketing department, and a publicist, all of whom will guide her book through the production process to publication. If this sounds like the way you like to travel (someone else making all the arrangements), pursue this route.

The good news is that authors now have a choice. Some indie authors do very, very well, and some of these get picked up by traditional publishers and decide to change modes of transportation. Others stick with the DIY approach. Many authors are hybrids.

I’ve published both ways: traditional and independent. I do have a sense of accomplishment from having stewarded my book from kernel of idea to (almost) having a physical copy on my shelf. But, as a digital immigrant, that sense of accomplishment arrived after months of anguish, frustration, confusion, and despair. To be fair, authors often have such moments with a traditional publisher. Every author has a story or two. Some have happy endings. Some do not.

If you like total control of projects, are techno-savvy, and current with web resources, you will probably cruise through the indie-publication process with ease. If you are not a digital native and would rather write than learn to format a manuscript, generate .mobi and .epub files, and calculate the precise dimensions of the wrap cover for your physical book… and still want to pursue independent publishing, my advice is to hitch a ride with a digital native who has already made the journey. And buy lots of chocolate. Bon Voyage!

For those who’ve self-published, what lessons did you learn on the road? Why did you choose to self-publish? For those who (wisely) prefer to read books than to write them, what questions do you have? I’m road-weary but happy to help.

More about Katharine Britton

Katharine has a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Dartmouth College. Her screenplay Goodbye Don’t Mean Gone, on which her new novel, Vanishing Time (June 2015), was based, was a Moondance Film Festival winner and a finalist in the New England Women in Film and Television contest. She is the author of two previous novels, Her Sister’s Shadow and Little Island (Berkley Books, Penguin, USA).

When not writing, Katharine can often be found in her Vermont garden, waging a non-toxic war against slugs, snails, deer, woodchucks, squirrels, chipmunks, moles, voles, and beetles. Katharine’s defense consists mainly of hand wringing after the fact.

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