As a writer pal and former critique partner recently said to me: "I firmly believe [self publishing] is the way forward for authors. The good old traditional publishing path and paperbacks are on a slippery slope to becoming niche and non-mass-market. Trying to get published in the traditional way is not a viable business model any more, unless you're very lucky. It just doesn't make sense to send out your novel and sit around for years hoping that somebody might notice it. In no other business do you make products for 'years' without any return. You'd be bankrupt."
From a purely business perspective, and speaking as a former business and marketing strategist, the effort put in by most writers - intensive training, research, product development, and marketing, and all with little or no gain - is nothing short of madness. It remains pretty much as crazy when you think that even those who are published generally don't earn enough to give up their day jobs. Perhaps in the more recent past our options were seriously limited and traditional publishing was the only way forward. But with new doors opening and other gatekeepers appearing, and a more professional approach taken to self publishing, indie publishing starts to look increasingly like a smart choice.
On that note, I'd like to introduce my first guest, YA fantasy author, Megg Jensen, in this series exploring self publishing.
What made you decide to self-publish, and had you tried to traditionally publish (or been traditionally published) before going the self-publishing route?
For six years I made a good living as a freelance parenting journalist. In 2008 I decided to pursue my first love - fiction. I had no idea it would be so difficult to find an agent. After years of training in writing, I thought getting a novel published would be hard, but not impossible.
I pursued representation with an agent, but nearly every agent told me the same thing, “I love your writing, but the market for your type of fiction is too small.” I even had one agent offer representation if I switched genres, but I turned her down.
In fall of 2009, my friend Karly Kirkpatrick chose self-publishing and she brought me on board with her.
There is a lot of talk about the publishing industry being in a state of change, did this influence your decision to self-publish in any way and what do you think the changes taking place in the publishing world mean for writers and for writing/literature per se?
The changes in publishing made self-publishing a viable option for me, but it wasn’t the catalyst for my choice. I wanted my work out there and I was tired of fighting against the machine. I’m not against traditional publishing, not by any means, but it wasn’t the path I wanted to take at that time.
Is your book published as an e-book, Print on Demand, paper book, or all three?
My novels are available in nearly all formats, except hardcover and audiobook.
The criticism of many self-published books is the lack of editing and proof reading. Did you use an editor to polish your book before self-publishing, and if so, how do you feel this helped?
As a freelance journalist, I spent years editing my own work. Most of my published articles (by large circulation magazines) were not edited beyond the draft I turned in. I also have a large circle of professional writers, who have the same skills as freelance editors, working on my manuscripts. My books go through at least seven or eight drafts before publication.
Editing is essential to good writing. No one should ever publish a book that hasn’t been fully edited. Do I claim perfection? No, but I can also show you quite a few examples of traditionally published books that have typos. Anathema is already in its second edition because I found three typos post-publication and corrected all of them.
Did you use a designer for create a book cover for you? If so, what difference do you feel this has made?
Absolutely. I have no artistic skills and hired Robin Ludwig Design, Inc. to create my covers. It’s a very collaborative process and I am very pleased with the results.
How did you decide which self-publishing option to use? What were your reasons for your selection?
I followed in the footsteps of my friend Karly by publishing paperbacks through CreateSpace and publishing ebooks through Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and Smashwords. Karly blazed the trail for me. With our other colleagues at DarkSide Publishing, GP Ching and Angela Carlie, we spend a great amount of time re-evaluating the industry to be sure we are using the best publishing options.
How do you feel about the less than complementary remarks so often made about self-published books vs. traditionally published books – and do you think this perception is changing?
Having been on the receiving end of some very rude comments (I’ve been called a traitor and a cheater), I hate it. I honestly can’t understand why any traditionally published author would take their time to bash an indie author. The traditional publishing scene was exclusive before self-publishing went viral. Every single traditionally published author struggled at some point. Why they would disrespect another struggling author is beyond me.
I do think attitudes are changing, but there are many people who still look down on independent authors.
With self-publishing, you carry all the risk – the onus is on you to create as “perfect” a book as possible and to market it. How have you found the process of being your own publisher, and what have you particularly learned?
I’m having an amazing time. I honestly enjoy every aspect of publishing. I’ve learned a lot about editing too. I thought I was a good editor before, but there’s been so much room for personal growth. I look forward to learning even more.
What marketing platforms are you using to promote your books, and how much of your time does the marketing take?
I use Facebook, Twitter, my blog, Google+, message boards, etc. If it’s out there, I’m probably a part of it. I’m not sure how much time marketing takes. I can do a lot of it on the run with my iPhone.
I do want to say that there’s a fine line between constant marketing and just getting to know people. I hate saying, “Buy my book!” Instead I prefer to chat with people and connect with them on a personal level. It makes the whole process much more interesting than being an author on a pedestal.
It’s a personal question, but do you feel you’re making, or are able to make money by having self-published your book? Do you feel you are making more than you would be being traditionally published?
I’m making more money each month now than I was after six years as an established freelance journalist. Based on a blog post by agent/author Mandy Hubbard, I’m doing better financially than I would have as a traditionally published midlister. View Mandy’s post here.
Are you happy with the level of your sales? Do you think there is more you could do to improve your sales?
I’m thrilled that someone other than my mom has bought my books. I’m overwhelmed that complete strangers are contacting me and telling me how much they love my work. Can I do better? Of course I can. I will continue to work hard every day to reach new readers.
Will you continue to self-publish, or do you want to be traditionally published (and self-publish), and why?
For now I’m continuing with self-publishing. Will I change my mind in the future? Maybe. I guess I’m a little Justin Beiber in that I never say never. ;)
Would you recommend self-publishing to other writers?
I’ve been happy with my experience, but I don’t think it’s for everyone. If a writer has no interest in the business end, then they shouldn’t pursue self-pub. I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs and have worked and managed in many small business. I like that portion of self-pubbing, a lot of people don’t. If you’re not passionate about the whole process, then don’t do it.
What do you see as the pitfalls in self-publishing?
It is very easy to become discouraged. We have near-real time reporting of our sales. It’s easy to check four thousand times a day. Let me tell you, checking sales constantly during the day isn’t rewarding unless you’re selling a lot of books. It’s frustrating to see a big fat zero four or five times throughout the day.
It’s also a bit lonely. As a self-pub, you don’t a team of professionals singing your virtues and telling you how awesome you are. Every self-pub author needs to surround herself with friends who are encouraging and honest.
Do you have any tips for writers thinking of self-publishing?
Talk to other self-pubbed authors and think very hard about the path you want to take. It’s not for everyone.
A huge thanks to Megg for participating in this series.
Thank you for having me!!!!
To find out more about Megg Jensen and her books you can view her website/blog
You can follow her on Twitter
You can become a Facebook fan
To buy Megg Jensen's books, please go here.