The dilemma of self-publishing is the constant nagging thought of, “What do I have to offer that people can’t find elsewhere and how do I get it to them?” At least it is for me.
With the shelves of (remaining) bookstores stocked full of traditionally published books and those of the big small houses, being self-published without a traditional publishing background is a challenge. It’s not insurmountable, as many authors have shown, but it certainly puts the onus of marketing and promotion and the drive toward success squarely on the shoulders of the author. And while I’ve got the internet to spread the word and hopefully sing the praises of my books, the reality of it is more like throwing a book into the ocean and hoping it hits each and every shore. It’s an unrealistic expectation, especially at the outset; a hopeless dream that appears doomed from the onset.
And that’s exactly what it felt like when I started publishing. I’d sold a few hundred copies of Armageddon Bound, the first of my Demon Squad series, and while that was awesome, it certainly didn’t pay me back the money I’d spent on giveaways or my web page, and it definitely didn’t pay for my occasional convention trip. Not that it’s all about money, mind you. I write because I love to, but there’s an uncomfortable reality of return when you’re writing for public consumption. You can’t just constantly hemorrhage cash trying to get your name out there with no return and expect any sort of longevity.
For me, the first few years were hard as far as my aspirations were concerned. Seriously, $400 a year doesn’t go very far. I was fortunate—and still am—to have a solid, full time job with benefits. I’m no starving artist living on the street, but for me, the goal is to write for a living. $400 isn’t going to get me there. It’s not going to get anyone there.
Seeing that paltry sum in return for all the long hours I’d spent writing and editing and imagining was a kick to the baby parts. The first four novels I’d written were stashed in a trunk, rejections having piled up with no substantive advice buried in them, and writing the fifth felt like taking a swim with a cannonball. I was drowning.
Early on, I was under the delusion that writing was all about the writing. Turns out I was wrong. It isn’t how good a writer you are these days, and it isn’t about how poetic your prose or awe-inspiring your plots are. Of course those matter, but they’re just one piece of the publishing puzzle. It took me a while to realize this, focused as I was on bettering my skills and storytelling.
In the end I learned it was about writing plus marketing plus promotion plus networking plus—and this is the most ephemeral piece of the puzzle—plain luck. You can be the best storyteller in the world but if no one hears you, you’re nothing. Same goes for promotion. You can pitch a sack of gussied up poo all day long but once folks figure out what it is, you’re done. A successful author has to be all things publishing-related if they hope to make a name for themselves. And they have to be lucky, right place, right time.
Once I figured that out—after plenty of mistakes and the mantric advice from more talented buddies and colleagues echoing inside my head—things changed. They changed a lot. The relationships I’d formed with bloggers—people I now consider friends—gave me a soapbox for my work, a pedestal to display it where more than just my wife and the cats got to see. It was the same with conventions. While I blew more than a year’s worth of royalties booking a flight and was forced to nickel and dime to eat while I was there, the relationships I’ve created at these conventions have more than made each and every trip worth the effort.
Add this to what I learned with regards to my actual writing and I suddenly had more of a platform. People were starting to tune in. That increased as I put more effort into not being an anti-social introvert and expanded my visibility through social media. Just like in real life (if you can believe it) I made friends and met folks whose skills and willingness to help only furthered my ability to grow an audience. Word of mouth had gone from forced self-promotion to something more natural, folks talking about my books on their own, discussing them and telling their friends. It’s a great feeling seeing the tiny seed of my career sprout.
While I’m hardly one of the Michael J Sullivans or Hugh Howeys of the world, I’m finding my groove, and I know for a fact it isn’t because of just one thing I’ve done (write) but the sum of all I’ve done and has been done for me, and that elusive bit of luck I’ve managed to catch a wisp of. And as solitary as writing might seem, the long hours cooped up in front of keyboard making stuff up, it really becomes a community when you expand beyond the function of writing and step into publishing. It has to if you want to get your manuscript into the hands of someone not related to you.
Ultimately, self-publishing is a lot of work with no guarantees of success—just like life. There’s no certainty you’ll wake up every morning, and there’s definitely no certainty you’ll wake up with a contract from one of the big publishing houses in your inbox. So, if your dream is to write and be published and your options are limited, just do it. Tell your stories, make friends, dream big, and work your ass off. There are no guarantees but there’s plenty of regret to go around. And while I might not be the textbook example of success when it comes to self-publishing, the fact that I can make something of myself doing it is proof there are opportunities out there. You simply have to make the most of them.
As always a pleasure to have Tim around, author of one of my favorite urban fantasy series in Demon Squad. Most here should already know him as I keep inviting him over whenever I want to give free books, without having to spend my own money, and whenever he's released a new book.
His newest novel is the latest in the Demon Squad series, the fifth installment Beyond the Veil, which was great. To celebrate that release, he's decided to give an eBook set of all his Demon Squad novels to three lucky winners.
Participants have to be 18 years of age or older to participate. Void where prohibited by law. Giveaway rules are subject to change.
Giveaway will be for 3 full eBook sets of the Demon Squad urban fantasy series by author Tim Marquitz.
The giveaway is open WORLDWIDE, and it will run from April 29, 2013 until 11:59 pm ET on May 10, 2013.
How to participate:
- To participate simply log-in into to the Rafflecopter and "Enter" through the easy entry.
- One entry per person, or face disqualification.
- Entries accepted until 11:59pm ET on May 10, 2013.
- There'll be 3 winners only for all eBook Demon Squad novels.
- Will have to confirm email to be considered a winner within 48 hours.
- Additional entries may be had by following the steps provided in the Rafflecopter instructions, and only by doing those steps.
- Winners will be chosen by random selection using the Rafflecopter.