Last week, I was looking through my Twitter feed, when the tagline for the latest entry on my colleague Colleen's blog, Writer On Wellness, made me slam the brakes on my scroll bar.
"The Devil On My Shoulder Says: Was Self-Publishing Worth It?"
My immediate reaction was almost visceral. I clicked through, expecting a long guest post extolling the virtues of traditional publishing: yet another diatribe on how those of us who self-publish are wasting their time and producing sub-par work, simply because we do not all have contracted agents, editors, or book deals. I have strong feelings on that sort of judgemental opinion, so I read the article, knowing I'd want to formulate my own response. The guest poster, fellow indie author Sara Secora, actually uttered that phrase while describing one of her darkest moments. Context made me breathe a sigh of relief: she wasn't putting down self-publishing, simply acknowledging its realities, and how they had caused her anxiety.
I immediately did two things: utter a silent apology to the universe for making dreadful assumptions, and message Colleen and Sara. I asked if they'd mind my writing my own blog on the subject, and they were gracious enough to agree. So, here I am, about to share my thoughts on being a self-published author, two books on.
The internet had a lot to say about self-publishing when I started my journey, but what I've found that I wish to share with you is a variation of a popular social media game: Two Lies and a Truth.
Lie #1: You Have To Do Things That Cost Money To Get Noticed. Editors! Cover designers! Primo webspace! ADVERTISING! SO MUCH ADVERTISING! *buzzer noise* Nope. In my opinion, word of mouth and proper networking can get you just as far, if not farther in some respects. Get to know your fellow indie authors. Facebook author groups and other groups (Google+, Goodreads, independent websites) have been hit or miss, with me ... everyone has certain types of social media which "work" better for them than others. Mine have become Twitter and Instagram, inarguably. Connect with people, and they'll want to share what you have even more. (Yes, I'm going to refer you to Amanda Palmer's Art of Asking again. Unashamedly.)
Lie #2: Traditionally Published Stuff Is Better Than Yours, Always
Bullshit. Maybe that's just my ego talking, or maybe it's the fact that almost half the books I read in 2016 were by indie authors. Two of them held court at the top of the list with Stephen King's "Doctor Sleep" and Iain Reid's "I'm Thinking of Ending Things" ... L.M. Bryski's "Book of Birds" and Jette Harris' "Salvage", both of which I've reviewed in older blogs. Indie authors are just as good as any other authors. They just choose to do things their way. (Also, um, I've read indie authors who wrote circles around trad-pub stuff. Looking at you, A.B. Funkhauser.)
Truth: You Gotta Do A LOTTA WORK. And this isn't limited to cover art and editing and fancy formatting. You're your own marketer. Your own accountant. Your books don't get sold unless you make people want to buy them. I'm still on very wobbly training wheels when it comes to marketing - I'll be the first to admit it - and I'm looking for ways to extend my knowledge and make this work a little better for me in 2017.
So, if you don't have to lay out the bucks if you do the legwork, and your stuff is as good as anyone else's, if you work at it like any other craft... IS it worth it to self-publish?
My ultimate answer is this: it depends entirely on how you define wealth. Like Sara Secora, my stories are my passion. If I had gone the route of traditional publishing, I would have felt as though I were a donkey endlessly chasing a carrot on a string... plodding along, submitting letter after letter until they stopped coming back with some variation on the word "no" in them. There's never any telling how long that could take, and I have too much to say, too many things to spin into words, to wait. I publish my novels for their own sake. I hold them out into the ever-growing sea of works to readers, like a vendor selling papers on a busy city corner, and if even one person picks them up and says "Hey, this made my day a little better", I'm over the moon.
Yes. It's worth it. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a devil to flick off my shoulder with extreme prejudice, and a fourth novel to start.
Until next week, I remain your hostess,
Today is officially Yule, the Winter Solstice, which marks when longer nights slowly begin to turn to longer days. It is the longest night of the year ... which makes it perfect for curling up with a cup of your favorite holiday beverage (cocoa for me!) and a good book!
I have received review copies of four indie books from four very talented women, and will be steadily devouring them over the weeks to come. A couple are not quite in the same vein as The Novels of Aviario, but I believe that independent authors should look out for each other, regardless of genre! So there'll be a little variety in the offerings. Here's a sneak peek at what I'll be reviewing soon:
Some Assistance Required by C.L. Ogilvie - Supernatural meets romantic comedy when a human in a world full of supernatural creatures takes a job as a personal assistant to a very unique attorney. This one's been described as "a supernatural version of Bridget Jones"... I think I'm in for a fun read!
