It has been almost three months since my little novel left the nest. Sales have been slow, but I’m overjoyed by the positive responses I’ve received (you can read reviews at Amazon, Amazon.co.uk, and a particularly cool one by Jeff Clough).
It’s hard to find a balanced opinion about self-publishing. Indie authors will tell you that they are the future of the literary world and anyone who uses a publisher or an agent is a conservative dinosaur on the brink of extinction. Traditionally published authors will tell you that indie authors are a bunch of entitled amateurs who were too shit to get a publisher or an agent so they were forced to publish their drivel themselves.
Nothing in the world is as black and white as that.
So here is what I have learnt so far from my self-publishing experience. I’m not pushing an agenda for either side. I’m too bitter and cynical to believe that much in anything.
Lower your expectations, A LOT
You are not going to get very many sales. However reasonable you think your interpretation of “not many” is, it will still be much less than that. Once all your friends and family buy a copy, your sales will slow to a geriatric snail’s pace, to the point where you can’t even tell if the snail is alive.
The people who find the most success with self-publishing are the people who crap out another book every few months and garner momentum through their sheer prolificness. I think, in many cases, it’s about quantity rather than quality. It took me eight years to perfect my book. I’m not about to rush the next one.
Extroverts, extroverts everywhere
I kind of assumed that all writers were quiet little introverts like me. I assumed we would all shyly shuffle our books forward, lower our eyes and fidget uncomfortably while the world gently took our babies away from us, and we would smile quietly to ourselves and experience a moment of peaceful introspection.
I was wrong, the extroverts write too. And they do it loudly, waving their hands about and insisting on everyone’s attention. They will get book sales, not because their books are necessarily better, but because they force people to notice them. I once had a girl at a concert lean on me because she thought I was part of the wall, so getting noticed is probably not my strong suit.
Tits or GTFO
Before I self-published, I thought that romance novels were nothing more than faded Mills & Boon in the bargain bin at the second hand bookshop. I had no idea that romance novels were such a huge industry. That shit is EVERYWHERE. It’s not just restricted to the romance genre, it’s invaded everything else as well. Just try to find a contemporary fantasy novel that doesn’t double as a romance novel Everything has to have romance now.
This leads me to the conclusion that we need more women in control of producing good quality feminist porn. That way, women could still get the satisfaction they need, while leaving some room in the bestseller list for the rest of us.
There is a lot of “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” amongst indie authors. You can write reviews for their books in exchange for a review of yours. You can tag their books and they’ll tags yours. Every time I get close to buying into that mentality, I end up feeling dirty. I mean, thanks random stranger for retweeting my tweets, but it sounds like your book is some kind of conservative right wing racist fantasy, and I can’t in good conscience return the retweeting favour.
On the flipside, I’ve heard of indie authors leaving one star reviews for authors they perceive to be their competition. Between that and the trend for authors to give themselves a bunch of fake five star reviews, Amazon reviews have been rendered pretty much useless to discerning customers. Which sucks, because I’ve received some genuinely good reviews.
It sounds like I’m being overly negative, so I’ll sum up with this: Despite the crap that comes with it, self-publishing is still worth it. My book was never an easy sell to publishers – it’s too weird and doesn’t have obvious mass-market appeal. By self-publishing, I can allow my book to find its audience in its own time. Now I am in control. It’s a slow journey, but every little sale and every little review feels incredibly huge.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by everyone telling you what you should be doing with your book, how to do it, when to do it etc. But you have to filter all of that out and do what feels right for you and your book. Just because we are all indie authors doesn’t mean we all have to follow the same path. It was following different paths that made self-publishing possible to begin with.