Publishing Pains: Part One

Old books - Stories From The Past

It happened. The book thing. Finally. Happened. And wow, believe me when I tell you, the easiest thing about self-publishing is doing the writing. Think of all the work a publisher does that you, as a writer, never have to worry much about. Typesetting, image and cover creation, editing, ISBN purchase and assignment, distribution, and *gulp* marketing. This writing gig is definitely a full-time occupation, and that’s for everything BUT the writing.

But, it’s a labor of love. Why else would anyone do it? Don’t answer that. Love can be defined in many different, and let’s be honest, surprisingly crass and distorted ways. One of the genres I read and write in is horror, so I have a truly deep appreciation for these distortions. Which brings me to my first book.

Just a quick history. I wrote a novel that was inspired by two of my favorite genres, science fiction and action, and completed it (as much as any book can ever be complete) about three years ago. It’s a really good story, you can take my word on that (wink, wink). I did the traditional things: submitted it to a contest (which it won o/), and shopped it out to a few agents with all the naive certainty of a fledgling writer. This resulted in a booming, yet polite, silence, to my utter shock.

As I was going through this process, I tapped into the publishing world and tried to learn as much as I could about it. It is a bit soothing to the ego to realize that the reasons a book doesn’t get picked up are not completely based on the quality of the writing; it’s also very much about what’s “hot,” what can sell, what grabs an agent’s attention in the first place based on their subjective preferences, and many and sundry other factors. Almost no one read Moby Dick until a hundred years after Melville’s death. Perhaps he’d have had better luck if he’d taken the…um…whale by the horns and done the job of marketing and promoting himself. It’s possible.

So as you can see, inevitably the arguments for epublishing began to work their way into the dark recesses of my brain, plant roots, and grow. The DIY punk in me could not resist the overall control that comes from being solely responsible for the babes of my own creation. Anyone who writes knows how far your own words sink into your psyche, and letting any giant, faceless, impersonal company twist them for their own ends feels a bit like pimping out your soul. Or maybe I’m being melodramatic. And maybe there’s nothing wrong with pimping out your soul. Who can say? Suffice it to say, after hearing the arguments in favor of being the master of your own publishing fate from such successful mavens of epublishing as Amanda Hocking, Barry Eisler, Bob Mayer, and Joe Konrath, I was convinced it was the right way. Which, again, leads me to my first epublished book.

Patience! You knew I’d get here eventually. Anyway, my first epublished book was supposed to be the science fiction novel, but getting it ready has been a collaborative effort with Mr. Universally Talented, who is creating the cover, and who is also far more of a perfectionist than I previously realized. (The good news is that it will be out next month!) In the meantime, a writer friend, the zombie connoisseur Mark Morehead, put out a selection of his works as single shorts on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and the light of inspiration went on! I have a number of short stories sitting around, some previously published (which have matured past the exclusive rights clause), some not. I’ve always felt a bit sorry for these little gems languishing in anonymity, and began to explore the idea of epublishing a few of them in a sort of trial run, a way to get my feet wet in the DIY process of creating my own ebooks. As I revisited my archive, I realized that I had four stories that shared a central theme: love and romance.

Those of you who know me are laughing right now. The thought of me, the girl who makes gagging sounds at the mere mention of Drew Barrymore films or Nicholas Sparks books, actually writing lovey-dovey stories is pretty much a knee slapper. Never fear, I have not been possessed by naked, cherubic, arrow-slinging demons. These stories are about the aforementioned kind of romance: distorted, dark, and decidedly not chocolate-hearty-and-red-rosey.

With the help of a number of friends, especially Jeannie Stevenson, and Mr. UT, these separate stories coalesced into my ebook On Hearts and Scorpions. It may not be Hemingway or Dante, but the blood, sweat, and tears that went into first writing the words, then turning them into a published work is very much a universally shared agony for all writers (okay, Ernie and Dante may not have had quite the same experience in regards to ebooks). In my next post, I will regale you with the details of the specific trials and tribulations of my process for getting the ebook in publishable format. I’ll discuss the software I used, including the pros and cons of each, the different distribution organization’s I explored, and what I learned along the way. For those of you considering going this route, maybe you’ll be able to take away a few helpful tidbits that will lessen the leakage of your own systemic fluids.

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All content copyright unless otherwise specified © 2008-2013 by Tammy Salyer, writer. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to use short quotes provided proper attribution is given.