Mothmen: Myths & Legends, Volume One by Kaelan Rhywiol (no purchase link available) - Another supernatural romance ... I was told by the author that this one is more explicit, so I will be writing my review for her to post on her website. (I try to keep the books I review here to an R rating.) Once it's finished, I'll post a link to the review for those who would care to read it.
The Order of Moonlight by Lexi Miles - Lexi's synopsis on Amazon makes this sound like a boiler-plate supernatural romance, but she assures me there's plenty of mystery and suspense, as well. She's a sweet, supportive friend, so I look forward to seeing what she's cooked up ... I have a feeling she may be selling herself short in her descriptions.
Stolen Ink by Holly Evans - Holly's a colleague of mine, and her writing is fabulous. This is the first in her new urban fantasy series, which blends magic with the art of tattooing. It's a really original concept, and I'm excited to see what she does with it!
Since I won't see you all here again until after the holidays, I hope you all have a wonderful week, no matter what you celebrate! I'll see you all next time for the last blog post of 2016!
This has to do with my writing. I promise.
I first heard of Amanda Palmer back in 2003, via word-of-mouth on DeviantArt, where I was posting some of my earliest Aviario portraits and some pretty ridiculous fanart (it's mostly just the portraits, now). One of the artists I followed was a fan, and would blog about her far-between experiences at the Dresden Dolls' live shows. I hadn't heard the music yet, but said artist was absolutely blown away by how personable the two folks in the band were, and I thought: "They actually got to hang with the band? They must've really been something." (As it turns out, the band hung with everyone, because they're just that connected to their fans. Which is amazing.)
Fast-forward to when a dear friend, Damien, gave me a mix CD for my birthday, because we are soul sisters when it comes to that sort of thing (she was also one of the inspirations behind Crowley, and if you're reading this, Damien, I love you dearly). On it was a song called "Half Jack" by - oh hey, those Dresden Dolls again. It started out quiet and sinister and sad and turned into this absolute cacophony of anger and pain and desperation, and I thought I'd never heard human emotion turned into song so well in my life. I had to find more. So I went to their website, and magically, they offered some of their stuff for free, because they believed in that sort of thing. I devoured it all, and fell in love with the lead singer, pianist, and lyricist, as much as you can fall in love in that idealistic sort of way. (Well, maybe not quite as much as I'd fallen in love with Danny Elfman, but she's a close second. If she ever reads this, I hope she knows that's pretty damn high praise in my book.)
Amanda's music is not for everyone. And she is one hundred percent okay with this. She creates what she wants to create, she is equally tender and vicious, and that really touches me: the thought that someone can both be empathetic and angry as hell, honest and raw and sweet. She makes music for people with artistic souls: she gets what it means to be creative, how it feels.
She also broke away from her major label after it treated her like crap, and is now supported almost entirely by her fans. When the story of this got out, she did a little thing called a TED Talk, and titled it "The Art of Asking". You can watch it here. I highly recommend that you do. It only takes twelve minutes out of your day, and it will change how you think about busking, art, artists, giving, and human connection. I'd already had some of the ideas she set forth in this talk, but hearing them validated by an artist I admired so much set off something inside me. It lit a candle. And now I feel like a lantern. I have light worth reading by.
The point is, long story short (too late?), that I know that my writing and my art have worth, far beyond the $16 or $3.99 per book. That worth is the look on people's faces when they say "You wrote a book? Wow!", the handwritten note from my neighbor which says "You are amazing Angela! Thanks for sharing", and most importantly, the young people who have approached me, online and at signings, to say that it is their absolute dream to write, and ask how to do what I have done. My writing has the greatest worth of all, because it is my calling. It is what I was meant to do: not sit in front of a desk quality-checking data and writing procedures.
I want to be able to spend my entire life doing this, as much as I can. I want to give you places to escape to, characters to befriend, stories that resonate. And I'm realizing that I cannot do that in a larger capacity without your help.
There is a site called Patreon, which mimics the old Renaissance concept of creators having patrons who help support them while they create. I have an account there, now: and if you become one of my patrons by pledging a monthly amount toward my work, you will receive lovely things - even if you can only spare a dollar a month. A dollar a month pays half of my domain fees. Five dollars a month buys three copies of my book to bring to signings. It adds up, far more than the $8 I receive for a paperback book... and by helping me create, you receive so much more. Less stress over money for me means better content for you, in addition to my undying gratitude.
The best thing about all of this? If you and I spread the word, and enough people are kind enough to help me, I won't have to sit in front of a desk, quality-checking data and writing procedures. Instead, I can sit in front of a desk writing beautiful, terrible, real-as-life things and sharing them with all of you. I can spend more time connecting with all of you, hearing what you love, what you want to see, telling you how much I appreciate you ... getting to know you.
