Tag Archives: things I think about

Things I Think About ~ On Becoming a Self-Published Writer

Outside of the world of writers and book bloggers, I don’t know how much the Amazon/Hachette kerfuffle has made it to the mainstream (aka, friends and family who might read this via Facebook/Google+). Okay, you’ve probably seen the Stephen Colbert thing by now… Most of what I’ve seen in the media  is very anti-Amazon and very black and white. The issue, of course, has a few shades of gray. I thought about posting something about these subtleties, but other people have done a better job of it:

Now, obviously, both sides have interested parties. There are the likes of Colbert and James Patterson on one side, Hugh Howey and Joe Konrath on the other. In reality, this corporate conflict is highlighting the conflict between legacy publishing and the self-/indie publisher. Instead of going into that in a broad sense, I figured it might be more entertaining and useful to me if I gather my thoughts on why I am now a self-published author.

SmallAce

I’ve been writing since 1998. Well, if you count some literary short stories, longer than that. When I was ready to query Lucinda at the Window in 2000, there really wasn’t any legitimate way to self-publish. Most self-pub schemes ca. 2000 relied on authors paying exorbitant prices for poor quality products which the author would then try to sell to family/friends/extended family/passing strangers. Querying editors and agents was what you did. And it’s what I did. I did it with five novels over the course of 13 years.

By 2007, when I signed with Stone Garden to publish Lucinda, small presses had become viable, but still had difficulties. Due to advances in print-on-demand technology, small presses could put out affordable quality books without huge print runs. Unfortunately, what most of them didn’t have was budget or personnel. In 2007, I wasn’t ready to “sell” my own book and the one-man outfit of Stone Garden Publishing wasn’t going to do it for me.

I continued to be a proponent of legacy publishing. To me that was still the legit way to be published. I still believed that a good book would get published if it encountered the right agent on the right day. In the meantime, there were authors gaining audiences and making money through self-publishing ebooks through new services, but they weren’t just writers anymore. They had to be their own marketing and promotional department. That sounded utterly distasteful to me, but more and more new and mid-list writers were being required to do that even if they were signed by one of the Big 6 (now Big 5) publishers.

Social media was really the catalyst that changed my opinion of the legacy publishing game. It became easier to get to know agents and to find out what they wanted through their blogs and tweets. The #MSWL (ManuScript Wish List) tag on Twitter gave agents a way to share exactly what they wanted in real time. And it became fairly obvious that what they wanted wasn’t what I had to give them.

Math isn’t hard, but in this case it is depressing, so I won’t count up the number of rejections I garnered in 13 years of submissions. I’ll be honest, two of the novels I subbed weren’t ready. One of them has been set aside; one of them became a totally different novel. It could be that maybe, painfully, I’m just not a good writer. Maybe I’m stupid for spending 13 (now 14) years in an industry I’m not suited for. I’m going to disagree. I think the books I’ve written and that Eric and I have written are pretty darn good. (The book Eric has written alone is PDG too, although I might be biased.) It sounds cliche but I write books I would want to read.

The notion that I am now relying on is this: Even if agents (a small group of people with tastes that differ from mine) don’t want to sell my novels, there might be other people like me that would want to read them. Why not get the books directly to them?

Obviously, it’s not that simple. Promo and marketing is, as I suspected, as much work as writing. Eric and I are trying to cultivate an audience with the hopes that our efforts will pay dividends later. I will be honest, Amazon is pretty central to what we’re doing. They are one of our primary distribution channels. Amazon is giving me, and so many other authors outside of legacy publishing, an outlet to deliver product to readers who might want that product.SmallAce

Math isn’t hard, but it is annoying when it comes to counting up how many copies of my and Eric’s novels have been downloaded. (Smashwords gives me a total number. Amazon gives me a choice of reports, but none include total numbers for the entirety of a book’s life…) Sure, not every person will read the books they’ve downloaded or enjoy them. But the number of readers  I have today is certainly greater than the number I’ve had for the first 13 years of my career. For the moment, I’m pretty happy with that.

Things I Think About ~ Advertising

http://imgur.com/xwAsW56

This image and an associated article, via The Huffington Post, is making its way around my corner of the internet again. It’s a 1981 advertisement for Lego blocks. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen it in the last year or two.

First, let me say, it’s a great image. I had a pretty decent Lego collection as kid. This picture could be me aside from the fact that I never had hair long enough to braid. I love the expression of pride that is being portrayed. I have absolutely no problem with the image.

…Aside from the fact that it is not a “real” image. It’s an advertisement. This little girl probably didn’t build that house and the proud grin is probably not related to that creation. It’s staged. It’s an advertisement and an advertisement that didn’t work. If it would have worked and sold Lego blocks like hot cakes to girls, boys, and their parents, this style of marketing campaign for Lego blocks would still exist.

From an anecdotal perspective, in 1981 I was the only girl I knew that had Lego blocks. Honestly, I’m not sure that many of the boys had them either, but Legos are not exactly a great thing to bring for show-and-tell. They didn’t seem to be the must-have toy in 1981. This type of advertising for this type of generic set was not selling the blocks. That is what advertising is supposed to do. Its purpose isn’t to mimic or dictate social norms. It does those things sometimes, sometimes regrettably, but that’s a side effect. The purpose of advertising is to sell product. 2014 Mad Men look at this image and see a less-than-successful ad campaign.

Is the pink-ification of girl toys selling products? I don’t know. It seems to be, otherwise it wouldn’t be so prevalent. It could be that one “pink” success has led to more brands following the trend until that’s all there is. A segment of adults wishes this weren’t the case and feels that it’s pigeon-holing girls. If it’s a bad thing, is there a way to reverse this trend? I don’t know that either. I don’t understand the trend, but I was never a very girly girl. I had more Matchbox cars than Barbie dolls. I was equally fervent about Star Wars action figures as My Little Pony. I will say that I was pretty impressed with my two nieces’ plan to pool holiday money and allowances to purchase a Lego Friends set a few Christmases ago. It was good to see them considering the cost of things even if I didn’t agree with their choice in purchases. Not my cup of tea, but who am I to judge?