Art has always had the deepest purpose of bringing people together, of telling them something about each other and about the world... of bringing solace and joy in times when it is needed. I think we're going to need an awful lot of that in the years to come, and I can think of no better thing to support than the nurturing of the human soul. I've pledged what I can to Amanda, and when a friend begins his own Patreon next year, I'll be pledging to him, too, and as many others as I can.
If you've been moved by what I've written, I ask you as humbly as I can: please come and be my patron and my friend. We can do great things together.
Until next time, I remain your hostess,
NaNoWriMo is over, and I am happy to report that I am a proud winner, and possess another 50,000 words of fresh new writing! (That's about 50 pages, give or take, for those of you playing along on the home game.) Over the course of that writing, I've also been doing a lot of thinking, and of course, what I mean to do is share those thoughts with you here. All together now: "What have you been thinking about, Ang?"
Fun. I've been thinking about fun.
Let's go allllllll the way back to late 2014, when I concretely decided to self-publish the Novels of Aviario. I just checked, and somehow I never actually wrote a monumental blog post about this. It just ... happened (as so many creative things often do). One of my biggest reasons for deciding to self-publish, however, was because I wanted my writing to stay fun. I went to college intending to major in Creative Writing ... but my alma mater dropped it as a major right before I began, so it was English Lit with a Creative Writing minor for yours truly. Which meant that the majority of my time was spent on term papers about symbolism, literary criticism, thematic structure, and the stuffier nuts and bolts of great writing. I wrote about writing more than I actually did it, and after a while, writing started to feel like work.
To someone like me, that was the stuff of nightmares. So I left the first draft of what would become In The Cards alone for years, occasionally picking at it and hoping to make something of it, but mostly realizing that the stress of college had tainted writing with the ghost of a chore, the same way nicotine lingers on old furniture in a heavy smoker's home. Gross.
It wasn't until those months in late 2014 - ten whole long years later - that I began to rediscover my writing, and that, hey! - it could still be just as fun as it was when I was using it as an escape from high school stress. Only, now, it was an escape from the stress of a job I was dissatisfied with. I poured my heart and soul into From the Desk of Buster Heywood, and magic happened. As Buster grew his spine, so did I. I started to fight for things that would make my job better, easier, less stressful. And I started expecting less fulfillment on a soul level, there: that sort of value came from my writing. Now, two years later, my job satisfaction level is much higher, because I ask for less from it on a personal level. I have two novels and a completed draft of the third to show for the process. But let's talk about that third novel.
The Proper Bearing was a gift to me from a very dear friend, who created its main character for a game I'd began long before I'd picked up my pen again. The game was meant to be a substitute for writing, at first, and now it has evolved into a supplement. (For those who wonder if tabletop games make good novels, look no further than Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's infamous "Dragonlance Chronicles" trilogy.) Nick's backstory and potential for development were so rich that I knew they'd make a great novel, and his creator was gracious enough to allow me to explore it. Along the way, what I thought were my loftiest goals for the novel became the biggest millstones around my neck: having a thoroughly detailed, horribly accurate setting in keeping with the United Kingdom in 1979, and making sure that Nick was absolutely, thoroughly, 100% how this dear friend would portray him, were we playing it out around a table. I stalled, about two-thirds of the way through, and absolutely loathed what I was writing.
At about that point, my lovely then-fiancee sent me a picture of Mark Ruffalo, who was the physical inspiration for Nick, messing about on a skateboard. It was so un-Nick that it was probably far funnier to us than it would be for most people, but I had a flash of inspiration. I cut the picture out and taped it to the inside of my drafting notebook with a speech bubble.... and off I went, renewed. I went through what I had so far with a vorpal pen. If it wasn't fun to read, out it went. A lot of what got cut were the ponderous details I'd spent so long researching, the settings and descriptions which were all but poking the reader in the eye while shouting, "Look how thoroughly British I am, wot wot!" It was cringe-worthy. I also stopped worrying about comparisons to Harry Potter ... because yeah, sure, it's a British boarding school and magic is a factor, but Oakridge is pretty much to Hogwarts as a potato is to a sweet potato. They're both potatoes, but you wouldn't top one with pecans and brown sugar, am I right?
Long story short (too late?), I remembered where the fun lay in my writing process. As soon as I did, the rest of the draft took off like a shot. I finished The Proper Bearing with ten days to spare, and started on another project just for fun ... but that's another story to be told another time.
It's good to be back! Thanks for hanging in during my writing hiatus!
Until next time, I remain your hostess,
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